VAMPIRELLA: SECONG COMING 1

VAMPIRELLA: SECOND COMING #1-2
Written by Phil Hester and Illustrated by Daniel Sampere
Published by Harris Publications

This is a decidedly different Vampirella story, one in which the famous swimsuit-clad vampire is conspicuously absent. Rather we are introduced to Kelly Witten and her husband, a couple about to embark on two radically divergent paths.

Kelly is a social worker at a center for abused women until she begins noticing Vampirella wherever she looks. Vampirella’s distinctive ‘V’ symbol, painted throughout the city, her image tattooed on a client’s arm, a video of her in the midst of battle. Kelly thinks she is going crazy, until one night it becomes clear who she truly is and what she must do to become that person…or creature. Her husband Frank, however, has had his own dalliances with a different sort of damned and is no longer in control of his actions, however gruesome they may be. Kelly’s best friend Lauren is refusing to abandon her friend, but the price she pays for loyalty is the end of her life as she knows it. She struggles with this newfound world until she is shown the way through blood and violence.

Chock full of lustful carnage, SECOND COMING really gets the blood pumping in more ways than one. There is a method to this gory madness, a mission at the heart of the slaughter and confusion, all in preparation for a war fueled by man, machine and demonic magic.

A darkly intriguing take on a familiar and classic character, SECOND COMING delivers a Vampirella story well worth looking into, especially given the surprisingly cheap cover price ($1.99). Sampere doesn’t skimp on the gore and displays the versatile ways one can view bloodshed. From curve-hugging waves to viscous streaks, the artist succeeds in molding the gratuitous slaughter into a piece of art. Hester in turn does an excellent job of creating a mysterious prelude to the upcoming conflict as well as believable uncertainty and conflict in the men and women (especially the women) involved. I’m on board this mystical, bloody train ride and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Avril Brown

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY HALLOWEEN 2008

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY HALLOWEEN 2008
Written by Dan Brereton and Drawn by John Heebink and Mike Manley
Published by Harris Comics

This VAMPIRELLA quarterly starts with a classic scene which will forever remain in style; namely, there’s a bitch fight. In prison. Between a pretty chick and one built like a brick shithouse. Never failing to grab a reader’s attention, an unexpected prison fight is a great way to kick off a story.

The fact Vampirella is in a fight is not surprising, but what the hell is she doing in prison? Not to mention what type of prison could hold a creature like her? Before we receive answers to these intriguing questions, first we flashback to find Vampirella wounded and cornered by a few other demon ladies, later revealed to be bounty hunters. Soon enough the whole crew gets arrested by men spouting religious rallying cries and armed with some form of mace for hell beasts.

So that is how Vampirella gets stuck in a jail for she-devils in the middle of the desert. The fun continues as the fight expands and we meet a cornucopia of demon women and their diverse group of jailors. Naturally the creepiest character is the one in charge: a psychotic warden/priest, who’s on a mission from god. Caught between a swarm of angry hell bitches and an insane man of the cloth, all the while not operating at her best physically, Vampirella has her work cut out for her.

The roster in this book was just spectacular, greatly adding to the enjoyment of the book. Everyone from Helga the Hun prison guard, to a demoness bounty hunter dressed like a Catholic school girl, to the grotesque and twisted final ‘villain,’ DUNGEON EYES delivers several highly entertaining characters. Though the plot gets a bit cliché here and there, the occasional dash of humor and the diverse cast keeps the story fresh and engaging.

The art was definitely decent, getting the basics down while adding fun side details, such as the blood dripping down Vampirella’s chin for most of the book. In close-up panels it resembled the spray paint look you get on t-shirts at an amusement park, which may sound cheesy but the effect was undeniably attractive. Once again, all the different characters have their own unique look, thus creating several pages which give plenty of art to peruse without being overcrowded.

The VAMPIRELLA book has gotten a nice kick in the creative ass, giving the stories more depth and amusement and expanding into new territories. A stand-alone story has many perks, one of them being a chance to have a bit of fun with the title character. Vampirella’s boyfriend and mentor were completely absent in this book save for a line explaining their absence, giving Brereton a chance to ignore the baggage that comes with supporting characters and concentrate on telling a tale of a hell bitch doing what she does best.

