True Blood: All Together Now
written by Alan Ball, David Tischman, David Messina and Mariah Huehner
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen True Blood. After the total media inundation of Twilight (with the added burden of working at a library during the height of the associated craze), I haven’t yet recovered enough to find the patience for anything even remotely resembling vampiric theatrics, so I’m also unfamiliar with the finer points of Moonlight, The Hunger, and Being Human—but I do know a thing or two about comics, and it’s from this vacuum that I can state that True Blood, Volume 1: All Together Now is a solid example of good storytelling and good art coming together to form a good book.
All Together Now slips right into the mythology of True Blood without providing the reader with any kind of primer or legend to decipher what’s going on, and it’s unapologetic about this lack of information. It’s assumed that if you’re reading this comic, you’ve already come to know and love the characters within the context of the TV show. Regardless, it’s not too difficult to wrap your brain around the basics if you are aware of the essence of the show. There’s a restaurant, and there are a bunch of people who have supernatural abilities. While these abilities aren’t immediately apparent, they come into play throughout the comic; it’s a total crash course for the uninitiated. (But some things will leave newcomers uninitiated: I’m still not sure if Sookie Stackhouse is a vampire or not, or if she’s somehow half-vampire, or immune to vampire bites, or if True Blood’s vampires even have the power to transform humans into other vampires, but ultimately, it’s not relevant enough to detract from the story.)
This first story arc takes place over the course of an evening, placing it within the scope of a typical hour-long TV episode, and it uses a type of story device that Neil Gaiman popularized in comic books: get a bunch of characters together and have them tell stories. In this case, a mythological monster traps everyone inside of a bar and feeds on their shame by forcing them to vocalize their worst memories. Accordingly, many of these shameful memories are fairly adult in nature.
This kind of comic structure also leaves a lot of room for another great comic device: employing different artists to interpret the memories of different characters, granting a tangible window into a first-person perspective when shifting away form the omniscient third person. While the main story art for the interstitial narrative is exceptional, the flashback artists are also incredibly talented. It’s a rare case of the interior artwork being a whole lot better than the cover artwork in all cases.
It’s also a well-written story using an unusual kind of monster. Maybe things get resolved a bit too easily, and maybe the drama of revealing one’s personal secrets shouldn’t be such a melodramatic, life-or-death decision, but that’s the surreal world of comics: heightened emotions, intense situations, and ridiculously perfect bodies coming together to form id-driven narratives.
Like the TV show, it’s not a comic for kids, and should probably be relegated to someplace far away from the children’s graphic novels. There’s profanity and illustrations of gory death, plenty of almost-nudity, semi-explicit sex, statutory rape, and themes of sexual identity—all par for the course when you’re dealing with the already gratuitous and weird world of supernatural lust. Beyond all of this, it’s an enjoyable comic.-- Collin David