Spoilers for Vampirella Volume 2: The God You Know (issues #7-#11 of Vampirella 2017)
So…my first comic review. Huh. Let’s see how this goes!
Okay, so this is the part where I confess to not having read a whole ton of Vampirella comics in my life. I mean, I’ve read some obviously, and I know who she is. You do too, even if you’ve never read a single issue. She’s this lady-
See? You know her. One of the classic queens of horror, first appearing in 1969 (and isn’t that a fitting year?) and as recognizable as Elvira. Sometimes she’s funny, sometimes she’s scary, and she’s always some degree of sexy. Oh, and if that swimsuit with a collar thing (I don’t know if there’s a specific name for that outfit) she’s wearing is a turnoff for you, it’s not what she looks like in the current run. She’s currently sporting this look-
So there’s that. Anyway, yeah, so I have mixed feelings about her in general, but the nice thing with a character as old as Vampirella is that you can generally find at least a couple stories to like of hers. She does a lot of crossovers too, meeting characters like Cassie Hack, Lady Death, and the Xenomorphs, so there should be a gateway drug for you lying around somewhere.
I haven’t read the previous six issues of this run. It was written by Paul Cornell, which is reassuring since not only is he a good writer (he’s written for Doctor Who and Elementary among others) but he is a big classic horror fan, he even has a podcast that’s just him and a friend watching the Hammer Horror library chronologically, so there’s that. The writer for these issues I’m going to be talking about though is Jeremy Whitley. He’s a good writer, probably best known for the series Princeless and The Unstoppable Wasp, as well as quite a bit of work on My Little Pony (and Secret Empire, but we’ll try not to hold that against him).
Now, since this is Vol 2, starting with issue 7, we are picking up in the middle of things. That…is a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, I’d say you can get a grasp on things without much difficulty. I managed to understand most of what was going on, but there will be moments of confusion. Especially in the first half of issue 7, which is wrapping up a bit of a convoluted mess about Vampirella meeting alternate versions of herself, probably in an attempt to square all the retcons of the past five decades. It’s interesting, but a bit of an odd place to start with. And keep in mind that this is Vol 2 of an ongoing series, not a mini-series or spinoff. So while there is a beginning, middle, and end to these issues, and I found the ending of issue 11 satisfying, it’s not a tidy ‘the end’ so much as a reasonably good ‘to be continued’.
Anyway, enough preamble, let’s get to the comic itself. Starting with
Since comics are a visual medium, it makes sense to start here. The art style of a comic is very important since it needs to convey as much, or even more, than the dialogue. And the art style for these five issues is…very specific. I say that because it’s very clearly trying to invoke Tales from the Crypt by EC Comics. Which makes sense, given the nature of a Vampirella comic. And it’s not bad. Not really. I’ve read Rob Liefeld, Ben Templesmith, Greg Land, and late Frank Miller works. Compared to those bundles of bad, this is fine. I know, it’s not the greatest praise, but that’s just never been my favorite art style. Characters sometimes look off model and weird, especially in terms of their faces, and there is an unreasonable amount of big 80’s hair for something set in the future, but it’s never more than a minor distraction and certainly never a turn-off. Okay, let’s move on to more important things to address.
So, what’s the plot? Well, we start off issue 7 in Vampirella’s mindscape, when she’s essentially having a lucid dream. That’s not made immediately clear, presumably because issue 6 initiates said dream and I’m probably not supposed to start with Vol 2, so it’s a little confusing at first and you have to grasp onto the context pretty hard. Basically, we start with Vampirella and…an attractive redhead in a maid costume. We don’t actually get a name for her until page 20, though again, I assume she was properly introduced in previous issues so I can’t really fault the comic for that. You shouldn’t have to write every issue as an entry point after all. Her name is Vicki, moving on. Vampirella and Vicki end up in a room with multiple alternate versions of Vampirella. Some are definitely actual incarnations of her, others I’m not so sure. This is, as I said mainly to square the circle of all of the various iterations of Vampirella, explaining that they were alternate versions of her that the one we’re following has absorbed into her own mindscape. Personally, I don’t care about this sort of thing (I’m not a fan of the ‘three Jokers’ thing DC is going with to explain the differences between the character over the years) but at the end of the day, it’s not a bad idea. And it stops being important pretty soon after issue 8, so no harm is done. It is neat to see this done, I just wish it was in the ‘real world’ of the comic.
Anyway, Vampirella learns the reason why she has a multiple choice origin story in her own head, why sometimes she’s an alien and other times she’s a demon, sometimes born in the Garden of Eden and other times in Hell, and she allows her alternate selves to move on, after a short brawl with some of the other alternates who aren’t happy with the situation. She briefly speaks to a bipedal cat and what I guess is a male version of herself, then wakes up to Vicki making breakfast and her cat Grit licking her. She is then confronted with the realization that she always has two friends, a sidekick, and a love interest, and since she’s not about to romance the cat…Vicki walks in with bacon, and Vampirella pretty much immediately starts crushing on her, wondering if this attraction is sudden or if it took finally getting to see Vicki happy and relaxed to realize how pretty she is. Either way-cool! Vampirella gets a female love interest this time around! And there’s no panic or really even much thought on Vampirella’s part just ‘guess I’m attracted to this girl, *shrug*’. Because of course, Vampirella would be bi. She specifically states later on that she’s attracted to males, females, and non-binary individuals, so yay!
