DUELING REVIEW: Vampirella #1

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In the 70s and early 80s, young males looking for comics that offered up scantily clad ladies with a touch of horror, only needed to look at Vampirella from Warren Publishing.  Flash forward forty years from her first appearance, and Vampirella gets a redo from Dynamite Entertainment.  Is it still the titillating comic that made the young male’s blood boil, or has it been toned down for a more politically correct age?  That’s the question your two favorite meat bags will answer in this dueling review of Vampirella #1.

VAMPIRELLA #1
Writer: Eric Trautmann
Illustrator: Wagner Reis
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Colors: Inlight Studio
Covers: J. Scott Campbell, Alex Ross, Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, Joe Maduriera
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Previously, on Vampirella:  About a lifetime ago (if you’re one of the old dudes writing this article) there was a man named Jim Warren, whose lot in life was to produce black-and-white magazines in a horror-y vein, with names like “Creepy,” “Eerie” and “Holy $#!+ What Is That THING?”.  (I may possibly have made one of those up.  I’ll bet you’ll never guess which…)  Through a convergence of wonder including Archie Goodwin, Frank Frazetta and others, we came to hear the tale of a young girl from planet Draculon, a world where the oceans are made of blood.  When their precious aquifers (hemofers?) began to run dry, those aliens made their way to Earth, but one of their own, Vampirella herself, turned against her evil brethren and chose to become a good girl who dresses like a street-walker.  Though her origin has been retold at least a couple of times (apparently to retcon out her status as an alien) Vampi has been in the public eye for nearly 40 years, a pretty amazing achievement overall…

MATTHEW: For a character who started out as a scantily-clad Rod Serling, you have to give Vampi credit for stickin’ around this long.  Although, I don’t suppose being super-sexxay hurts her at all.

STEPHEN: If only she were Asian!

MATTHEW: Dude, she’s from another PLANET!  You might as well lust after Optimus Prime…  Aaaaannnnnyway, this issue opens in a very familiar manner for me (and, indeed, anyone who read comics between ’88 and ’94 or so) as a group of thugs attacks an innocent man, only to be stopped by a brutal beating from the titular hero.  I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s tropes, but this opening really bothers me. From the poor pathetic wino to the young toughs to the tough-guy dialogue from Vampi, it’s straight out of every third comic book released in the early 90′s.

STEPHEN: Or any episode of the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer… Trautmann is introducing this character to a new era of readers who are all jacked up on vampires, and want to feast on anything even remotely having to do with blood-suckers (be they alien or not).  So to use this tired trope as the introduction of the hero seems fitting. Just be glad she isn’t all sparkly.

MATTHEW: The art is nicely handled, though, reminding me of Mike Deodato, and it’s good to see that Vampi is fully clothed throughout the issue.  The plot feels kind of shopworn to me, with bits of Stoker and Anne Rice and other well-known vampire stories stuck onto the conceit of a vampire who kills her own kind.  The central concept is a strong one, but this issue doesn’t leap out and compel me to buy additional issues of this title.  How did the plotting work for you?

STEPHEN: Dynamite Entertainment has quite a few fans bent out of shape recently, what with the way they changed The Phantom and Buck Rogers, and the costume change from 70s swimwear to regular street clothes more than likely has some fraction of the Vampi fans plotting secretly with those people who were upset that Wonder Woman went through a wardrobe malfunction.  Other than the fact that the front cover is really misleading readers about what to expect inside (what comic doesn’t these days), I found the art to be really solid.  I’d like to see some panels that looked at the world other than front on, but that’s okay.

As far as the overall plot, it seems that not much has changed in all the years the character has been around – she’s trying to root out the bad vampires to make the world safe for the rest of us.  Then there is the backup story…
MATTHEW: Of course, the backup tale is another story entirely, with Jeff Loeb and Tim Sale using their unique talents to tell a quirky, yet brilliant, story of Vampirella’s encounter with Archie Goodwin, one of the men who made her famous.  (It was originally published just months after Archie’s death, over a decade ago.)  I’m torn on this one, as I loved this reprint a lot, but I don’t know if it should really counts towards the issue rating.

STEPHEN: It really shouldn’t count toward the overall review, but it does give the new readers a look at the real costume, and the tale is so well told, it is worth reading.

MATTHEW: So.  The return of a beloved old character from the late 60s makes me happy, but I’m not entirely sure about the story.  The art is quite good and the main character is dressed for once, but I have concerns that taking her iconic half-nakedness away could work against the book overall.  My copy has a lovely J. Scott Campbell cover, much better than the Alex Ross promotional material we had on the site, which is nice.  I’m torn about the whole thing.  Depending one how this all plays out, we could have a big winner on our hands, but there’s a lot of variables in that equation for me.  All in all, Vampirella #1 is a mixed bag overall, with the good outweighing the questionable by a slim margin, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s worth a look, and the backup is wonderful, and I have hopes that the series can be excellent.  Keep ‘em crossed…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

STEPHEN: Vampires, fighty-fighty, strong female character, and good versus evil.  What’s not to like?  Oh, yeah… there’s that whole “Been there, done that” feel that comes with the story, but I enjoyed more than I thought I would.  If you’ve never read Vampirella, then you won’t know what you’re missing, and I think there is a strong enough hook in this book to keep new readers coming back for more.  The very fact that there are vampires is sure to attract more readers in the very near future.  If handled correctly, this book could be as popular as that other vampire hunter from that other publisher.  I’ll pick up another installment to see where this is headed, but for now, I agree, 3 out of 5 Stars – better than average, but not out of the park fun.

Rating: ★★★☆☆