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WHttDCnU? – I, Vampire: Tainted Love

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Hello there ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to “Whatever Happened To The DC New Universe?” after a long hiatus! A lot of things have happened over the past few months, and what was going to be a short, week or two week break to recover from losing a member of the team, became confounded by an avalanche of illness, limited time, and just sheer ridiculousness in some cases. None the less, as I said recently in a Badly Productions news update, we have no intentions of letting this long project die, we’ve come too far to simply “cut our losses”. There is still another fourteen comics that we are covering, which will end of the First Wave, and the six comics of Second Wave. As of right now there are no intentions of taking the “Whatever Happened To The DC New Universe?” project any further than the end of Second Wave, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be dropping Comic book reviews as a whole. There is still a lot more to come from our contributors and as group projects in the future!

Today though, let’s get stuck back in to the project with a series I don’t think any of our contributors expected to see in the release line up; I, Vampire!

I, Vampire revolved around the character Andrew Bennett, an old vampire who struggles to stave off his bloodlust, in his quest to stop Mary Queen of Blood, the leader of the Blood Red Moon, and Bennett’s own ex-lover, whom he turned. In the New 52 the story remains the same with a twist. A fresh faced Andrew Bennett, encounters Mary Queen of Blood, as she raises an entire army against the living, to see the world at her feet! Today Crimson Hound and Myself, F.R.O.G.M.A.N.N. take on the blood sucking hordes, and have to decide if this is the light at the end of the tunnel for Vampire media, or a fate worse than death, only here on…

…WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DC NEW UNIVERSE?

-Andy Frogman

WHTTDCNU-synopsis
crimson-hound-rWe open to Andrew Bennet and his ex lover, Bloody Mary, arguing like most couples do, except instead of talking about who gets what after the break up it’s about the possible genocide and enslavement of the human race at the hands of Mary’s vampires. Andrew strongly disagrees pointing out that with beings like Superman and such that Mary’s plan of “revolution” would only lead to the extinction of their own kind. Mary disagrees and tries once more to convince Andrew to join them since he is one of the oldest vampires living to this day. Andrew refuses and tries to convince Mary again to not go through with any of her plans. Finally Mary asks that they stop and try to have fun like “old times” and the next morning Andrew wakes up to a letter by Mary detailing that her plan and the fact she was going to go through with it, with or without Andrew, and if Andrew plans to interfere she won’t hesitate to do what is necessary. Interspersed between all the dialogue are scenes of what appears to be a city wide massacre of humans and vampires, with Andrew personally killing vampires with wooden stakes and a hatchet. The massacre by the vampires was of course done by Mary and her brood.

Next part of our story solely follows Mary and her motives for the “revolution” of her fellow vampires. She believes that it is of course nature’s way, humans were dominant of animals and vampires are meant to be dominant of humans. She’s tired of her kind having to hide in the shadows and believes it’s time for them to rise up and take over. After instigating the slaughter that we saw last issue, she leaves while Andrew deals with her followers, stating that the time has finally come for change. Afterwards we’re introduced to John Troughton, a human vampire hunter that is also a friend of Andrew Bennet and soon after Trig, a teenager that is an aspiring hunter. They make their way to Gotham city, while encountering other vampires and such until finally they arrive at Gotham, where the group runs into Batman, trying to stop the horde of vampires from overrunning the city.

Finally Trig gets the bright idea that in order to defeat all the vampires at once, they would need to kill the vampire that led to them being sired in the first place. Andrew Bennett was the one that sired Mary, and a quick decapitation of Andrew seemed to at first fix the problem, until we end on a cliffhanger where it turns out that the death of Andrew leads to the rise of someone even worse than Mary: Cain the first among Vampires.

WHTTDCNU-art

frogmann-lIf I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure where I stand on the art.

As you would expect from a modern vampire tale, the entire thing is incredibly gloomy, and they’ve gone for a style that is essentially just black inks on top of textured, coloured backgrounds. If I’m blunt most of the book looks like the inks were drawn on paper that had been stained by coffee. The colours used are meant to represent the tone or emotion of the situations, while majority of the book is just shades of brown. The artist does splash for more saturate backgrounds, with oranges and blues from time to time, however, the colours rarely change on a single page, meaning each page is made up of shades of a single colour and that can be very boring to look at. Still, even if I’m not a big fan of the coffee stained backgrounds, I can understand what they were going for and respect it for trying something different. And it certainly suits a lot of the situations, in the fight scenes, for example, the crimson sprays of blood really stand out from the otherwise desaturated book, and in contrast to the book as a whole.

