I, Vampire #1
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artist: Jenny Frison
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
In an editorial I wrote about the DC’s New 52 lineup two months before the comics were released, I dismissed I, Vampire as “DC’s effort to capitalize on the Twilight/True Blood trend,” and I argued it would make a poor foundation for a new comic series. But you know what makes for a good foundation for a new title? Compelling writing and attractive artwork, and I, Vampire has plenty of it. The premise — a centuries-old vampire trying to defend mankind from an onslaught of fellow bloodsuckers, led by his one-time lover — is a simple one and doesn’t come off as particular new in any way. But the tone of the dialogue, and the haunting and haunted look of the artwork made for an engrossing read. I remain disappointed the two main characters in the story spend it in a state of partial undress because it creates an impression of superficiality that’s not reflective of the storytelling skill the creators exhibit in this opening salvo.
A powerful vampire named Mary who’s dubbed herself “the Queen of Blood” is planning to mount an all-out assault against humanity so her kind will rise as the dominant species on the planet, taking what she believes is their rightful place in the order of things. But Andrew — the 400-year-old vampire who transformed Mary from a beautiful, innocent, young woman she once was into the monster she’s become — tries to convince her to change her ways while vowing to put a stop to her murderous campaign. Little does he know, though, that she won’t be alone in her bloody effort.
Judging from a quick web search, Andrea Sorrentino doesn’t have a lot of comic credits to his name — a God of War limited series and covers for the recent X-Files/30 Days of Night crossover book. After people see this comic book, I expect it won’t be long before his portfolio and bibliography start to expand. His work on I, Vampire is incredibly reminiscent of the style of Jae (Hellshock, Inhumans) Lee. In fact, had there been no creator credits in this comic, I would’ve assumed Jae Lee had been responsible for the line art. The shadowy figures suit the supernatural, monstrous qualities of the characters. The stark, muted colors enhance the tense, eerie and unnatural atmosphere of the story, and they also make the backdrops look like a post-apocalyptic landscape.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the visual side of the book, and a significant misstep in its production, is how the narrative captions colors fail to distinguish clearly enough between Andrew and Mary. Those captions are colored in two separate but unfortunately similar shades of red. It took some close examination sometimes for me to tell the hero’s words apart from the villain’s. Obviously, there’s a reason red is employed for both, given their vampiric nature, but a sharper, clearer contrast between the two would’ve made the first page and so many others after easier to follow. Andrew’s shirtlessness throughout the issue is disappointing as well, as it seems like the creators want to cast Taylor Lautner in the title role. Furthermore, I’m not sure if we’re meant to see Mary as being naked with strategically placed blood splatters, that she has red-striped skin or if the red-on-ivory motif is meant to be seen as some kind of bodysuit.
“We were meant to inherit the earth, but instead we let it be stolen by aliens and masked men.” I suspect I, Vampire would work better on its own, outside of any shared continuity, but it’s clearly set in the DC Universe. I think Fialkov makes the right decision by acknowledging up front his story is set in the DC Universe rather than trying to keep these characters apart from it as long as possible. Setting this story of a one-man, secret war against vampires in a world full of super-heroes is a significant challenge. Fialkov’s script flat-out argues there’s no way Mary’s macabre forces could withstand opposition from the super-hero community. Then again, Marvel has woven vampire stories into its super-hero universe for decades, often with success.
After I read this comic book, I gave some thought as to why I enjoyed it so much. The tragic love of two vampires is hardly breaking new ground, so it wasn’t from any kind of novelty in the plot. No, the source of this story’s strength stems from its dialogue. Mary’s contention she’s a revolutionary, a leader of an oppressed people, is punctuated with powerful comparisons. I was also struck by the fact Andrew isn’t just in love with the Mary he once knew, but also with the monster that wields her abilities with grace and fluidity. The dialogue is intelligent but not overwrought, and it makes it clear the hero is struggling to deal with his affection for and attachment to Mary along with his rage over the atrocities she’s planning. 7/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.