|ALTERED STATES: VAMPIRELLA No. 1, March 2015|
Advertised as a parallel reality in the vein of “Elseworlds” by “DC Comics” and “What If?” by “Marvel Worldwide”, this line of one-shot books promised to imbue familiar heroes with ‘new’ unknown identities and have them explore “strange and terrifying new worlds.” Promisingly for this particular narrative “Dynamite Entertainment” turned to Forest Ackerman and Trina Robbins’ 1969 co-creation Vampirella, a character to which the publisher acquired the rights in 2010, but disappointingly they have produced a somewhat garbled reimagining of the superheroine’s origin. One which frankly appears to have far more in common with the vampire purportedly being an alien from the planet Drakulon, than the more biblically-inspired creation later invented by “Harris Comics” and published in “Vampirella Lives”.
Dishearteningly, whilst the Billy Tan cover appears so full of promise, depicting an anxiously lost-looking ‘Vampi’, donned in space-suit, being surrounded by a coven of medieval-looking blood-drinkers, Nancy A. Collins’ actual storyline is a massive disappointment. Indeed the American short-story writer’s tale is best described as an abominable amalgamation of Gene Roddenberry’s original Sixties “Star Trek” television series with Edgar Rice Burroughs; “John Carter Of Mars” novels.
The book’s only horror being that events are solely based upon the hapless female lieutenant crash-landing on a planet where the inhabitants’ veins run rich with water, whilst the world’s streams, lakes and showers freely flow blood. As a result, disorientated and parched, space explorer Ella Normandy seeks refreshment in the only way she can by momentarily attacking one of the local males in a half-hearted attempt to drink his… water!?! Thus being burdened with the terrible title Vampire Ella. Such a woefully unimaginative tale is strangely reminiscent of some of the early low quality monster fad magazines Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would regularly ‘churn out’ during the Fifties for “Atlas Comics”.
Depressingly, Francesco Manna’s artwork is just as easy to criticize and dislike as Collins’ substandard writing, with the Italian’s illustrations appearing lifelessly flat as a result of them lacking much detail. Indeed it is almost as if the artist, perhaps best known for his run on “Crossed: Badlands” by “Avatar Press”, was simply going through the motions of using his drawings to tell this story, rather than actually trying to attract the reader’s eye by providing, the characters with any dynamic vigour.
Admittedly Manna’s humanoid bat-creatures appear suitably menacing and imposing. But even these large purple-skinned goggle-wearing monstrosities soon become lost amongst the uninspiring and impotently coloured twenty pages of artwork which make up this comic book.