Monday, September 2, 2013

Completely Misjudging Its Audience: True Blood: The French Quarter Is An Utter Mess!

The Good: Accurately references key moments of True Blood and foreshadows well.
The Bad: Convoluted plot, Utter lack of character development or consequence, Craptastic artwork
The Basics: True Blood: The French Quarter is a troublingly bad True Blood graphic novel that surprisingly hints at some of Season Six’s concepts, but is otherwise gutwrenchingly bad.

As a fan of the HBO television series True Blood, I have been picking up and reading the True Blood graphic novels lately. Despite the conceptual creativity of True Blood: All Together Now (reviewed here!) and True Blood: Where Were You? (reviewed here!), none of the True Blood graphic novels I’ve read have fully landed for me yet. Unfortunately, True Blood: The French Quarter not only fails to break that streak, but it might well be the worst of the bunch.

Having never read any of the Sookie Stackhouse novels upon which True Blood is based, my perception of the franchise is based entirely upon the television series and their accompanying graphic novels. In watching the show and interacting with other fans, my perception of True Blood is that fans generally love the series for the romantic/sexual aspects as well as the sense of magic and mystery. In fact, in my travels, no one has ever told me that their favorite aspect of True Blood was the serial killer plotline of True Blood Season One (reviewed here!). So, I find it odd that so many of the True Blood graphic novels feature a vampire serial killer of the book and in True Blood: The French Quarter the hunt for a vampire serial killer so dominates the plot that it is impossible not to feel like authors Mariah Huehner and David Tischman just don’t get True Blood.

Set after Sookie learns explicitly of her fairy heritage, a killer is slaughtering vampires in New Orleans. Eric and Bill want Sookie to aid them in finding the killer. The three go to New Orleans where they are bombed by what appears to be a vampire that Eric and Godric killed three hundred years prior. Eric tells the story of Guerra, a vampire who made killing into an art. Eric comes to believe there is a copycat killer working now in New Orleans. Unfortunately, as the killer is sweeping through New Orleans, so too is a Hepatitis strain that only affects vampires, Hep-D. Eric is assaulted by an infected vampire and his life is ability to fight is compromised by the disease.

At the same time as Eric and the others are in New Orleans, in Bon Temps, Pam conscripts Lafayette to run Fangtasia in Eric’s (and eventually her) absence. After effectively pacifying vampires who alternately want to kill or have sex with him, Lafayette overcomes his fears of being in Fangtasia and proves he is an awesome bartender.

True Blood: The French Quarter is a mess. While Eric hunts Guerra, there is a police detective whose affiliations and motives range from ambiguous to outright sinister. Detective West is a sloppily constructed character whose backstory is shady and, thus, his motivations and presence in the book are problematic. He acts as ally to Sookie, adversary to Eric and Bill, and an impediment to their investigation while appearing to aid them. In short, he appears as pretty much the ultimate red herring and there is something exceptionally annoying in that.

The only really perceptive character aspect of True Blood: The French Quarter is in the Lafayette subplot. Unlike in the television show, True Blood: The French Quarter actually effectively grapples with the natural fears Lafayette would have in the wake of his imprisonment and torment in the basement of Fangtasia. That the writers actually deal with that important event makes sense, though it seems like it comes years too late, given that Alcide is referenced and Sookie knows here that she is a fairy, which means that it comes years after Lafayette was tortured.

But in order to appreciate that level of character, one needs to be a fan of True Blood. Sadly, that means so much of the text of True Blood: The French Quarter is wasted space. So much of the narration includes Sookie’s backstory or inner monologue, which might make the book more accessible to new readers, but is a pathetic oversimplification for those who know the show. Moreover, it sounds nothing like Sookie’s voice, so the authors really missed on that front.

The artwork in True Blood: The French Quarter is muted in its colors and sloppy in its lines. The characters look only vaguely like the characters from the series. Panel to panel, the book features renditions of the characters that frequently look like anyone but Anna Paquin, Alexander Skarsgaard, Stephen Moyer and, especially, Nelsan Ellis. That, too, makes reading True Blood: The French Quarter unpleasant and entirely unsatisfying, especially for the fans.

For other graphic novels that relate to popular media works, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Walking Dead – Book One
Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume One
Terminator: Salvation – Sand In The Gears


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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