Let’s be honest, vampires are a far cry from scary. The archetypal harbingers of eternal undeath have been ground up in the Hollywood machine. The terrifying notion that a single non consensual bite can lead to a gruesome metamorphosis has long since been romanticized and fetishized. Of course there are far and few between exceptions, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend being one of them. So it’s no surprise when Matheson’s work is one of many admitted influences in Gabriel Hardman’s one-shot The Belfry.
Upon crashing his airliner on an unknown island, co-pilot Bill unravels the truth of its monstrous inhabitants and the fate of his passengers. Similarly to I Am Legend, Hardman’s vampires are more biological, Cronenberg than the typical alluring sex symbol; this being overtly apparent in their bat-humanoid design. With little dialogue and exposition, Hardman emphasizes the eldritch and primordial nature of his vampiric creatures. Bill discovering other downed planes and the short’s twist ending takes a step back to truly rethink the horrifying cyclical nature of their existence.
Hardman’s artwork, with its scratchy pencil work and dark inks with the occasional contrast of bright red, shrouds the world of Belfry in a mysterious deep darkness, beckoning readers to question if Bill’s bat winged abductors are the worst on the island. The only shame is the length of the one-shot, for its brevity it is a frightening read but would have been more suitable in a collected anthology than a stand alone. This is not a complaint due to its $3.99 pricing but more so for the missed opportunity to compare and contrast Hardman’s unique take on the iconic monsters against other talented Image creators.