Friday, September 29, 2017

September Sucks: Tie-ins, Part XXVIII and Strange Team-ups, Part VIII: Dark Shadows - Vampirella #1

Unexpectedly satisfying

Writer – Mark Andreyko
Illustrator – Patrick Berkenkotter
Colorist – Thiago Ribeiro
Letterer – Troy Peteri
Editor – Joe Rybandt

There are many things in this world I don’t completely understand.

How they get those ship models built inside those bottles, for one thing. Why they do it, for another.

But the most inexplicable thing I’ve found out through all my Crapbox blogging is the popularity of certain fandoms. M.A.S.K. for one. ROM for another.

And Dark Shadows.

Last year I posted my review of Dark Shadows #1 from Innovation on a Monday in October. By the end of the week that post had close to 200 views. By the end of the month, it was a few posts away from a Keith Giffen Superman book for most views. Even now it sits there closing in on six hundred views almost a year later.

And it’s not even that well written a piece. I think I even bailed out before the issue was over because I found the book a little on the …slow side.

People certainly must love that old gothic soap opera, is all I’m saying. I tried a few last year and it did nothing for me. Lots of atmosphere, but it was definitely a slow burn to getting to ANY resolution. I found it dull.

I did pick up the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton disasterpiece on blu-ray when I was at Walmart though. I figured at $5, I could pair it up with a nice box of red wine and make a go of an enjoyable evening. One way or another. I’ll report back findings on that later.

For now, however, I have the PLEASURE of presenting a Dark Shadows book that I would look forward to seeing more of: 2012’s pairing of the scantily clad, sometimes space alien vampire-sometimes devil spawned vampire, vampire hunter Vampirella with the always regretful and hungry Barnabas Collins. It seems like a match made for about 20 seconds, as Vampirella is apt to stake first and ask questions later.

The neat thing about this issue is that it knows the wise use of a cliffhanger and it presents a plot that gives the reader clear expectations of the conflicts it sets up. And that looks to be a team-up of necessity as …well, I’m going to stop here as I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dive in, instead, shall we?

We begin in (get this) 1410 Slovakia, where two guards arrive at the cell door of an accused murderess to find…

…Ahhh! Streams of blood. That can’t be a good sign.

And indeed, it isn’t. The woman in question has had all the blood drained from her body mysteriously. Our two hapless guards are then ordered to deliver her bloodless corpse back to her family, three days ride from the castle. With a minimum of bitching, they undertake this fatal journey.

I did say “fatal” didn’t I? Because the woman is a vampire now and of course, she wakes on the road back feeling puckish. When having a bit “on the hoof,” so to speak causes the wagon to careen off the cliff, our newly minted vampiress feels the need to wander.

Skip ahead a few centuries to 1888’s Whitechapel, London…and if you can’t see where this will take us, you’ve missed your horror history quiz. Because as all the prostitutes know, you’ve got to be careful who you pick up these days…er, um…back in “those days”. 

Bloke could seem alright…

…only to end up being Gentleman Jack, the infamous Ripper. I may have mixed him up with an alcoholic beverage. Not too sure. What I am sure is this young lady has the worst sort of luck. From the frying pan into the fire, so to speak.

She won’t be the only victim this even, however, as the vampire lady from our prelude decides Jack the Ripper would make an excellent henchman. Looks like she Renfields him all up, too.

Skip ahead to modern-day New York City and we find our serial killer very much alive and well and murdering … 

…well, waitresses is what she appears to be. Must be a fear of catching something from the prostitutes of our day and age. Either that or “the Mistress” wants the young lady for something more than just a lite snack. Only time will tell.

And in Collinsport, Maine, Quentin Collins picks up the newspaper to read about the abduction. Quentin is Barnabas’ descendant and the inheritor of the Collinwood Estate. He’s also a werewolf.

The picture of the woman in the paper is recognizable by both men instantly. She is the great, great,…(etc)…great granddaughter of a woman that Barnabas snacked on after he was first turned. See:

Because of that action, Barnabas swore to protect those individuals he wrongly murdered before he had full control of himself AND THEIR HEIRS for as long as he was/is (ahem, sort of) alive.

Meanwhile Detective Fredricks and “V” are trading information on recent killings. 

…but “V” is getting some hints from the file that this isn’t just any old vampire murders.

She’s right, of course. And given that time is of the essence, she drops her disguise and sets out to find the killer. 

A path that will take on a collision course with these two. (love the “bad dog” reference here. Ha!) 

Because the first stop for both these hunters of vampires will be is Felicia’s apartment, a place Barnabas can only enter due to a very conveniently placed welcome mat. (Note to self, never buy a mat that says welcome as they are a “security risk vs vampire entry”.)

And as Collins is snooping around, of course he encounters our second billed guest…

Vampirella! *ding* Let the fight begin!

