Written by Grant Morrison/Mark Millar
Published by Harris Publications
I’m somewhat of a newcomer to the world of Vampirella though I have to admit that I have given the gal more than a passing glance each time I have seen her sitting on the shelf of the comic book store. What red-blooded male would not stop to stare at a woman of such… um… glorious talents?
In my relative ignorance with the character, however, I find that the perfect place to jump into the ever lengthening line of her comic legacy is to read the newly released Vampirella collection showcasing the stories written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar; it is not a rebirth of the character, just a redefinition. In the interview on the last page of the collection, Morrison and Millar discuss the problems that have plagued Vampirella as a comic, mostly lack of focus and definition as a character. Vampirella was a series of issues that had little or nothing to do with each other. The few issues I have read prior to this collection were one shots that I picked up due to the artists working on the issue.
Here is where Morrison and Millar are trying to change things. They are giving Vampirella a purpose, and they are using it to define her motivations and flesh out the edges of the character. Vampirella graduates from lusty busty figure to true vampire fighting female. In the primary story contained in the collection, a compilation of the first six of the ongoing Vampirella monthly issues entitled “Ascending Evil” and “Holy War,” we are shown what the future holds for Vampirella.
Taking a page from a certain Marvel vampire turned cinematic wunderkind, Vampirella is charged with the destruction of all vampires on earth by her demon mother Lillith. Whereas Blade takes little pleasure in his infliction, this feral femme enjoys her work immensly. The sight of blood does not do anything but make this bitch hungry! In a stark contrast to the Blade series, she does not just kill vampires, she actively feeds on them! She dispatches all bloodsuckers in her way with giddy glee, leading to copious amounts of crimson color careening off the comic page, most of it belonging to the undead. In the middle of all of it is Vampirella; claws and fangs, she kills like an animal, resorting to a stake in the heart when needed, but always taking a second to relish the moment. Either a quick drink or a quicker quip finishes the vampire hordes that she is facing. She is a force of nature to be reckoned with.
The story sets up as a bold move is made by the more outgoing factions of the vampire society. They who must drink blood are trying to take over all the organized crime centers. By whacking off the Dons, the vampires hope to get their claws into the underbelly of the world and manipulate its blood flow from there. The endgame here is undead domination, where the apex predators rule instead of skulking in the shadows and humans are cattle to be processed, bred, and fed upon.
Thank god we have Vampirella on our side.
It’s a good plan by the vampires. It would give them the power to do the subtle societal manipulations they would need to earn their place at the top. There is a brutal correlation between vampire high society and the Mafia, which was explored in the first cinematic outing of Blade but here it is played as a straight turf war. Neither side will fold to the other; there is too much piety and ego at play. The arrogance of the vampires butts heads with the thick headed bravado of the Mafioso, and Vampirella finds herself caught in the middle; yet, she is not alone.
A young woman is forced to do an atrocious act against her family at the hands of an enigmatic character named Van Kreist, who is not a vampire. The truth behind his condition is more complex than mere bloodsucking. He is hostile, ruthless, and sadistic. His torture of Dixie Fattoni, daughter of one of the Mafia bosses, and the capture of her sister Pixie force Vampirella into an empathetic partnership with Dixie. They both hate vampires, especially Von Kreist, so it is logical for them to work together. Even though Dixie is only 16 and seems to have led a spoiled rich girl life, she learns to kickbox and drive stakes through hearts very, very quickly.
I will venture no further into the plot. Suffice it to say that we get to see the Red Nun warriors, the Anti-Vatican, and an odd dream sequence of a place called Drakulon, a planet where the oceans are red and it rains blood. It seems that our heroine is an erotic little extraterrestrial.
Are all vampires from Drakulon? Are they all from Hell? Where is Drakulon? Are these two places one and the same? These are some of the millions of questions I have for the series, and I must beg your forgiveness if you have the answers and I do not. If they are answered elsewhere, then I will find them. If they have yet to be, then this is the triumph of Morrison and Millar. They have seeded the series with some very large questions, and I for one find myself hooked on them. Isn’t that the essence of creating a successful comic franchise: Give them what they want, but always leave them asking for more?
This collection also has a few solo stories that detail the different types of encounters that Vampirella has to go through in her travels in the world of the undead. Interesting stuff, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the larger arc story. The smaller stories are what I remember from Vampirella comics, and while they are a nice distraction, I find myself preferring the more open ended format for Vampirella to lurk within.
“Ascending Evil” is penciled by Amanda Conner and inked by Jimmy Palmiotti. There is nothing spectacular about the work itself, just bare bones comic art, uninspired at best. Michael Bair and Kevin Nowlan give “Holy War” a far more polished and sleek look. In neither of these series is there a single frame that I can remember standing out from the rest. The story does lend itself to some wild visuals, but the execution is very functional, maybe overly so. If the artists tried a different approach and took a chance with some of the structure of the panels, or took the art to the next level, the pictures may have more of an effect. In contrast to the story that is being told, however, the art seems like an afterthought.
Let me beat this horse just a minute longer. Take the character of Von Kreist. He’s a very interesting person to read about but uninteresting to look at. He’s portrayed as a man in a trench coat with bandages covering his face, coming across as a mish mash of The Invisible Man, Darkman, and the little freaky German dude from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s nothing that paints him as a fully developed visual character. Sure his actions and his lines are brilliant at times, but in this medium I find myself wishing for more.
There are some great covers from the series included within the pages. Jae Lee’s touch adds a gritty realism that makes the clean creature flesh of Vampirella stand out on the Part 3 variant cover. I wish this is how more of the book looked; it would have launched this series of Vampirella from a must read for fans of the character to a must read for all horror comic fans. Too bad.
Morrison and Millar are doing regular duty on the Vampirella monthly comic series now, and it’s about time. Vampirella has been poised to be so much more than a cult comic; just a small nudge and she would see her wings take full form. I have all the faith in the world that she is in the right hands. Morrison and Millar have built a very solid foundation, a vast and complicated construction within which we could easily get swept up. I find it refreshing to see such a character finally get her due… I just hope they can keep it up.
Not that that is ever a problem with Vampirella around!
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