Vampirella: Revelations #3 (Comic)
By Mike Carey, Mike Lilly, and Bob Almond
Published by Harris Comics
Who would have ever known that Vampirella was related to our own dear Uncle Creepy?
A creation of Forrest J. Ackerman, Vampirella made her debut in 1969 in a self-titled black and white magazine published by Warren Comics. She was meant to be a part of the horror themed hits that Warren Comics had been enjoying with two other character titled series such as Creepy and Eerie. Frank Frazetta created the cover to Vampirella #1, a bold image of Vampirella in the costume that would soon become synonymous with her image.
She began her life under the impression that she was a creature from a distant planet called Drakulon. This distant alien world was home to more than just vampires; it was also filled with rivers of blood and was ruled by twin suns, Satyr and Circe. Unfortunately, Satyr has a cycle of destruction wherein the growth and emitted energy overpowers and kills off all the life on Drakulon. Each time this occurs, a new race emerges to fill the void left by the destruction. The vampires soon evolve on Drakulon, and it is in this age that Vampirella is born.
But Satyr's cycle soon comes full circle, and the light begins to kill off the vampires. Vampirella owes her life to the Earth spaceship that accidentally crashed on Drakulon. The crew was discovered by Vampirella, and quickly she discovered their blood in her veins. After killing them, she used their ship to make her escape to Earth. Here on good old big blue, she decided to turn for good and dedicate her life to killing off the evil race of vampires that infested the planet.
It was a fitting and very science fiction beginning for Vampirella, but what else would you expect from Forrest Ackerman? Of course it was going to be distant stars and far off suns! Yet as Vampirella went on, things around her changed, and thus the whole story concerning her shifted as well. As Harris Comics took over the character in 1991, they launched a new origin for the frazzled feral femme.
This new story told that Vampirella was the daughter of Lillith, a demon from hell. Good old mommy Lillith had held quite a grudge against her previous husband, the first man, Adam. It seems that Lillith did not want to submit to Adam, and he cast her out of Eden. Lillith went on to hell to live amongst the demons, have sex with more demons, and then use the offspring of this terrifying tryst to try to terminate the seed of Adam. Lillith’s children were of course vampires, and she beset them to destroy all of mortal man. After a while Lillith grew to regret this idea, and in an attempt to redeem herself, she gave birth to Vampirella. Lillith raised Vampirella and then charged her with the destruction of her siblings. Out of love for her mother, Vampirella came to earth and was now carrying on her wishes. In this version of her origins, Drakulon is an area of hell that Lillith resides within, and Vampirella's inability to remember any of it was due to brainwashing by two of her siblings.
Both of these are strong stories, but for some reason they just do not seem to add up. There are holes. Things like why Lillith repented on her plan to destroy man. It was first explained that she sought redemption from God, but this seems unlikely with as old of a demon as she was. Plus there were questions and theories about the nature of the area of hell called Drakulon itself. Where was it, and why does Vampirella have such a connection to it? And why would her siblings want her to forget this area of hell, what was the ultimate purpose behind that?
This long prologue brings me to the point of this review: The 3rd issue of Vampirella Revelations. Revelations is a look at the forgotten parts of Vampirella’s past: who these creatures are that she is borne of and what their motivations are for her, where exactly her birthplace is and why there is such a strong tie between Vampirella and this place in hell called Drakulon.
The understanding of this third issue depends greatly on reading the rest of the series before it. In the interest of the argument at hand, I will recap the events of the previous three issues:
Vampire #0: Midnight at the Blood Bank is an exercise is the myth of Vampirella. It details the different faces that she has worn over the years of her comic existence. Writer Mike Carey and the artistic team of Mike Lilly and Bob Almond have a lot of visual and narrative fun with the character. The simple setup is about a group of vampires in a blood bar regaling each other with differing stories of the vicious vampire vixen. The context in which Vampirella is implied in each of the stories varies greatly, and thus so does her image. Lilly and Almond create monstrous, pious, cheesecake, and realistic versions of the character. Each one goes about a quarter of the way to describing the real Vampirella. There are elements of truth to each vision of her, and this is the philosophy of the entire series. The ultimate goal is to create a distinct, definite origin for the character and thereby create a concrete form for her to finally fill out. Revelations aims to connect all of these differing dots into one coagulated context.
Vampirella: Revelations #1 begins with a sweet sanguine flashback to the bitter blood beaches of Drakulon. There are questions in Vampirella’s life, and this place is amongst the biggest of them. After dispatching the obligatory undead horde, Vampirella is led to a man who is said to have the ability to help her unlock the secrets of her past. Peter Glass uses his flock of birds to see for his now blind eyes, but where he lacks physical vision, he has the uncanny ability to see into the past of others. He locks Vampirella in a modified iron maiden and begins the regression. We get the first glimpse of some connectivity between the two warring origin myths. Vampirella’s mother is sick; she is being depleted by her children, the wamphyri, also known as vampires. Lillith lies in bed ill, and at the foot of it is the monstrous Belial. He begs with Lillith for her to take her own destiny into her hands and not give in to death. It would appear that even in the deepest levels of hell, love can exist. Belial loves Lillith, and it is out of Lillith’s own need for this love that she launches into action.
