Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: Dark Shadows/Vampirella #1

DARK SHADOWS is one of the few horror/sci-fi properties with a disproportionally large female audience. The new Dark Shadows/Vampirella crossover comic from Dynamite Entertainment wants to reverse that long-standing trend, and they might have succeeded if it wasn't for the gloriously insipid cover on the first issue. If you want to make sure women don't read this book, bravo.

I don't really know where to place the blame for this horrible excuse for a comic. My instinct is to pin that dubious medal to the chest of writer Marc Andreyko, but Dynamite has a history of incorrectly crediting its creative talent, so who knows if he's even the actual author.

The biggest problem with Dynamite's recent DARK SHADOWS comics have been the writing, but after months and months of shitty comics it's now clear the problems with these books are beginning on the managerial level. Andreyko exhibits a casual understanding of DARK SHADOWS and its characters, which is fine if you're a reader of this comic but is inexcusable if you're one of its creators. But a paycheck is a paycheck, so I can't blame Andreyko for accepting a job he was offered, even when he's so clearly unqualified for it.

Incompetence is just par for the course with this book, though. If you think bad storytelling is a crime, at least the script has a grasp of the English language, correct spelling, decent grammar and is easy to follow. The character of VAMPIRELLA suggests it was created by someone whose knowledge of women is mostly derived from rumor and innuendo. I paid for this piece of shit as I bought my usual comics today and felt compelled to stick it between the pages of an issue of BARELY LEGAL so that nobody would see me reading it. Seriously, that cover? Vampirella looks like a life support system for T&A.

So, the "story." Jack the Ripper, decked out in top hat, cape and other assorted cliches, is interrupted during one of his murders and turned into a vampire. Still crazy after all these years, Jack has turned his attentions to modern New York City and has murdered a young woman descended from one of the victims of Barnabas Collins. Apparently, in an episode I missed, Barnabas swore some unrealistic vow to protect the descendants of the women he killed when he was first turned into a vampire in 1795. This would have been a difficult vow to uphold, given that he was trapped in a coffin from 1795 until 1966, but whatever.

Barnabas, followed by some guy who looks nothing like Quentin Collins but apparently is Quentin Collins, travels to the Big Apple (do people still call it that?) to look into the crime, where we get a taste of Superhero Comics 101: Barnabas and Vampirella meet and mistake each other for the murderer. This plot development would have been trite in a 1979 issue of Marvel Team-Up and is about as out of place in this book as a robot gorilla or space herpes.

The art's not terrible, and is actually quite good in places. Drawing likenesses isn't as easy as it sounds and has been a bone of contention in comics based on "licensed properties" for decades. Just because you can draw an ace Superman doesn't mean you can draw Christopher Reeve. Many successful, talented comic artists have steered clear of licensed books for this reason, so I'm not going to bust the chops of artist Patrick Berkenkotter from drawing a Dark Shadows book that never really looks like any version of the story we've ever seen. Again, blame management.

Please, Dynamite ... I'm BEGGING you ... put an editor in charge of the DARK SHADOWS books that knows something about storytelling. These books are embarrassing for everyone involved. Look at that thumbnail to your right (the image of Barnabas fighting Vampirella) and tell me you're seriously proud of this work.


Michael Valverde said...

I enjoyed the resurgence of Vampirella in the late 90s - but no one has done justice with her since Quesada and co left to remake Marvel #1 again. Sad to hear this was such a turd!

majkinja said...

Vampirella looks so undignified it's hard to understand that men find her sexy. One of the top images I found of her on google search she looked like she was taking a dump cat style.
Contrast can be good but not this time, Barnabas is way too elegant and proper to be in the same frame as her.

I think I had Vampirella confused with another female vampire, some whimsical girl who's Dracula's daughter. She also wore a skimpy outfit but not as ridiculous as Vampirella. I'm trying to figure out the name of that character.

majkinja said...

Ah, I found her, her name is Dracurella, a much sweeter vampire lady and she has a dragon friend.

retzev said...

Dark Shadows? Thumbs up. Vampirella? I don't know, she's a sexy alien vampire superhero from another planet, I like the thought of her. Dark Shadows and Vampirella in the same universe? Knuckleheaded, hairbrained idea.

retzev said...

Dracurella! Wow, I've never heard of this one, and there seems to be very little information about the character/book online, virtually none. I found a few covers and I like'em, I'd love to learn more.

Anonymous said...

The problem lies with a lack of Quality Control by whomever is handling the licnecing for Dan Curtis productions. Heck, the worst of the Gold Key comics were better than what they are churning out!

Take a look at what BIG FINISH is doing with the audio series- WONDERFUL STUFF - and by writers who's got a grasp in what makes DARK SHADOWS what it is- and many of them are British where the series only got a run on Scif UK in the 1990's!

Perhaps it's time for fans to get together start a campaign towards Dynamite to improve the comic.

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