Vampirella: Masters Series Vol. 1
By Andy Frisk
November 13, 2010 - 22:27
Writer(s): Grant Morrison and Mark Millar
Penciller(s): Amanda Conner, Michael Bair, Louis Small Jr
Inker(s): Jimmy Palmiotti, Kevin Nowlan, Rob Stull, Gary Martin, Caesar
Colourist(s): Ruben Rude, International House of Color, Jonathan D. Smith, Olyoptics
Letterer(s): Hugh Monhan, Kell-O-Graphics, Y. Botha
When Dynamite Entertainment gained control of the rights to the character of Vampirella, the most recognizable pin-up vamp ever, they also gained control of the reprint rights to Vampi’s previous published adventures. Vampirella went through a renaissance of sorts during the 1990s, and her adventures were penned by several now legendary comic book scribes such as Grant Morrison (Batman) and Mark Millar (Kick-Ass). Amongst the artists who helped revitalize Vampirella during this time were the talented Amanda Connor (Power Girl) and Louis Small Jr. (Codename Knockout). This new Vampirella was a typical 1990s comic book bad girl, even though she played the role of the hero. She battled villainous evil doers like the Anti-Vatican, which was a sort of Vampire Church headed by Judas Iscariot. Her origin was reworked as well. She wasn’t a space alien from Drakulon anymore (a really silly idea, but one befitting her 1970s incarnation). Instead she was the child of Lilith (the mythical Christian first wife of Adam who was cast out of the Garden of Eden for, amongst other things, enjoying sex too much…), whom begged Vampirella to wipe out all vampires on Earth in order to help Lilith atone for her sins…Lilith was going through a repentant phase. Vampirella then embarked on a Blade-like campaign to wipe out all the bloodsuckers. Along the way she gained some allies and rediscovered some old ones. Vampi was reborn, and fit right into the skimpy costume wearing, nearly nude, and total take no prisoner 1990s bad girl hero mold. Eventually though her stories and popularity (or more likely profitability) petered out and she appeared randomly over the next decade or so with her last Harris Comics appearance being the pretty well written and drawn Vampirella: Second Coming. Now she’s an owned property of Dynamite Entertainment, and hopefully the folks at Dynamite will do for her what they have done for Red Sonja, another skimpily costumed female hero, who’s currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance of her own.
Drakulon born or not, Vampi (as her fans and fictional loved ones refer to her) is a bit of a silly throwaway type of character. I mean, come on…that outfit…but in the hands of Morrison and Millar she was revamped (pardon the pun) into a more multidimensional and viable character. Her outfit was even tweaked here and there, giving her a more realistic look (at least in comic book and sci-fi terms). Her new surrounding cast of allies, which included a mobster daughter turned vampire hunter named Dixie Fattoni and a Vatican sanctioned sisterhood of vampire hunting nuns, helped to flush out Vampi’s character in new ways. Her new opposing cast of villains, which included the immortal Von Kreist (a bad guy who gained said immortality by beating the devil at cards—okay, some of the characters are still silly) and Judas Iscariot himself, also gave the character a more solid grounding in contemporary religion/mythology. The story of her battle with Von Kreist and the Anti-Vatican, along with her new origin, were told in the story arcs “Ascending Evil” and “Holy War,” both of which comprise the bulk of Vampirella: Masters Series Vol. 1. The other two tales, “The Blood Red Game” and “A Cold Day in Hell,” reprinted here as well, introduced the Blood Red Queen of Hearts, who would go on to become a recurring Vampi villain, and demonstrated that 30 Days of Night isn’t the only vampire tale to make use of the frozen wastes of The Arctic as a setting for vampire tales.
The bulk of the art is handled by Amanda Conner and Louis Small Jr. Small Jr. had penciled Vampi before, and would again demonstrate his female form creating skills in the DC Comics Vertigo imprint series Codename Knockout. Small Jr.’s art is solid, and he demonstrates the abilities required to pencil and choreograph a horror/sci-fi tale. His anatomy is strong (a plus when you’re drawing a character who bares a lot of her anatomy), and his background and costume detail is decent. There’s nothing really inspiring about his work here, even though there is absolutely nothing bad about it. With Amanda Conner’s work, one can see that she still is developing her signature style at this point. Her Vampirella isn’t nearly as sharp looking as her Power Girl would be, but the brilliance that her future work would embody is sketchily evident here. Conner would go on to develop one of the most recognizable and enjoyable styles of sequential art which recently peaked during her run on the aforementioned Power Girl’s ongoing series.
Overall, Vampirella: Masters Series Vol. 1 is a nice introduction to the contemporary take on the character that revived her popularity and lead to her being a property worth Dynamite Entertainment putting up the money for. Vampi’s new Dynamite Entertainment produced ongoing series debuts soon, and will be written by Eric Trautmann and penciled by Wagner Reis. Hopefully these guys will build on what Morrison and Millar started, and take Vampi to a whole new level of action, horror, and adventure.
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