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Life Sucks Paperback – April 29, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dave is a poor vampire, working the night shift at the 24-hour convenience store run by his vampire master, Lord Radu Arisztidescu, who thinks Dave is pretty much a wuss as a bloodsucker. Truth is, Dave would rather steal his nutrition from a blood bank than kill the innocent. But this choice leaves him weak and vulnerable to more predatory types like alpha-vampire surfer dude Wes, who's making a move on Rosa, the Latina gothic babe Dave has his eye on. There's plenty of humor with Dave's friend Jerome acting as a Clerks-like foil, coming over to Dave's work at night when the black-eyeliner crowd comes by (the Running of the Goths). Life Sucks also gets a good deal of mileage out of the ironic distance between the romantic visions that Rosa and her mortal crowd have of the vampire lifestyle and the grimy reality of Dave's life as an eternal wage slave. Even if it doesn't pan out satisfactorily (the conclusion seems particularly truncated), Abel and Soria's light approach, combined with Pleece's bright, Technicolor art, gives the book an entertaining Joss Whedon gloss to its Gen-Y bloodsucking melodrama. (Feb.)
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Review

Review in 29th January 2008 School Library Journal Blog

I don’t normally review teen. But YA good graphic novels get a pass.

A person could be forgiven for getting tired of vampires. Is it fair to say that they’ve been “done”? From the Twilight series to Buffy to whatever vampire-related dreck we see next you sometimes just wanna grab the creators and say, “ALL RIGHT! FINE! I GET IT! IT’S A METAPHOR! CAN WE MOVE ON ALREADY???” I think we’re finally reaching that phase where people start looking beyond vampire for their supernatural thrills (Zombies: This year’s vampires) and in my own personal life I was prepared to never ever read another frickin’ vampire novel again. So when someone at First Second handed me a copy of Life Sucks I was so not interested. Not not not. I wanted to yell, “Booooooooring!” at them and hand the novel to the first graphic novel-inclined soul I met. But that night I made a huge step backwards in my campaign against reading any more vamplit. I read a page or two. Then three. Then before I knew it I was reading the entire book, it was 2 a.m., and I couldn’t stop. In fact, as I am writing this review I just attempted to read a page or two to pinpoint why this was and the next thing I knew I was on page fifteen. Life Sucks takes that old tired vampire idea, places it under ugly fluorescent lights and their dead end jobs and somehow the combination is electric. For even the most vamped out amongst us, Life Sucks offers something fresh and new.

Dave works the night shift at the Last Stop corner mart and his life is going nowhere. Literally. I mean, Dave’s a vampire (can you say “worst job interview ever”?) and his master/boss happens to be Radu, a manager who likes to use terms like “team player” and “culinary instinct”. If it weren’t for Rosa he might just do himself in. Rosa’s one of those girls, living girls, with a penchant for the Gothic. She fancies guys in capes with fake pointy teeth. Dave’s got the real thing in his own mouth, but being strictly a vegetarian (blood from a can and he does NOT want to know where it comes from) he’d rather she didn’t know about his dark side. That’s all well and good until Wes, a surfer vamp with the same master as Dave, shows an interest in Rosa and makes a bet to make her his without the use of his powers. When Rosa suspects something is afoot, however, Dave has to make a couple sacrifices of his own to keep her safe.

An uninitiated reader unfamiliar with the graphic novel genre might pooh-pooh the notion of there being great writing in comic books. There’s a perception out there that for a book to contain both pictures and words, both the words and the pictures are rendered less worthy through the combination. As if pictures destroy the worthiness of the text and dumb it down. Aside from this being an outdated and, let’s admit it, old-fashioned view of the graphic format, I have to admit that when I read a book like Life Sucks and find the writing to be superb, I still feel that telltale twinge of surprise. Somewhere deep down inside of me there’s this part that is surprised every single time I pick up a graphic novel and find it great. Author Jessica Abel is a comic book artist who has a YA novel by the name of “Carmina” that is apparently coming out with Harper Collins at some point. On this book she has paired with Brooklyn writer Gabe Soria. Together the two give Life Sucks just the right amounts of mindless drudgery and crazy fantasy.

Equating low-paying awful jobs with vampirism and managerial schlock is a pretty good idea. This is illustrated best when Rosa starts telling Dave how she would imagine a vampire’s life to be. She doesn’t want to hear about the night jobs or the low pay. She imagines “this vast network of dark, beautiful, intellectual, and artistic people, living forever with only the best things, the best food, the best clothes, beautiful homes...” This image is paired with the reality that Dave knows of Eastern European vampire immigrants playing poker and smoking over a card table at night. You can understand Rosa’s desire to get away from L.A., but it’s clear that vampirism just makes it worse, not better.