Fairly quickly this niceness is interrupted by a crazy lady with a bomb in her exposed ribcage exploding the hell out of Vampirella’s home. This being the end of issue 7, with Vampirella’s internal monologue stating that there’s very little chance that Vicki will be able to survive this even with Vampirella shielding her with her own body, scared me a bit, I won’t lie. I was very apprehensive entering issue 8 and prepared to give a less positive review. Fortunately, Vickie does survive, despite having a very large piece of wood impaled in her stomach. An angry Vampirella stomps out to confront the bomber’s friends, four biker people with weapons who are all furious with her. What follows is a rather gory action scene as our heroine mauls three of them, but before she can follow through with the fourth is confronted with the realization that she didn’t actually kill any of them, despite ripping out one dude’s heart and yanking a chain out the back of another’s skull. Why aren’t they dead? Well…huh.
Okay, so we are again confronted with the fact that I have not read issues 1-6 of this run, so this next bit is confusing. That’s not the comic’s fault obviously, and it does a fairly good summary of summarizing, but a lot of context and background is left out as a result. What we know is that in the past, Vampirella destroyed Heaven…kind of. It was a fake, digital Heaven that was actually Hell apparently, one in which the Devil trapped God. So, with Hell destroyed (sort of, we find out later that Vampirella really just made it crash and a villain was able to turn it back on) and God trapped, there was nowhere for souls to go, and so nobody has been able to die. This has led to resource shortages and major wars, and as we see later Earth has essentially become Mad Max. Though on the bright side, this means that Vicki isn’t dead! Vampirella interrogates the motorcyclists, learning that they’re the followers of some big bad boss who had promised to send anyone who brings them Vampirella to Heaven, and sets off on one of their motorcycles with Vicki, intent on finding this person and getting them to heal Vicki.
Along the way they get attacked by some more punks in tricked-out vehicles, which leads to an interesting fight scene and the revelation that Vampirella can sprout big bat wings from her back. This mainly leads to the pair taking refuge in either an abandoned house or motel (not sure which, not that it matters), and Vampirella admitting that she’s fallen in love with Vicki. The two had previously kissed on the road before finding refuge, but now Vampirella briefly feeds on the redhead to heal herself, then the two have sex off-panel, since some stuff ‘is just for them’.
Eventually, they make it to the lair of the villain, and Vampirella knowingly walks into a trap, as she doesn’t fully realize the full effects of said trap. The two are captured, with Vampirella’s powers suppressed, and we find out who’s behind all of this-Pantha, a Vampirella side character, former ally, and formerly the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. See, apparently, Vampirella slept for one thousand years, during which the Devil instituted the whole ‘trap God and make a digital Heaven’ plan. This plan included violent cyber angels, forcing people to buy there way into Heaven (resulting in a crappy childhood for Vicki as her mother was abusive and mainly utilized her to make more money) and…clown police…for some reason that’s not really explained or addressed in this volume. Again, not the comic’s fault. Anyway, the beginning of this resulted in the death of Pantha’s beloved partner, and this led to Pantha going on a bloodlust filled rampage, constantly being harassed and attacked by Satan’s minions until she gave up and went to work for him as a torturer. Now she’s furious, twisted and broken, with a grudge against Vampirella and a need to prove that Vampirella is the same as her and would break under similar circumstances. This is, admittedly, one of the most cliche villain motivations possible, it’s essentially just an abridged version of The Killing Joke, and I’d be lying if I said the comic put a new twist on it, but it’s serviceable.
Pantha tortures Vicki for a bit, choking her to the point that she’s rendered mute, but eventually relents in exchange for getting to toss the two into a colosseum. She even makes an offer that the first person to decapitate Vampirella or stab her in the heart will be sent to Heaven…an offer that is eventually accepted by Vicki, who stabs her lover in the back. Again, a somewhat worrying turn of events, but I’ll go ahead and say that it works out. Pantha fulfills her promise and sends Vicki to Heaven, and after some dark stuff involving the fact that there’s no food in Heaven but Pantha’s followers are being sent in their bodies instead of as souls and a scene of Pantha draining Vampirella’s blood supply and locking her in a room of children to break her, we find out that Vicki had a plan.
God is still trapped. And since this is the exact same digital ‘Heaven’ that Vampirella shut down, Vicki is able to find God and release her. Oh yeah, God’s a black woman in this universe, it’s great! Pantha is summarily defeated when other deities are released at the same time as God, namely by Ma’at, the Egyptian judge of the dead, and her beast Ammit. God, who loves love in any form, quickly takes Vicki to Vampirella, freeing the children and allowing Vampirella to save herself by feeding on Vicki. Then, with the digital Heaven collapsing, God takes the two back to the real world.
So, how is “The God You Know”? Pretty damn good! Fairly solid art, very solid writing (nothing groundbreaking mind you, but good), and of course wlw romance! Good things all around. I will say though, that I do not recommend this as an entrance to Vampirella, either the current 2017 run or to the character in general. It’s not bad! And it’s still fairly understandable despite not having read vol 1. But, unless you just hate Paul Cornell’s writing, starting with issue 1 just makes more sense.
So good storyline, mediocre starting point.
Vampirella Volume 2: The God You Know
Writer: Jeremy Whitley, Paul Cornell
Art: Andy Belanger, Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios, Rapha Lobosco
Cover: Andy Belanger