Chris KelleyThe Drink: Johnnie Walker Black Label

The Comic: The Strain: The Fall #1 published by Dark Horse Comics

The Drink
Johnnie Walker is a name synonymous with Scotch. It was originally called Walker’s Kilmarnock Whiskey after the town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Scotland, where it began. It was first available starting in 1820 only through a grocery store owned and operated by John “Johnnie” Walker. One of Johnnie’s specialties was blending tea leaves. It was this that got him interested in blending grains and malt whiskies to create something new. Johnnie passed away in 1857 leaving the business to his son Alexander Walker and his grandson Alexander Walker II. The son, Alexander, developed some early marketing techniques that made Johnnie Walker stand out. For example, the iconic square bottle. This allowed for less broken bottles and more bottles that would fit in the same area. He also designed the label at an angle. This allowed for bigger lettering to be printed causing the name to be more prominent on the bottle.

In 1906, Johnnie’s grandsons Alexander II and George Walker introduced the color names. The Black Label is the 12-year scotch, which was originally known as Walker’s Old Highland Whisky. The Black Label is a blend of around 40 whiskeys that are each aged for at least 12 years. It has a lovely dark golden color. The nose is a bit smoky with hints of fruit and vanilla. It has a very smooth body to it, almost like water. Right off the bat, you get a nice sweet, fruity, orange taste followed by an oaky smoke. The finish is fairly quick with a nice spice to it. This is a great sweet, smoky scotch that is easy to drink.

Johnnie Walker is one of the biggest names in scotch. From the Striding Man designed to look like Johnnie himself to the tag line “Keep Walking…” everyone has heard the name. This is perfect for people just getting into scotch. It was the first glass of scotch I ever had and helped shape my love for it. It will set you back about $50, but if you ask me, it’s worth it.

The Comic
Early last year I read the first book in the vampire horror trilogy The Strain written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I really enjoyed it, so I was very interested when I saw that Dark Horse was publishing a comic adaptation. The comic is written by David Lapham and drawn by Mike Huddleston with colors by Dan Jackson. I was a little skeptical because adaptations, whether it be novel-to-film or otherwise, can be pretty hit or miss. This being a novel-to-comic (and soon a TV show on FX), I had higher hopes for it. I must say, Lapham and company did not disappoint.

The first series, The Strain, is collected in two 6-issue volumes. The Fall picks up just a few days after the end of the first series. The story follows Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, head of the CDC’s rapid response team, The Canary Project; Nora Martinez, a skilled epidemiologist and second in command with the Canary Project; Abraham Setrkain, a Romanian Jew who has history with these vampires; Vasiliy Fet, a Ukrainian exterminator; and a very rich, very powerful villain named Eldritch Palmer.

The end of the previous series did not leave our protagonists in a very good position. On the run from the police and the leader of the vampires, The Master, they are struggling to keep it together. It begins with a brief explanation of the Occido Lumen, an ancient text said to hold the key to defeating the vampires. I know the story very well because I have read the first two novels, and I must say, this issue felt very rushed. It jumps around and moves the story along very quickly.

One of the main attractions for me to this story is the biological twist on the vampire lore. There is a lot of time spent on the biology of vampires as parasitic creatures. Their physical features are explained in great detail in the novel and Huddleston does an amazing job visualizing them. I love the way he has brought these creatures to life. There are some action scenes that were a bit confusing to read. They were muddled and hard to follow. All in all, I really enjoy Huddleston’s art. He did struggle a bit in this issue, though. Dan Jackson does a great job on the colors. It has a very dark tone that is perfect for an end-of-the-world vampire tale.

It’s difficult to talk too much about this book without giving some things away. Having read the novels as well as the first series, I am very familiar with this world. I love the story and have grown to really care about some of these characters. I think Lapham, Huddleston and Jackson are doing an amazing job with this comic. Even if this first issue was kind of a dud for me, I plan on reading the rest. If you like horror and science fiction, then this book is for you. I highly recommend reading the first series before beginning this. Otherwise you will be pretty lost. It’s a great story and definitely worth the read.

Thanks for reading,
Christopher Kelley

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Chris Kelley is Matt Baum’s cousin. We try not to hold that against him.