The second Omnibus begins with 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales, which contains two stories that originally ran as eight-part installments in the monthly series. The trade collection presents each story in order, and the first is "Dead Billy Dead" written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Kody Chamberlain. Billy is a newly created vampire who kills his maker, so he's on his own trying to figure out what it means. 

The second story is "Juarez or Lex Nova & The Case of the 400 Dead Mexican Girls," written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. It's an odd detective story--Lex Nova is a P.I. who narrates the story noir style, but doesn't realize he's saying everything out loud--and the vampire element is almost secondary. It shows how broad the 30 Days universe can be, as it's quite different from all of the other stories set there that I've read, at least in some ways. The only thing that didn't completely work for me was Fraction's choice to tell the beginning of the story at the end.

Eben & Stella  begins with Eben's return: he immediately turns Stella so they can be vampires together, which initially is not something she expected or wanted. She runs off and accidentally finds herself in possession of a vampire baby. Much of the plot then revolves around a new vampire trying to become queen--evidently Stella's explosion in Dark Days did kill Lilith after all--and a pair of vampire hunters tracking the would-be queen and her entourage. It's all a bit muddled, with vampires using the Net to communicate (a new thing for their kind) and the baby somehow being seen as a major source of power.

In the end Eben & Stella walk away, bound for home, which leads into the events in Return to Barrow. I'll find out if the new vampire queen figures into the later stories I haven't read yet. It seems too big a plot development to ignore. [I reread this one right after the stories in the first Omnibus, so I've reposted those comments here.]

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Red Snow is a tight little three-issue miniseries with story and art by Ben Templesmith, the main artist (and co-creator) for the entire series.It's a war story set in 1941 in Russia. German and Russian forces converge on a small village. It's the time of year when the sun does not rise for two months--the same conditions that set up the original series in Alaska--so both sides find themselves besieged by a group of vampires. The soldiers form an uneasy truce to face the common enemy, but trust issues add another layer of complication as they attempt to escape via underground tunnels. There's a young Russian boy who is forced to grow up quickly, including killing his mother to prevent her from turning, a plot point reminiscent of Carl in The Walking Dead.

These books sound better than I expected! Where would you recommend a newbie begin the 30 Days experience?

I'd start at the beginning. The original series is only three issues long, so it's not as well developed as the later installments. But the first three are often called a trilogy, because they all involve the town of Barrow and form a complete story. The first Omnibus is the easiest way to get them.

Are the omniboo comprehensive?

No, at least not so far. I think the two of them are complete up to the point where they stop, but there are several collections that aren't included. There's a Compendium that says it includes "the first 11 volumes" of the series. That sounds complete to me, but I've never seen one, and of course it's not cheap.

Christmas morning, a traditional time to read horror comics :) The final entry is another three-issue miniseries, Beyond Barrow, written by Steve Niles with art by Bill Sienkiewicz. Very interesting to see Sienkiewicz illustrating the series, since his work seems to be a clear precursor to Templesmith's style. As the title implies, most of the action in the story takes place outside of Barrow proper. It centers around a billionaire and his entourage who have come to Barrow during the dark season to hunt vampires, with the aim of writing a book about the experience. The natives warn them that they are in over their heads. The group rapidly encounters an ancient vampire-like race which the Inuit call Unnuar Kretirarlugo Amarok. They have adapted to this harsh climate, so they are a nasty piece of work, indeed: before we know what they are we see them take a vampire easily. Things do not go well for the tourists, but one of them is saved by a local who goes out to help them, despite the warnings of an old hand. It's an interesting twist having the expected villains of the piece (a vampire band) turn out to be harmless. But that only happens because they are trumped by a new, even worse villain. It seems odd that the Amarok have never even been mentioned prior to this story. It makes them seem like a contrivance, a kind of deus ex machina in reverse.

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