Friday, February 22, 2019


Art by: Enrico Marini | Written by: Jean Dufaux

It seems my issue with the first volume of RAPTORS somehow traveled back in time twenty years to land in the ear of writer Jean Dufeaux, because as of this second installment, the infuriating vague aimlessness has vanished and the story has become defined, informative, and compelling.

An indeterminate amount of time has passed since the first book, and our heroes, detectives Lenore and Spiaggi, are still believed dead to the world. The police are seeking answers from Lenore's brother, Newton, and he promises to inform them if she turns up. Meanwhile, the detectives have closed in on Lenore's former lover and current head of the police force, Barnes -- who was revealed in the previous book to be a member of the immortal cabal running the world. Lenore and Spiaggi catch up with Barnes just after he's murdered a young woman, and chase him to the roof of a nightclub. But he makes an impossible leap to the next rooftop and then, before our heroes' eyes, is murdered by the mystery twins.

At this point the story devotes a large chunk of its runtime to a new character named Aznar Akeba -- a college student who we learn, by way of an on-page murder and resurrection, is also one of the immortals. Akeba is taken before the secret council, where they reveal to him -- and to readers -- their origins. It turns out (though for some reason the actual word is never used) that these folks are all vampires! Centuries ago, they gave up their weakness to daylight in exchange for a loss of their bloodlust, and integrated into human society as humanity's hidden masters. The telltale cysts behind the immortals' ears have developed over time and mark them as descendants of those vampires who made the transition into humankind.

But the vampires without cysts, including Akeba as well as the twins, revealed here as Drago and Camilla, still retain the classical vampire abilities. Drago and Camilla are out to kill all the cysties in revenge, due to the original vampires having murdered their parents for not coming along to walk among the humans. We aren't told yet why Akeba is cyst-free, but he's also able to move around in daylight, so there seems to be more to him than meets the eye. But in any case, the vampire council believes he can challenge Drago and Camilla where they cannot. They gift him with a magical sword and set him on his mission.

The story than catches up with its protagonists once more, and Lenore and Spiaggi meet up with an ally on the police force, Carl, and then make their presence known to the vampires when Lenore confronts one of their leaders in a restaurant with intel from Carl about some of the deceased vampires having leukemia. After leaving the restaurant, Lenore is found by Camila, who takes her home, drugs her, has sex with her, and prepares to kill her after she's passed out. But Drago shows up to stop her, stating that for now the twins' interests are aligned with Lenore, and they should let her live. He then sends Camila outside to kill someone who followed him home while he has sex with the unconscious Lenore (yes, you read that right).

Then one of the twins sets the building on fire with Lenore inside. She wakes up and escapes, making her way to her family's beachhouse, where she and Spiaggi have been hiding out -- but instead of her partner, she's greeted by her brother, Newton, who reveals himself as a vampire -- as were their parents. Newton sics an army of cops on Lenore, and they beat her into unconsciousness to close out the volume.

So while there's some questionable stuff in here -- the rape of Lenore and an incestuous relationship between Drago and Camilla chief among them -- this is also a much better read than the first book. Like I said last time (and reiterated above), RAPTORS volume 1 felt like part of a story. Even as the first chapter in a multi-installment storyline, it seemed unfinished somehow. The second book, however, has none of those problems. It functions as a segment in an ongoing story should, answering some questions while raising others, and telling its own complete story at the same time. We now know who the immortal beings are and where they came from, and we have background on the mystery siblings -- but we're also left wondering about Akeba's past and Lenore's heritage.

However, even though it's risen above the somewhat low bar set in the inaugural volume, the story is still second fiddle here to the artwork Enrico Marini shines once more, with his cartoony-yet-serious characters and atmospheric settings. And he takes to the past just as well as the present, turning in some great period work in the nineteenth century backstory of the vampires. I kind of hope we'll see more flashbacks in upcoming volumes, because the one here may be the highlight of the book.

I'll say this: if I had been reading RAPTORS one book at a time as it came out, I might not have come back for the second volume based solely on the first. (I mean, there may be some slight hyperbole there since I will usually give almost anything two issues/episodes/books/whatever to keep my interest -- but you get the idea.) And if that had been the case, I would have missed out, because volume 2 is head and shoulders above its predecessor in terms of story.


  1. I still like the approach of the first book that gives you nothing except the general world setup with a hint of wide conspiracy and some mysterious mythicism. The cover feels almost like affirmating this approach as a deliberate one: the fanged gargoyle of the roof corner now hints what the decadent sofa sitters on the cover of book I are.

    Often I find the initial world-building to be the best part of a creative work: all wondrous stories ex potentia in that setting are just hanging there, and anything could happen. Once you start defining the protagonists, the antagonists and nailing down the events, too often I become disappointment upon the revelation that the actual story in its core will really be a tired old cliche after cliche after cliche, and the setting is the only thing it got going for it... I whinced when Vicky's brother was revealed to be one.

    Them not using the V-word still leaves the door a bit ajarn for the book being about something else than regular boring vampires. "Lost Dogs" bar and the "hunting in the forest" phrase kind of hint they might be werewolves instead or some kind of author's own take of a new kind of creature of the night: it's still a bit open if blood is actually drunk or if throats are "just" ripped open. They seem to be eating the raw flesh of their victims too; not the usual vampire pastime.

    1. Hey, I like your comparison of the two covers with the gargoyle symbolism!

      I do agree with you that world-building is often my favorite part of fiction. Since it's obviously been on my mind lately, I'll say that even as a kid, I loved the episodes of HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE that didn't focus on the He-Man vs. Skeletor stuff. I mean, I love Skeletor, but those episodes that introduced new locales and villains on Eternia were a lot of fun (THUNDERCATS was really good in this regard too, especially in its first season).

      Good observations about the vampire stuff too, both here and in your comment below. I thought for a while that they were werewolves too; there's even some wolf imagery involving the twins once or twice in these books -- but they do turn out to be vampires by the end (though that "V" word is actually never used in any of the books, as I recall).

  2. About the rape thing... since the Victorian era at least, the vampire myth has been very much about the anxiety on foreign men coming to take our women, as can be clearly seen for example in that booklet by Bram Stoker. And it's a bit vague nowadays if the victim will automatically become a vampire or if the vampire has to put "little something extra" into the bite to create a vampire out of the victim.

    So when the narrator tell of the bruised Vicki afterwards that "In her stomach, other flames are starting to rise", it strongly hints that they are done with the "bite" innuendo here altogether and opted for what it's really about.

    Very... European.