Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pull List Review: Ex Sanguine #2

There seem to be a lot of human-vampire romance tales these days, so what makes Ex Sanguine any better than the rest? Obviously it has the crime procedural facet, but truth be told, those parts of the book are kind of boring. Comparatively boring, anyway, when held up against Saul and Ashley's messed up love. I'm not sure precisely what it is about their relationship that I find so compelling, but I'd say it has something to do with their nonchalance. Even two humans who've just started dating aren't normally this comfortable around one another, so to see Ashley and her vampire lover so quickly and seamlessly get on the same page is refreshing. It makes their murder/theft/date a lot of fun, and because they don't treat it like a big deal, it seems practically commonplace. That dichotomy between the couple's casual attitude and the severity of what they're up to is Ex Sanguine #2's greatest strength.
     I called the cop scenes boring before, and I meant it, but they are not without promise. The agents are clearly intelligent and capable investigators, and it undercuts Ashley's confidence to watch them creep closer to discovering the truth about her involvement and motives. But as characters, both agents (whose name escape me at the moment) are a bit shy of three-dimensionality. Even Saul and Ashley, to a lesser extent, are hitting a lot of the same notes over and over, and I hope the book can let its cast stretch their legs a bit more before everything concludes. I have faith that it will, though, because Tim Seeley and Joshua Scott Emmons pretty clearly know the ins and outs of these characters, even if they haven't shown them all to us as readers yet. There's a lot of background mystery remaining in this series, and as the details of what drives each of these people come to light, I suspect they'll all become more fully-formed and real. For now, Seeley and Emmons are satisfied to focus on Saul and Ashley's twisted budding romance, and it is more than enough to hold my interest and keep me coming back. They are a fascinating pair, Ashley most of all, and I look forward to seeing how their relationship grows (read: escalates) from here.
     Seeley's artwork isn't awe-inspiring or anything, but it's rock solid. The acting is clear and strong, everyone looks consistent, and the look of the series walks the perfect line between realism and cartoonism. When we see Saul's true form, the horror and the comedy of it shine through in equal parts. Watching Ashley write her bizarre cipher in a man's blood is no more disturbing than anything else in the book, even though conceptually it should be. The art adds tremendously to the off-kilter love between her and Saul, highlighting their laid back approach to breaking & entering, murder, and blood-soaked sex. Indeed, if it weren't for the visual tone Seeley establishes, I'm not sure if I'd be so enamored of Ashley & Saul's casualness. It is only because the world they live in matches their attitudes that they can pull off their particular brand of dating.
     Ex Sanguine #2 didn't blow my mind and melt my face with its awesomeness, but it absolutely amused, intrigued, and delighted me. It's definitely the best vampire rom com/serial killer mystery/apparent heist story I've ever read. At the end of their night together, Ashley says to Saul (in an excusably self-aware cliche), "This was fun. We should do it again, sometime." My thoughts exactly, Ashley. My thoughts exactly.

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