Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Vampire #1 - A Review

The New 52 has seen several oddities among its’ new titles. Far from being a solid line of superhero books, we have seen new series from a wide variety of genres – from war stories to westerns. Even so, it was surprising to see such an obscure story as I, Vampire – a series which barely lasted two years as part of the House of Mystery anthology book - be given a (pardon the pun) revamp. Then again, with Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries still being a popular part of the cultural zeitgeist, I suppose it only makes sense for DC Comics to tap into a market hungry for more dramatic tales of blood-sucking beasts.

Most of us have had issues with an ex. I would guess, however, that few of us have had our issues reach the point of causing a potential global catastrophe. Such is the case for Andrew Bennett – the titular hero of I, Vampire. A vampire who has still – somehow – maintained his conscience and code of honor in the wake of his vampirism, Andrew has awoken to discover a city in chaos. Andrew’s lover and vampiric child – a woman named Mary – has apparently grown tired of life in the shadows and has become convinced that with her powers she can take over the world, even with all the superbeings standing in her way. Dubbing herself The Queen of Blood, Mary has raised an army of vampires and set upon the human world. As the book opens, Andrew has set about trying to stop her…

I’ve never read anything by Joshua Hale Fialkov before, although I heard good things about his Elk’s Run series and what I’ve read here would encourage me to seek out more of his work. While the idea of the vampire hero trying to reign in his more blood-thirsty kin may not seem original to today’s audiences, the original I Vampire came at a time when such a concept was quite novel. Fiakov makes the concept his own, presenting both Andrew and Mary as sympathetic characters. Indeed, Mary – who took her vampirism as a gesture of empowerment at a time when few women were allowed any control over their lives – comes off as somewhat more likeable as Andrew, who merely wishes to be left alone… right up until we see just how depraved her vampiric nature has made her. Fiakov also does a good job of establishing the ground rules for vampires in this reality - i.e. as in Dracula, they can shape-shift into various forms and sunlight doesn’t kill vampires but it does make them unable to use their powers and they don’t like it much.

There have been a lot of dark, washed-out books to come out of the New 52 line but in this case I think the style is appropriate. Don’t expect any of Stephenie Meyer’s pretty-boys or even a fair but vicious Ann Rice vampire here. These vampires are feral beasties and Andrea Sorrentino’s pencils reflect that clearly, with even the human-looking Andrew appearing to be slightly “off” compared to the normal humans. Sorrention’s inks leave most of the individual figures obscured in heavy shadows, with thick outlines that threaten to overtake them. This creates an effect that is reminiscent of the art of Mike Mignola. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo complements this with a palette of greys and browns that further place this book in an world of half-shadows and weak lights, with the only white being the pale, unnatural skin of the vampires.

All in all, I enjoyed this title. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but I think fans of The Walking Dead or Hellboy will enjoy the artwork. Likewise, fans of stories where the vampires are real monsters will appreciate the story, so I’d recommend this to fans of Buffy & Angel, American Vampire and the old Forever Knight TV series. Twi-hards need not apply.

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