What an enjoyable issue. The drabness of the tv show is dispensed with and it appears all it really needed were some clever jokes for it to feel relevant and “fun” again. At least as much fun as you can have when you are dealing with multiple murders, a serial killer, three vampires, a werewolf and three time periods and four major locations.

It worked for me. All of it. The slow build of the plot elements, the interplay among the characters, even the predictable cliffhanger ending. All of it worked for me. And I’m eager for more. Looks like I’ll be surfing the bins for more of these. I hope there is quite a few to find.

Monday, September 25, 2017

September Sucks: Yeti vs. Vampire #1

A hippy on acid used Mad Libs to come up with a comic book concept

Writer – Miles Gunter
Illustrator – Kelsey Shannon
Sounds? – Victor Santos
October 2008

It had the virtue of having never been tried before.

I’ve heard that saying, but never really understood the lengths that it might actually encompass. Well, now I do.

Yeti vs. Vampire pits two iconic monsters against one another in a battle that literally two people were asking for. As a result of the tremendously huge target market for said book, it folded by issue number 2. At least I assume that much, as there is no way that wrapped up in two issues.

I had to look at press releases for this to find out “What this book is about.” Aside from LOTS of action, there is a plot, but you won’t find a hint of it in this brightly-colored volume. That plot is thusly: A fashion designer vampire wants the pelt of a yeti to use in her line of winter coats.

You are like a million steps up on me now, as the book starts and ends with tons of battle action. In a interview at the time, writer Miles Gunter said the idea was to get exponentially more intense with each issue. By the final issue he said it would be “totally fucking balls-out.”

That final issue occurred in issue 2, quite possibly as sales of the first issue at 99 cents plummeted when the sticker shock of a full-priced $2.99 second issue hit the stands. I mean, there isn’t enough story here for a five-minute read-through. If subsequent issues were even more action-heavy, we’d be talking about a book with a total of ten-or-so word balloons.

By Gunter’s own admission, even the executives at Antarctic Press didn’t think highly of the title but the art drew them in. Gunter called the style of art “candy with razorblades inside.” I’d call in “neon induced migraine” as the insides look like a someone had a bad acid trip while at a rave. The color pallet screams out those extreme razorblades Gunter was speaking of.

And not always in a good way.

We begin with a team of explorers at a pole. Maybe. I don’t really know. The book seems to hate words so much that it doesn’t use them. There are word balloons on this page. It is an exception.

Anyway, they are someplace cold. And bright neon. What they’ve found is a passage into an ice cavern that is adorned with a line of fifteen feet tall statues. As soon as they get inside the cave…

…the statues come to life as giant warriors. Also the pages literally catch fire in my hands as the artist decides to use EVERY hue available. One thing this book isn’t, is subtle.

What also isn’t subtle is the sudden urge to borrow the colorist from My Little Pony. Oh, and the declaration that for trespassing these brave adventurers will be killed by the guardians of the “divine creatures” they protect.

Which leads to lots and lots of red-hot death scenes done up like the inside of an Electronica nightclub. The end result appears to be ice-guardians 1, artic expedition 0…

…when all of a sudden, the dead bodies reform into werewolves. Who then proceed to attack the guardians while spouting silly stuff like “that guy ate my brain” – “so grow a new one” and the joke below about someone’s head being chopped off “again” and set on fire.

…and now peed on. It’s all rather droll. Then the werewolves unleash some kind of Iron Man type weapon and start vaporizing all the guardians, leaving just the standing. That brings in our unnamed vampire-fashion designer…

We get ZERO motivation for doing any of this in here, but they break into the Yeti’s sanctum. That turns out to be an idyllic Eden with its own miniature sun. It’s here that we find the Yeti’s two children playing in the garden. 

One is attacked by a three-eyed snake (why three eyes? Because two just isn’t extreme enough) released by this creeper behind the bush, which brings our titular character up to protect his/her kids.

Yeti makes short work of it, turning it into snake sushi. He/she is then attacked by snake man…

…and he’s pretty much defeated, until the werewolves distract Yeti, allowing snake-dude a clear shot at that furry back of his. While it may not work out well for the Yeti, it appears to go infinitely worse for snake man. 

The Yeti collapses and the snake guy, who we learn was named Victor, crumbles to dust in the hands of the vampire lady. 

They pack him up in a giant cage and leave with him.

That’s it! Done. Entire issue.

Now I’m not taken by this. If you like the bright ‘n snazzy art and the complete lack of more than five minutes of reading material, by my guest. For me the book is barely worth the quarter I paid for it let alone the 99 cent cover charge and HEAVENS, never the $2.99 charge the ongoing would have cost. I get why the series stopped at issue number two.

As for it making a comeback? I’ve Yeti to hear a peep about that.