Avril Brown

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY SUMMER 2008

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY SUMMER 2008
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Art by Noah Salonga
Published by Harris Comics

BLOOD SISTERS is a brief adventure in the life of Vampirella, a hell-beast come to the surface who protects the Earth’s inhabitants. Vampirella is busy battling the hordes of hell and the growing evil inside her Beelzebub-like boyfriend when things take a turn for the worse. Family drama arrives in the form of her long-lost (and forgotten on Vampirella’s part, due to memory tampering) sister, determined to open a portal to Hades and consequentially rule the underworld.

For readers completely new to Vampirella, this is not the story to start with. It opens with the feel of a book already in the middle of a story, with Adam, Vampirella’s squeeze, apparently struggling with a recent acquisition of unknown powers. Plus we are introduced to another character in Vampirella’s entourage who is shown in the end to be her boss, though further details of their relationship and work are lacking.

Overall the story feels rushed. Usually when a book brings in an estranged and vengeful relative, there’s quite a tale to tell, and a quarterly twenty page story isn’t enough space to express that. Therefore Draculina, Vampirella’s sister, manages to relay her past, her present and her nefarious plans for the future in less than two pages. Her rage directed towards Vampirella has a flimsy basis compared to many other revenge ideas, thus giving her fury less impact.

There are also gaps in the plot that detract from understanding and appreciating the story. When they first meet, Vampirella has no recollection of her sister due to an unknown ‘they’ whom removed many of her memories. Somewhere between that moment and their final show-down Vampirella has her memory back, or at least enough of it to dole out a semi-pompous speech on letting go of the anger and moving on with her life. Perhaps she got some of memories restored when she drank the blood of her demon-infused boyfriend who was bonded to Draculina through the dark power, but there was nothing in the art or dialogue which hinted that was the case.

The art is more than decent with defined characters and certain stand-out scenes (possessed boy toy melting the skin off the bad guys definitely ranks). However it did lack that extra bit of detail both in the panel backgrounds and the characters’ faces, which can draw more attention to them and better clarify their emotions. The colors do an excellent job of complementing the mood in each particular panel, and the bright green-on-black eyes of a battle-focused Vampirella was a nice touch.

Vampirella is a character with a lot of potential, given her powers and the people (or hell-beasts) she has in her life, but the story lines need to be more focused in order to make it work. Some more details in the artwork will make a world of difference in an already attractive book. Here’s hoping when Vampirella and Draculina meet again, the resulting story will be the fireworks it should have been here.

Avril Brown

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY WINTER 2008

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY WINTER 2008
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Drawn by Noah Salonga
Published by
Harris Comics

Vampirella and her resurrected boyfriend Adam are being held captive by a mysterious woman, and being unwilling to speak to her captor, she finds herself at the mercy of a deadly hallucinogen that causes her memories to erupt in torment. Can her love of Adam give her the strength to snap her bonds? Or will she listen to him being tortured back to death?

After an unfortunate conclusion to the first VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY arc, this issue is a welcome return to form for the book and the character herself. Fialkov has a pretty decent take on Vampirella; she’s smart, strong-willed, and owns her heart and her feelings. And unlike the previous artist he was dealing with, Noah Salonga is a terrific choice for the book. He draws a sexy Vampirella, but he doesn’t get carried away. No porn poses, ridiculous contortions, or panels where it looks like the dialogue bubbles are coming out of her ass. Salonga also did solid work on Xena that had similar merits, showing that he knows how to be a “good girl” artist without being a panderer. We could use more of those.

As with the past issues, there’s also a classic Vampirella adventure restored and reprinted here, and it’s another good one. Written by T. Casey Brennan and drawn by Jose Gonzalez, “Dracula Still Lives” is an excellent tale, and Gonzalez’ artwork continues to be enough of a reason to buy these books. He was churning out some amazing pages 35 years ago, and they really hold up.

Back on track, VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY is readable once again.

Marc Mason