In a secret section of hell, given to her by the Dark Lord Satan himself, Lillith conceives a child. The child will be like its earthen brethren but have none of their weaknesses for it is borne of two mothers and no father. The child will be the product of Lillith and the very ground of Drakulon. Herein we also see that the world of Drakulon has a crystal heart, a source of power that is as much Vampirella’s as it is the land's.
Issue #1 ends with Vampirella being kidnapped by demon hordes and reduced to a childlike mentality as the link between her and the seer was interrupted by their intrusion, eading to Glass’ untimely death.
Issue #2 shows Belial’s distrust and loathing for Vampirella. He sees her as weak and cannot understand her current psychologically stunted state. It is discovered that she has lost her connection to the heart of Drakulon, a place known as the Eidolon. If Belial were to take Vampirella to the Eidolon, the connection could be remade and she could be returned to Earth to further carry on the fight to save her mother. Belial shows an undying love for Lillith in all of this, and he sees Vampirella as only a means to an end. She is her mother’s sole salvation.
But as the demon hordes move towards Drakulon, some of Vampirella’s detractors find her and try to take advantage of her current weakened state. Unbeknownst to Belial, she is forced to fight. The pain, the rage, the fury is soon awakened, and Vampirella reaches full power just as Belial realizes that she is gone. He sends out the legions of hell to regain her, hoping to bring her Drakulon and save his love.
Issue #3 has to have some of the loftiest goals ever beset upon a single issue of a comic. Not only does it have to answer the current siege surrounding Vampirella by the thousands of hellspawn demons, but it also has to tie up the loose ends of the ever-deepening origin story. The problem is the apparent pitfalls that are in place for the character at the center of it all. Vampirella is poised to erupt or cascade back into the shell she was in formerly. Writer Mike Carey has a lot hanging in the pages of this issue. He can go the low road and wimp out. Take it all back to seed and allow it to regrow in a different way, and thus by doing this he would be allowing the answers to go unanswered. Vampirella could have just wallowed in the sort of lost limbo she had been enduring for years. Sure, Harris Comics has seen to it that the people writing her stories have had more of a vision, a plan for her to follow. But here in this series, Revelations appears to be trying to kick it into a higher gear, taking Vampirella out of the safety net she has played in before and setting her in the middle of a minefield.
The route that Carey chooses for Vampirella is not the safe one. It is the daring, exciting, and bold one. In the course of a few pages, he throws it all into the pot. The past, present, and future of the series comes full circle. There is a strength to the pages, some of which I have rarely seen in all of the comics I have read. It is like seeing a child take its first steps. It is that fresh and exciting. There is an unease but also a look of determination at play that makes me all the more excited to see where it goes from here. I do not want to detail any of the plot, as to do so would be to rob readers of a true gift. Let it just be said that the following events do take place: epic slaughter, painful betrayal, and ultimate sacrifice. Really, do I have to say anything else? These three things alone make this a hallmark of the series, or any series for that matter.
Mike Lilly has the daunting ability to define all of this visually on the page, followed by Bob Almond’s ink work. Lilly lays the series out in sweeping grand panels, allowing the overload of action to flow across each page in a visually dazzling array of motion. Almond's inks invite the shadows to merge and blend. It is as if the drawings themselves form water on the page. A narrative river that moves the eye along like a boat, swiftly in its current. It is a breathtaking and breakneck pace. I do wish that the individual drawings were a bit more polished looking. Again, the lack of true detail in the panels, inking that blurs some of the images implied, and the off angle make this book look less than it should. The layout gives the drawings such a boost it is almost a tragedy that upon close inspection they are nothing truly amazing. The richness of the aforementioned shadows only serves to raise the question of what would the series have looked like in a pair of more capable hands?
The art aside, and I wish my first two encounters with Vampirella did not have to have that qualifier included in them, the strength is the story. Even for someone who is new to the series, it is impossible to deny that this is an important storyline not just for the character, but all of the comic universe as well. One of the longest enduring female characters takes full form here. My mind returns to the final words on the final panel of the book. I look at it and I get excited. There is just so much promise to the situations created and destroyed. Carey and company have burned the books and taken the library down to its foundations once again. The walls of hell have come a tumbling down, and standing in the middle, holding a sword in each hand, fangs gleaming in the light, is a woman. She is wrath and fury, love and hate combined. She is the name that will cause all others to weaken and wane at her mention. She is the femme fatale for the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, let the reign of Vampirella begin!
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