As for the inks themselves, the art varies wildly in their quality, some of the art looks great, with just the right amount of detail used to really accentuate the colour design. On the other hand there are way too many scenes where the art looks like it’s either been traced, or just looks awful. The reason I say traced, is because sometimes the lines and the shading are so perfect, that the image looks like a photograph, in the case of Mary Queen of Blood, there are times she just looks like Alyson Hannigan, while other times you have to question the artist’s very comprehension of basic shapes.

I know we don’t usually use images in these reviews, but really this has to be seen to be believed. The same artist who drew this:
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Also drew this:
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What even is that? It doesn’t look human.

This series is certainly dark, gloomy and off putting (in a good way?), and the use of block colour pages unites the individual panels of the scenes really well, as well as helps distinguish scene changes, that are otherwise completely unmarked.

crimson-hound-rThe art for I, Vampire is the standard “dark and grim” look, where one dominant color like brown, black, or grey is used to set the “tone” of the entire story and everything else is basically mute to help stick with the whole “everything is terrible” look. The only person who actually looks like they’re allowed to have color is of course Mary, Queen of Blood and that is of course with her vibrant red markings when she’s in her natural vampire form. Every other panel everyone is either shadowed in or to help keep things “realistic”, hell the only other time color is even allowed to appear is basically during the action scenes. These scenes are the strongest part of the art though, as enemies are either doing the “wide jaw with fangs” look or are in the middle of transforming into their more primal versions.

The art does help sell moments that have no dialogue like when a train of unsuspecting victims makes its usual stop, a horde of newly turned vampires make their way into it and we see quick scenes where the chaotic slaughter ensues. Really the gore is the best part in the book and the more somber scenes does clarify that this is not a traditional book about colorful heroes in spandex coming in to save the day from a giant monster that came from a mad scientist lab. However after seeing this kind of art style over and over again in other books it feels pretty bland; however that doesn’t mean it is terrible. If you like this sort of style then you’re probably going to enjoy the book’s art.

WHTTDCNU-writing

frogmann-lThis book certainly has its ups and downs, and the writing isn’t strong. Whereas the art has its saving graces, the writing is trite and cliché. It’s yet another story of the troubled heroic vampire with a dark past that he’s trying to make amends for, all the while torturing himself constantly, with the scent of a lingering romantic side. This was well done with the Angel character arc in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe, but with the likes of Twilight, True Blood and the Vampire Diaries, churning out the same lame trash, the last place I expected to find it was in my comic books. I get that DC want to branch out and attract new audiences, but why did one of those audiences have to be the forlorn house wife, or emo teenage girls, who crave Mr Tall Dark and Serial Killer?

It feels like the writer aimed high, with an ambition for an Anne Rice brand of tortured vampire tale, but ended up falling quite short with the stories lacking substance, placing this series more in the realms of Twilight, but with the obvious difference being that this book has vampires. Actually, the plot is similar to the first and third Blade movies. The story is slow, poorly paced, and the first issue especially is actually rather confusing, as it leap-frogs back and forth between two different time periods, without out any indication aside from a different colour swatch. Even then, the periods in question could easily be a day apart, a month or hell a century, and which came first isn’t entirely clear until a second read through.

crimson-hound-rLook, I’ll be frank on this one: I don’t like it. Here me out on this one: if you ever read the “redemptive anti-hero” story, and you have, then you’re not going to be in for any surprises. If you ever seen any of the Blade movies or the Vampire Hunter D movies, then you’re going to be treading familiar ground with this one. Now I’m not saying the story is bad, it isn’t, in fact I like it to an extent. I’ve just seen and read this type of story too many times as nerd. The protagonist is the vampire that thinks we can live in peace together, the villain is the one that believes they should inherit the earth, and we have our side characters that fill out the cast.

Oh and it all takes place in the DC Universe, so you’ll see someone in tights running around helping the protagonist whenever it happens. Again not bad, and if you haven’t had you’re fill of this kind of story then you’ll probably enjoy this one a lot. Also this is probably DC’s fault but I got to say, I HATE it when a book is only eight issues in and it decides to start a small crossover with another book that is just barely getting seven issues in. At least it is when Justice League Dark gets much better and helps clean up a good chunk of the cast from that book.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

frogmann-lWhat can I say that I haven’t already in the writing section, they suffer the same problems as the plot as a whole. They are cliché stereotypes. Though it may not seem that way at first. The comic leaves it up to you own knowledge of vampire lore to fill in any gaps, and as such it feels like there is a lot more development than there really is. Pay attention to this and you’ll notice that characters are mostly blank slates, of the brooding or psychotic archetypes.

