Vampires as a horror trope are so popular because they can be metaphors for all sorts of different aspects of our society, particularly the horrific ones. They work well with themes like unhealthy relationships and negative emotions, but they work particularly well as puppet masters, or mysterious shadowy figures that are secretly in control of everything. If you were a basically immortal species that fed on humans, you would not only create a network of businesses to help protect yourself, but you’d also try to find the necessary levers of power so that you could shepherd your flock of unwitting, blood-filled humans until they were ready to be harvested. Sure, In the world of Blood Stained Teeth, Vol 1: Bite Me, written and illustrated by Christian Ward and also illustrated by Patric Reynolds, there are vampires who run the world, but protagonist Atticus Slaone is definitely not one of those vampires.
Despite being a member of the aristocratic First Born, those vampires who are born vampires, Atticus Sloane is not necessarily living the high life (or high unlife, as it were). He does have a way of making some extra money: for the right price, Atticus can turn anyone into a vampire. These Sips that Atticus created have all the immortality, strength, speed, etc. that other vampires get, but they are also potential loose cannons that could reveal the existence of vampires. The First Born are clearly not happy with Atticus’s side hustle, so he is commanded to kill all the Sips he’s created, lest there be a wooden stake and a sunrise waiting for him.
Atticus is written by Ward as a clear antihero who is far from perfect. He has his moments where he looks good in his shades and he verbally stakes both his own customer base and the First Born who think they are above it all, but he also has some clear moments where he realizes that he’s in over his head. When he’s not looking like an apex predator of the night, he’s trying to avoid being killed by the First Born and those Sips Atticus has clearly underestimated.
While Atticus is trying his best to find his misplaced progeny and stay undead (rather than completely dead), he’s roving in a world that is somehow both easy and harsh on the eyes. It’s easy because Ward and Reynolds’s artwork does a great job with dynamic angles and faces that are gorgeously expressive, even as they have blood dripping down their teeth. The colors in this universe, however, shine like the neon signs one would expect to find near divebars or barely illuminating shadowy alleyways. It’s not a natural or even pleasing brightness in these pages; it’s the kind of light that would seem natural to vampires who find their food in an artificially-brightened night.
There is the beginning of a good story here, and Atticus himself is a likable enough character, but it also feels like Ward’s pen and Atticus’s fangs have barely scratched the surface of this universe. There are plenty of Atticus’s Sips for readers to meet and watch as they meet their ends, meaning that librarians who invest in this book should consider getting the rest of the series as it comes out because Atticus might have many more neon-filled nights left to survive.
Blood Stained Teeth, Vol. 1: Bite Me
By Christian Ward
Art by Patric Reynolds
Publisher Age Rating: 16 and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: British,