X-Men vs. Vampires is another one of those anthologies that contain side stories meant to embellish the action going on in the main book. Running alongside the ‘Curse of the Mutants’ plot currently unfolding in the pages of X-Men, X-Men vs. Vampires #1 shines the light on a few underused X-Characters, as well as providing part of the first story to pit mutants against bloodsuckers.
X-MEN VS. VAMPIRES #!
Writers: James Asmus, Christopher Sequeira, Peter David, Rob Williams, Chris Claremont
Artists: Tom Raney, Sana Takeda, Mick Bertilorenzi, Doug Braithwraite, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bob Wiacek
Colorists: Jon Rauch, Sana Takeda, Lee Loughridge, June Chung, Glynis Wein
Letterers: Dave Sharpe, Tom Orzechowski
Cover: Nick Bradshaw and Jim Charalampidis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“Join your blood and life and soul to mine as, with a kiss, I make you the bride of the prince of darkness: Dracula!”
Comic book anthologies are, by nature, hit-or-miss and ancillary to the story. Anthologies are best suited for exploring stories that might slow down the plot in the main book, like explicating internal struggles or showing what the characters that aren’t focal to the plot are doing. These stories are usually told in 8 pages or less, so there can’t be a lot of fat. The best anthologies are taut and revelatory. So how does the first of two vampirocentric X-Anthologies fare?
HUMAN STAKES AND DISCO VAMPIRES
X-Men vs. Vampires #1 consists of four and a half stories, with quality ranging from middling to quite good. The first two stories focus on solo characters, with Husk and Dazzler respectively getting a little action. Neither gets much play in the main X-books these days, so a glimpse of their exploits is welcome. However, the execution is lacking. In the first story, Husk exhibits some inventive use of her skin-shedding power to transform herself into a human stake, but James Asmus’s dialogue is too clunky. It’s a little hard to swallow that a participant in a fight would verbalize better ways for their opponent to kill them. Or call someone “honeybear.” It’s mostly an extended fight scene with decent art by Tom Raney, but it doesn’t say anything new or interesting about Husk as a character.
Dazzler fares little better in a brief blaxploitation pastiche that dovetails with her disco background a little too neatly. Like Husk, she’s on a one-woman vampire hunt, stumbling onto an enclave of disco-funk vampires who never left the 1970s. It’s a paper-thin concept that is driven more by the amusing disco-tasticness of Xarus’s anti-sunlight medallions than anything else. Why Xarus would bother giving his secret weapons to a bunch of vampires that have essentially removed themselves from vampiric society and any kind of relevance is unexplained. Bonus points to Dazzler for trying to crush someone with a disco ball, though. As for art, Sana Takeda’s pencils give everyone anime fairy-eye syndrome, but her colors are supremely effective at exhibiting the flashy disco atmosphere.
THE BRAIN IN A JAR VS. INHUMAN LEECHES FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
The highlight of the anthology is Peter David’s contribution. It has a supremely creepy vibe, and excellently handles Margaret Johansson, one of Grant Morrison’s most interesting and underused characters. Forgive me for spoiling a surprise scribbled over 8 pages, but the name of the site isn’t Major Spoilers for nothing. A strangely acting Rogue is on the hunt for vampires – this is later revealed to be everyone’s favorite brain-in-a-jar taking the Southern belle’s sleeping body out for a spin. Martha explores the implications of her bodiless form while simultaneously getting a taste of superheroics. The ending also nicely emphasizes the inhumanity of vampires. With vampiremania sweeping the nation, vampires are glamorized for their sensuality, immortality and strength. What is forgotten at times is that vampires are also supposed to be terrifying, unearthly and inherently evil. David’s little story gets this point across perfectly. The art in this section is a little uneven, but it appropriately depicts the dark tone.
Magneto gets a reflective in the fourth story when he encounters a blood-sucking blast from the past. While engaging in a little heavy combat with the rest of the X-Men A-listers, Magneto discovers one of the vampires is a childhood friend he thought lost in the Holocaust. Having faced horrors in their youth, they both became monstrous in their own right. It’s a moment that allows Magneto to see himself in the mirror, with an ambiguous end. The story is a nice exploration of Magneto, but ultimately nothing definitive is learned.
The final half story is a partial reprint of the ‘Storm gets bit by Dracula’ story. Naturally, we get the rest of it in the next issue. It’s vintage Chris Claremont, with all the classic all-new, all different X-goodness. Nightcrawler is dashingly flirtatious, Wolverine drinks all the beer, and Kitty Pryde is annoyingly precocious. It’s nice to see the tale that keeps getting referenced in the Curse of the Mutants storyline, but also irksome to pay good money for half of a previously published story.
If you’ve got $3.99 to spare, X-Men vs. Vampires #1 has some interesting things going on, but it’s not consistently good enough to overcome its ultimately inessential nature.
X-Men vs. Vampires #1 has seven stakings, five beheadings, four disco balls, one axe attack, one “Sheba Sugarfangs,” one space pirate and a whole lotta red eyeballs. I count three tkkshs, two zsssts, two hrriipps, one thoooom, one krrassshhh, and one very gooey splorshtch, Cyclop’s torch on the cover is just adorable. Two and a half out of five stars.