By Andy Frisk
December 8, 2010 - 12:34
Vampirella begins her stint with Dynamite Entertainment with the release of Vampirella #1. As we’re told in the introductory blurb inside the front cover of issue #1, “Vampirella’s origins are shrouded in mystery…some say she’s a powerful entity from another realm: others tell tales of a child born of a demonic mother in hell’s fires and dispatched to cleanse the world of evil...but all these stories share a common refrain. Vampirella has come to battle the forces of darkness…from vampiric legions, to supernatural evils that beggar description.” Her first villain though isn’t mysterious at all though, but if you’re going to establish a vampiric character in the eyes of new readers as more than just a pin up and throwaway character, you might as well put her up against the king of the bloodsuckers himself: Dracula. Yeah, Dracula seems to be all over the place these days (the X-Men are currently fighting him or his son…or something…too) like the whole vampire craze thing is (hasn’t it run its course yet?). This is Vampirella’s new debut though, and there’s a world of new readers to reach out to in comic book fandom land. With writer Eric Trautmann (Action Comics, Red Sonja) and artist Wagner Reis (Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Romulans) refraining from plastering Vampi all over the pages of Vampirella #1 in various cheesecake poses clothed only in her blood red bathing suit of a costume, it looks like maybe storytelling will be the focus of this new series. At least as much of a story that can be squeezed from going down the old Dracula vs. the hero road. Time will tell…you can’t squeeze blood from a stone (pardon the pun), but if anyone could, it’d probably be Vampi.
Yes, you read that sentence right a few seconds ago. In the new Trautmann penned and Reis penciled and inked tale, Vampirella does not once appear in her signature costume. In fact, I’ve never seen Vampi more covered up for as long a time as she is in this entire episode. Vampirella #1 does reprint an older story from Vampi’s Harris Comics days by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale where she wears nothing but her usual string bikini (it’s a great fifth wall shattering tale that obliquely addresses the silliness of the whole Drakulon origin…), but it is strikingly obvious that the Dynamite Entertainment incarnation of Vampi will be a little more than a regurgitation of her days as a 1990s pin up/bad girl designed to sell books by showing a lot of skin. Perhaps the powers that be at Dynamite Entertainment decided that they already have enough bare skin on display over in their Red Sonja titles (which are also well done by the way). Beyond the rather startling fact that Vampi doesn’t appear in her usual duds, Trautmann’s story is more or less quite similar to any vampire/gothic or urban dark fantasy tale. Dracula is leaving behind scores of newly created undead killers who love hanging in weirdly lit underground goth clubs that are located in old churches, wear lots of leather, and display bountiful amounts of cleavage. Nothing really new here, but it’s a song and dance that’s tried and true (wow, two terrible clichés in a row—Vampi must bring it out in me…), but this is a comic book about a vampire who’s also a vampire slayer that’s set in modern times, so add Vampirella to the growing list of urban dark fantasy books out there. There are plenty of them, and many would be hard pressed to have the talent behind them that Dynamite Entertainment has put behind Vampirella.
Perhaps the most interesting fact surrounding this incarnation of Vampi though is the fact that it looks like Trautmann and company are purposely leaving Vampi’s origins in a dubious state. This will undoubtedly be useful when this comic book reaches the point where it can pull off a Year One type of tale. My vote is for the whole Lilith origin tale…it’s just too cool. It’s chocked full of great religious overtones and potential plotlines and themes. Personally, I really dig that type of tale, and Vampirella would be a great place to delve into such things. My desire for this type of storytelling, i.e. hot chicks who battles pseudo-real world religious demons, angels, anti-Christs, and other supernatural beings that people still really believe in, isn’t fully slaked by Top Cow’s Magdalena series, so while I’m not advocating that Vampirella become a copy of anyone or any book, seeing Lilith and/or the like pop up in this book’s pages would be extremely satisfying.
Something that is immediately satisfying about Vampirella #1 is Reis’ artwork. Reis manages to pack most of his panels with plenty of detail which makes each one a feast for the eyes. He also does a good job choreographing Vampi’s various fisticuffs, and does a great job with costume detail. With all the talk of cleavage and skin to this point is it even necessary to mention that he does a good job with anatomy? Probably not, but I’ll mention it anyway. Reis has a firm grasp of realistic and proportioned anatomy (with a few exceptions here and there). Personally, the only thing that I don’t like about his work is the occasional over drawing or detailing on some of his characters features, particularly Vampirella’s lips in one shot, but that’s just me being overly critical. Overall, there is nothing to complain about or dislike about Reis’ work.
So Vampi’s back and she’s wearing some clothes this time…at least thus far. She’s also immersed in a more seriously grounded gothic superhero themed world. She’s on a mission, and that mission is one of death dealing. Her first issue is packed with action, blood, bodices, but surprisingly, and welcomingly, little skin. Looks like we’re going to be getting a serious treatment of the character…but a costume as iconic as Vampi’s can’t remain under the jeans, flared collared shirt and trench coat forever. Trautmann and Reis will undoubtedly make good, and hopefully intelligent, use of it eventually.
Rating: 8 /10