REVIEW: Morbius The Living Vampire #1

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Or – “Vampires Seem To Operate On A Seven-Year Cycle…”

Back in the 60s, the sort-of-dreaded Comics Code Authority prohibited any mention of the undead.  (There are many who claim, with more than just a little bit of evidence, that this was by design, to force EC Comics out of business a decade earlier.)  Thus were Marvel’s revenants referred to as “zuvembies,” while the entirety of their vampiric activity was limited for some time to one Michael Morbius, whose pseudo-vamp powers were a side effect of a treatment to cure his strange blood disorder.  With his 40th anniversary having recently passed, Morbius now graduates to his own book (again) and your Major Spoilers blood-sucking review awaits!

MorbiusCoverMORBIUS THE LIVING VAMPIRE #1
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist: Richard Elson
Cover Artist(s): Gabriele Dell’Otto/Skottie Young/Ed McGuinness/Marte Gracia
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Sana Amanat
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Morbius The Living Vampire:  Doctor Michael Morbius transformed himself accidentally, but has taken advantage of his wavering super-normal powers in the years since.  From doctor to villain to vigilante to villain again, the path of Morbius led him to Horizon Labs, where he worked in secrecy to cure himself once and for all.  A clash with the Lizard caused Morbius to give in to his blood frenzy, and Spider-Man was forced to lock up his frenemy in notorious superhuman prison The Raft.  Having escaped custody, Michael Morbius is once again on his own, without even a bat-winged leather bodysuit to his name…

IT’S…

“I was a living vampire,” says Morbius at the beginning of this issue, as he runs away from a man with a gun.  Joe Keatinge does a really good job telling us what the deal is with Morby, running through the abilities his vaguely vampiric powers give him.  He even gives the character’s downsides, explaining that he NEVER sleeps, has an endlessly compounding lust for blood, and can be killed by a stake through the heart.  (Though, for that matter, can’t we all?)  Keatinge even gives us the Cliff Notes version of the Living Vampire’s history, while introducing his new stomping grounds, a down-scale neighborhood called Brownsville.  Artistically speaking, Richard Elsen reminds me of a young Mark Bagley, and the last page splash (with the big spoilery bit it, I might add) is startling in its simplicity and clarity.  Every character, from the minor thugs to the antagonist, one Noah St. Germain, has a unique face and bearing, and Morbius himself looks like a man who barely escaped from prison and spent five days living rough in the subway.

…MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS!

The previous iteration of Morbius’ title was a hyper-violent thing, and while this issue has its share of blood, the overall tone is much closer to Spider-Man’s current take under Dan Slott.  Morbius is a character who has been up and down in the Marvel Universe for over four decades, but hasn’t really been driven into the ground the way some characters have, and the retcon scabs in his backstory are much less severe than, say, Nick Fury or Luke Cage.  Most impressively, Morbius comes across as a relatable protagonist without being superheroic or Mary Sue-ish, but still has the urge to help people when he can.  After the shotgun blast that is the end of the book, I have NO idea where the creative team is headed with the book or the character, but I’m very interested in seeing the journey.  While Mikey Fangs didn’t make an immediate jump to my pull list with this issue, I have decided that I’m going to pick up next issue for sure, and if that issue impresses like this one, I’ll be adding the adventures of Spider-Man’s vampire pal to my regular purchases.

THE BOTTOM LINE: THAT JOKE IS FROM THE 70s, SO IS MORBIUS.  SO, IT’S COOL…

All in all, the book does everything that a first issue should do:  Introduces Morbius, defines his characters, shows us the backstory and puts him in a new circumstance where he can try to rebuild the life he lost to his bloodlust.  Morbius The Living Vampire #1 looks good, reads well, and puts new life in one of Marvel’s Bronze Age icons (the man made Peter Parker grow four extra arms, after all) earning an impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Spider-fans should definitely check this one out, but I don’t expect that anybody will be particularly disappointed in this number one…

Rating: ★★★½☆

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