Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Best Of The True Blood Graphic Novels? True Blood: Tainted Love Might Well Be It!

The Good: Accurately references key moments of True Blood and foreshadows well, Good character development
The Bad: Mediocre artwork
The Basics: True Blood: Tainted Love smartly develops a story involving contaminated Tru Blood years before the television series did it!

As True Blood winds down, I am finding that I am more eagerly filling in the gaps with the True Blood franchise by catching up on some of the graphic novels I had missed. Interestingly enough, I was working at a comic book shop when True Blood: Tainted Love began, but I never managed to take the time to read it until now. For the last few years, the six individual issues of Tainted Love have been compiled as a single graphic novel, Volume 2 in the True Blood graphic novel series. Unlike some of the other True Blood graphic novels I have read, True Blood: Tainted Love lives up to its potential and the expectations of fans of the franchise in that it tells a decent story and does so quite well.

Having not 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. True Blood: Tainted Love capitalizes on the relationships from the television show, while still telling an engaging story with a compelling villain. Perhaps one of the best aspects of True Blood: Tainted Love is that it does not directly contradict True Blood . . . at least not at the time the book was written. In fact, True Blood: Tainted Love essentially foreshadows events of the final season of the show by creating a scenario with tainted Tru Blood making vampire life much more difficult.

As Sookie finds herself somewhat distressed over fantasizing over both Eric Northman and Bill Compton, Hoyt Fortenberry realizes his relationship with Jessica is a lot more complicated than he initially thought it was. When Jessica sees that Bon Temps is having its prom, she misses the normal growing up moments she never had. Flashing back to her conservative, homeschooled upbringing and the near-misses she had as a young adult with teenage rebellion and sexuality, Jessica gets more and more upset. Hoyt decides to take her to the prom and as Jessica gets excited for the event, she consumes a batch of Tru Blood that makes vampires feral killers.

Under the guise of being tainted to free vampires from the shackles of civility, vampires near Bon Temps begin to go psychotic after consuming the Tru Blood and the hunt begins for the perpetrators. While Jason and Hoyt hunt for Jessica, Bill and Eric desperately search for the vampires involved with spiking the Tru Blood and the cure for the additives that corrupted the batch. But Tara helps point the gang in the right direction; that Steve Newlin’s Light Of Day Institute (the Church of the Sun) might be behind the corrupted Tru Blood and that time is running out for Jessica and the other infected vampires!

True Blood: Tainted Love is smart and well-assembled. Instead of bothering to try to include the full cast of True Blood, True Blood: Tainted Love tells a more focused story. Given the immense popularity of Jessica, she becomes a great subject for a graphic novel and writers Marc Andreyko and Michael McMillian seem to realize that. Sookie Stackhouse, who is the protagonist of the novels upon which True Blood is based, is basically a supporting character in True Blood: Tainted Love. Sookie, Bill and Eric work to save Jessica and expose the plot-based elements introduced in the book, but most of the actual character development is centered around Jessica.

The writers of True Blood: Tainted Love smartly recall the origins of Jessica, which is something the writers of the HBO series seem to have lost. Jessica was a sheltered, home-schooled, ultra-conservative girl before Bill Compton turned her. In True Blood: Tainted Love, her origins are explored in greater depth, which enriches her character. The prom story is a great concept for her character and the way the story turns into a feral Jessica revenge story is pieced together well as the king of the prom is a boy who once maligned her in her pre-vampire days.

One of the nice aspects of True Blood: Tainted Love is that all of the important aspects of Jessica’s s character are included in the graphic novel. Anyone can pick up True Blood: Tainted Love and get everything essential to the story within the pages. Sure, fans of True Blood will catch more allusions than those who are not fans, but anyone can read and enjoy the graphic novel as a self-contained “episode” with a decent character arc.

The artwork in True Blood: Tainted Love 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. Only Jessica, Hoyt and Jason Stackhouse are truly accurately rendered consistently. True Blood: Tainted Love is a bit unsatisfying on the art front and fans of the series are likely to be a little disappointed or at the very least underwhelmed by the book.

Even so, True Blood: Tainted Love is well worth picking up and worth reading for anyone who likes a good supernatural love story and mystery.

For other True Blood graphic novels, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Volume 1, All Together Now
Where Were You?
Volume 5, The French Quarter


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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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