That said there is one thing I would like to talk about in regards to characters. Fricking BATMAN! I know I’ve said this every bloody time, but I am sick to death of seeing Batman in so many books. Ignoring the fact that Batman has FOUR of his own series in First Wave, he then appears or is mentioned in FIFTEEN other books. Probably one of the least necessary was this one. Oh yeah, hur hur hur, he’s a BAT-man, and this is a story about vampires. We get it, it’s just not funny. Throwing random Batmans around isn’t going to help a series, and in this one, frankly it’s just a pathetic joke!

DC, you have made me hate Batman. I hope you are happy.

crimson-hound-rReally the characters are pretty much the traditional stereotypes for a series like Joss Whedon’s “Angel”. Andrew Bennet is the poster child for the “Vampire with a Heart of Gold”, he regrets being what he is, believes vampires and humans can get along, and so on. He’s tragic because the woman he loves is his arch nemesis and he doesn’t want to kill her but knows he has to kill her, and you’ve already heard all this.

Mary is actually a little more interesting, she doesn’t disagree with Andrew that what she’s doing is harsh but she does point out that it is how things go in these sorts of situations: war means casualties, and with vampires there are going to be a LOT of casualties. She does believe that she is more of a revolutionary trying to give her people what is in her words “rightfully theirs” and that Andrew is just too whipped to admit it.

We have Andrew’s sidekicks, and of course one of them gets turned into a vampire as a way to “torture” Andrew so that he can be reminded that everything he’s doing is on him but again outside of the traditional stereotypes of “wise old friend” and “spunky teen female” nothing feels unique about them. Are they handled badly? No, but again this is my own bias to the story at large here so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

frogmann-lWhether as a whole or the sum of its parts, the book is riddled with issues. Very little of this book is outright bad, it just has problems. In places the art quality suffers. They tried something different with the monotone page colourisations, which didn’t resinate with me, and some of the art just looks rushed and substandard, which stands out dramatically from the good art. The art is fine, it’s just not necessarily what someone wants to see over and over. It wasn’t bad, but it has problems. In places the writing suffered. The pacing is slow, and confusing at times, and doesn’t attempt to do anything new, relying heavily on the path well-trodden. The story is fine, it’s just boring. Again, it wasn’t bad, it just had problems. The character of Andrew Bennett, and the feme fatale Mary Queen of Blood, aren’t the worst vampires I’ve read about in recent years. Rather than the noticeably older vampire from the older books, Bennett has been baby-faced to suit the current trend of sexy vampire leads, and is tortured by his quest for redemption. While Mary’s a stock vampire villain who wants to rule the world. But I wouldn’t call them bad, they just had their problems.

Despite this though, I have to admit I did actually… kinda… like the book…

As perverse as that may be. Once I had worked out just exactly what was going on, the second read through was enjoyable, and far easier to follow as a collected work, rather than individual issues, which was how I originally read it. Overall it left a bitter taste in my mouth, and what I originally hoped for as a book that would expand upon the Justice League Dark lore, which I loved, turned out to be just another “meh” vampire story.
I may have liked it to some extent, I have not been motivated in to wanting to buy the second trade, which makes it hard to recommend. I suppose, if you’re into the whole trashy modern vampire shlock then you’ll eat this up, otherwise it’s a sad sexification of what was once a rather respectable vampire character.

crimson-hound-rI just did not care for “I, Vampire”. I really do blame my attitude towards it on the fact I’ve seen and read similar (sometimes better) stories featuring the redemptive anti-hero and his quest to make things right. I just don’t care for this one though, and really what hurts it for me is just seeing the same thing over and over again each issue as Andrew, Mary, or someone else keeps saying the same exact thing: Andrew and Mary were lovers, Andrew turned Mary, Mary became evil, Andrew now has to kill Mary, and so on.

The few moments where it seems like we’ll get something more out of Andrew and it just falls flat as he goes back to the same shtick. However if you’re looking for a good vampire story after the myriad of Twilight rip offs, this is definitely a good place to start.

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