The moral issues attached to being a vampire get some examination here, but Abel and Soria have to fudge a bit to make them work. Dave doesn’t eat people (much to the other vampires’ chagrin) and he doesn’t turn people into vampires either. His friend Jerome eats people with impunity and still comes off as a pretty decent guy, which is an interesting dynamic. I guess that if your book has comic elements you can get away with the funny guy killing folk, but it’s still pretty weird. The nice thing is that the authors are consistent with the character of Dave, giving the ending of the book a sad/funny take. Dave has compromised himself morally to save someone he loves. And this reveal is delivered in a humorous fashion, though there’s a sadness to it that fits with the rest of the book. Bleak, but not too bleak.

Warren Pleece was a good artistic pairing for this book. He’s done a lot with DC, including The Invisibles and Hellblazer. He has a style that works for this storyline. For the most part the book is concerned with real people and their real lives. And sure, once in a while someone gets their head ripped off, but generally Pleece has a good feel for that skinny guy who’s always the girl’s best friend but somehow never manages to turn that into becoming the girl’s BOYfriend. He has a great cast of instantly recognizable characters (that’s always important to me) and I loved the shifting perspectives. I enjoyed the colors too, but that work is done by First Second’s residential colorist Hilary Sycamore (doing everything from Laika to Missouri Boy) so he doesn’t get credit for that.

There was once an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy encountered a group of high school students with idealized views of what it would be like to hang out with and become vampires. Abel and Soria take a similar idea, but in their hands it’s a story of what it’s like to be in your mid-twenties without a clue about where you’re going or who you want to be. You feel powerless next to the jerkwad manager of your minimum wage job, like you couldn’t leave if you wanted to. So it’s either climb the ladder or stay where you are. That kind of hopelessness and limbo comes through loud and clear in Life Sucks and somehow ends up a fascinating, thoughtful read. A great addition to First Second’s literary catalog.

Review in March 15th 2008 issue of Booklist

Dave’s life is full of the typical twenty-something frustrations. His job as night manager at the local Last Stop convenience store is retail hell. Rosa, the cute goth girl he has a crush on, doesn’t even know he exists. And oh, yeah, his boss, Vlad, turned him into a vampire to make him a better employee. When Wes, his bully of a vampire-older-brother, steps in as rival for Rosa’s affections, his sucky life gets suckier. Dave, the vampire equivalent of a vegetarian (he only eats plasma from the blood-bank), has to find some way to outsmart Wes’ evil plans. This hilarious tale strikes perilously close to the reality of the slacker twenty-something life. Abel and Soria hit their mark with plenty of attitude and just enough snark to let their characters come to life. Warren Pleece’s art marvelously captures the humor of the mundane that lend the book’s crew of late-night wage-slave vamps believability and energy. A really fun read! —Tina Coleman

Publisher’s Weekly

Dave is a poor vampire, working the night shift at the 24-hour convenience store run by his vampire master, Lord Radu Arisztidescu, who thinks Dave is pretty much a wuss as a bloodsucker. Truth is, Dave would rather steal his nutrition from a blood bank than kill the innocent. But this choice leaves him weak and vulnerable to more predatory types like alpha-vampire surfer dude Wes, who’s making a move on Rosa, the Latina gothic babe Dave has his eye on. There’s plenty of humor with Dave’s friend Jerome acting as a Clerks-like foil, coming over to Dave’s work at night when the black-eyeliner crowd comes by (“the Running of the Goths”). Life Sucks also gets a good deal of mileage out of the ironic distance between the romantic visions that Rosa and her mortal crowd have of the vampire lifestyle and the grimy reality of Dave’s life as an eternal wage slave. Even if it doesn’t pan out satisfactorily (the conclusion seems particularly truncated), Abel and Soria’s light approach, combined with Pleece’s bright, Technicolor art, gives the book an entertaining Joss Whedon gloss to its Gen-Y bloodsucking melodrama.

Excerpt from an article originally published in February 26th 2008 PW Comics Week

Life Sucks... puts a new spin on well-worn vampire mythology. Partnering on the script, Abel and Soria crafted a story that includes many of the tropes of vampire stories—blood sucking, weakness to sunlight, immortality—but uses them in unconventional ways.”

