Or – “I’m Always Pleasantly Surprised When This One Doesn’t Get Cancelled…”
The original ‘I… Vampire’ series fell right in the time when I was first exposed to comics, a time when I would buy anything stapled at the spine, regardless of content or genre. I vaguely remember those stories as the standout tales from the House of Mystery issues of my youth, and I was very impressed by the launch of Andrew Bennett’s revived book in the New 52. Will this origin issue continue to impress? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in I Vampire: Andrew Bennett has spent centuries as an undead blood-sucker, giving him abilities beyond most of the vampire rabble. Unfortunately, these abilities are shared by his former lover, who has taken the imposing sobriquet of “Queen Of Blood,” and amassed an army of vampires to overrun humanity. That plan has been scuttled, thanks to Andrew, who single-handedly killed Cain, the original vampire, and took control of the Vampire Nation….
I’M DESPERATELY TRYING TO AVOID MAKING BLOOD PUNS…
It is the year 1591, and young nobleman Andrew Bennett is making his way by coach through a dark and mysterious forest. Given that the title of the comic is “I, Vampire,” and this is the much-touted origin issue, one presumes this will end poorly. When the coach crashes, due partially to Andrew’s arrogant insistence that they continue through the driving rain, he finds himself at the mercy of a vampire with a particularly impressive pedigree. The blood-sucker tells the tale of how HE became a vampire, many years before, a story that involves The Demon and Madame Xanadu, tying back into the greater tapestry of the New 52. That he is revealed to be Cain himself shouldn’t be a surprise to those who have been reading this title regularly, but the way it unfolds is fascinating, and the visuals are absolutely stunning. Andrea Sorrentino’s creepy, dark wood is unnerving enough, but when Cain slowly steps out of the shadows, there is a palpable sense of dread and/or doom, leading up to the inevitable bite…
AND I’M NOT GOING TO NAME-CHECK EDWARD CULLEN, EITHER.
There’s a very strong implication that Bennett was somehow fated to become what he is, and the moment where Cain realizes that his own curse has overtaken the one that he intended for Andrew is, again, gorgeously rendered and surprising. The real test of the Zero Month experiment for me has been in how the creators deal with the expectations of the proverbial “jumping-on point.” Some have given us nothing but a straight-forward chunk of exposition, some have gone far afield, but this issue serves both masters with skill and craft; showing us the character’s origin and answering some questions while raising others. The last page, where Andrew delivers to his beloved Mary (the future Queen of Blood) a letter is heartbreaking and ominous all at once. It was her love, and his family’s excoriation of it (after all, she is far below their station) that drove him into the night in the first place, and there’s a tragic sort of perfection in the fact that his going to see her led to him having to abandon her.
‘Course, we already know their separation won’t be forever… *shudder*
THE BOTTOM LINE: ELEGANT AND BEAUTIFUL.
There aren’t a lot of writers whom I would trust with a lot of Victorian English, but Fialkov proves himself to be one of them with this issue, and the pacing of the story is very well-handled. There are breath-taking artistic moments every few pages, and the issue ends on a moment of true artistic awesomeness. I have to say that I am a bit unclear on the hows and whys of Cain’s imprisonment via Andrew, a moment that seems to be unexplained (though I may have missed the relevant bit in a previous issue) and that hand-waved bit of plot does keep the issue from a perfect score. I, Vampire is still a damn fine series, and this is a well-above-average issue with some bits that are truly gorgeous earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s interesting to me that the properties that I find most successful in the New 52 are titles like this one, and Animal Man, where the weight of decades of continuity aren’t quite as heavy as they are for Batman or Wonder Woman.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!