Life is cheap in Jason Starr’s graphic novel “The Chill,” a noir throwback about an Irish vampire who terrorizes unsuspecting New Yorkers with the help of his reluctant daughter. You always hear about vampires who go on living for years and years, but no one here seems to know just how long these two can live. In any event, they can certainly live longer than the comic they’re in, which you can read on a Tuesday and forget about by Thursday. As a matter of fact, a myriad of other “Twilight” knockoffs probably will have turned up by then.
Actually, “The Chill” only knocks off the part about the vampires, and although they’ve made plenty of appearances in pop culture over the years, you have to wonder of this could’ve sold before the “Twilight” films really got big. Not that “The Chill” would be appropriate for the PG-13 demographic – the woman, Arlana, frequents local dives and goes home with admiring men, whose severed body parts are found tied to trees the following morning. Detective Pavano can’t figure out why the culprits would go through all that trouble, and things only get more confusing when he begins interviewing witnesses, who all provide different descriptions of the seductress they last saw their pals with.
Before long, the case captures the attention of Detective Martin Cleary from Boston, who has a good idea of who’s behind all this. Their paths coincided in 1967, when Arlana made love to him and nearly took is life by freezing him half to death with her magic powers. He thinks Arlana, who must be 60 by now, is playing mind games with men to make them believe they’ve found the woman of their dreams, then lure them to bed so her centenarian father, Cormac, can kill them off with his spear.
Cleary explains to the NYPD that this all comes from Celtic folklore, which requires that Arlana give guys the “chill” before Cormac can finish the job. Most vampires use their fangs, but then again, a spear would probably get you there faster.
Starr makes the mistake of thinking this setup can support the entire story without building it into something that might’ve worked, but what’s worse is that such brilliant art by Mick Bertilorenzi is wasted on it. He understands the morbid sensuality that comes with vampirism, and pulls off scenes that are sexy and violent at once. Even when he’s just trying to capture the atmosphere of New York, he does it with the spirit of a horror movie.
Starr, on the other hand, handles the narrative like a dime novel. Those can be fun, but would you pay 20 bucks for one?