Five Star Review in ICv2 Graphic Novel Guide

Life is tough for Dave Miller, and the fact that it will never, ever end does nothing to cheer him up. Two years ago, Dave was turned into a vampire, and now he’s stuck working as an assistant manager in charge of the night sh...

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431075
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,495,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I'm a fan of Jessica Abel's other work, particularly "La Perdida" which I think has a lot of soul and really captures something essential about the main character. Unfortunately this tale of an underachiever vampire doesn't come close. Not sure exactly what happened, maybe the idea sounded good at the outline stage but by the end this comic doesn't exactly know what it wants to be. A kind of vampire soap opera maybe? Anyway, if you're an Abel fan then please do get it and support her work, otherwise start with some of her other work.
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First things first: I'm a friend of Jessica Abel's husband Matt Madden, and more recently a friend of Jessica, too. Take this review with a grain of salt if you must, but I'm not trying to do any log-rolling here.

I'm not an avid comics reader, naturally. I'll occasionally buy one here or there if it looks interesting, but I'm no comics geek. Still, LIFE SUCKS has a lot of interesting thought put into it, and one of the phrases that comes to mind reading it is "blood-sucking capitalists", or "getting rich on the blood of the proletariat" (I guess that's two phrases, actually). LIFE SUCKS takes an economic view -- though one that is not heavy-handed -- on life, and applies it to vampirism, where the vampire "haves" prey on the "have-nots." Which is not to say it's a dense political screed, because it's definitely not. It is, by turns, funny, romantic, violent, noble, ignoble, and a study of characters. It's also about the compromises people make as they grow up, even if they will never grow old and die. I might even say that it offers the perspective that mortality is a benefit, in that one doesn't have to compromise whatever integrity a person has for an infinite amount of time, until there's no integrity left; a mortal can still die with pride intact.

Which is to say that there's more to LIFE SUCKS than meets the eye. It works wonderfully well as entertainment, but it works on a more philosophical level, too -- it's thought-provoking!
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In Life Sucks, writers Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria present an inventive take on the established vampire mythos we've become accustomed to via popular culture. This story takes the vampires out of the world of Anne Rice and transposes them into the world of Clerks. All the "rules" generally associated with vampires are still in place (sunlight and mirrors are bad; drinking blood is good), but Abel and Soria have removed the romanticized trappings of most vampire tales and moved the undead to a more realistic world that readers will be familiar with.

The story hinges on the idea that vampires are just like us and, despite being immortal, would still have to work menial jobs to earn money for rent. The main character Dave is slave to his master Radu, the vampire who turned him when he applied for a job at his convenience store. Radu is a vampire from the old country, but when he meets with his fellow immortals in his elaborate castle, they hang out in the wood-paneled basement smoking cigars and playing poker. By a similar token, Dave's best friends are two vampires who work in a copy shop and a diner, as well as his human roommate.

This exploration of the humdrum reality of everlasting life is an interesting concept, but beyond that there isn't much to the book. All of these details are really just the world the story is set in, while the plot itself is a rather typical "teen movie" romance and thus is never that particularly interesting. The story follows two guys who are going after the same girl; the twist is that it just so happens the two guys are vampires.

The characters are relatable but rather familiar tropes.
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Funny, unique in the sense that it completely un-glamorizes vampires. The main character is one of a few vampires who were "recruited" (bitten during what they thought was normal interviews) into vampiredom only to serve as clerks at 711 type shops for the older vampires. Relatable to young people in terms of awkwardness, working menial jobs, and trying to find honest ways to be with a person they like. Artwork was not fancy but good and vivid. My only complaint is that the main character's love interest is kind of airheaded.
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Life sucks is the anti-vampire romance story. It takes the whole 'glamorous' side of the mythology and turns it on its head - creating real, grounded, and frustrated characters living mundane immortality.

Dave is a night shift clerk at a convenience store. He's also a vampire - turned by the owner when Dave applied for a position. Now, stuck in a boring job, he finds himself fascinated by a goth girl who herself is fascinated by vampires. Does Dave tell her the truth to try to win her over?

I found this completely fascinating. Our hero is best described as a dork, the other vampires are selfish, petty, or self serving despite their immortality and powers, and the customers at the convenience store are quirky in a quite believable way. The goth girls/guys are shown to be shallow and more interested in playacting than any real drama. And the vampire lords play cards in an old basement with a trophy fish on the wall.

The vampire angle is really a red herring here. This is a story about appearances, honesty, and finding your way in life. As such, it is a compelling read full of intricate plot points. It's also a thick book and there is a lot here to digest.
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