It’s that time of the week again for another writer’s commentary courtesy of the good people at Dynamite. And in particular Dan Abnett who, this week, walks us through Vampirella: Dark Powers #3, out now from Dynamite Comics.
[+++ WARNING: Possible spoilers! Buy and read the book, then come back here for an awesome commentary! +++]
Vampirella, the only metahuman on “her” Earth, has been recruited by the pan-dimensional superhero organization called the Project and, as we’ve seen over the past two issues, has had a hard time fitting in. She’s the first ‘supernatural’ entity they’ve ever encountered – the Project is very much about science and technology – and her methods are, shall we say, unorthodox.
Vampirella nearly screwed up her first mission, and although she redeemed herself, she decided to quit. But the Project consider her an asset because she’s so unusual, so they’ve put her on probation, and sent her to be mentored by one of the Project’s veteran heroes, The Flame.
Paul’s beautiful and distinctive art, so very graphic and powerful, plunges us into the action right from the start. We’re on the Flame’s Earth, one of the countless versions of Earth across the Pan-Plural Projection that the Project guards.
Pages two to nine
There’s been an element of humor in this series, and it’s certainly on display in this issue, but mainly in terms of Vampirella’s caustic and flippant attitude to ‘conventional’ superheroes. We’re deliberately leaning into tropes of old school superheroes here: the veteran, dedicated hero, the gadgets, the arch villain and the rogue’s gallery, the endless cycle of sidekicks. Yes, we’re poking fun, a little, but it’s also serious. Even the cartoonish villainy of the main bad guy – Professor Suppressor – has a serious undertone. His vacuous comments and evil plans aren’t simply “threat of the week”… there’s a darker undertone than that.
It’s quickly clear that, for all the bright, colorful costumes (Ellie’s work on the colors really brings this world to life), and the preposterous adventures and twisted continuity, this life is hard. It’s very dangerous. The discussion with bright-eyed and innocent Flame Girl around the conference table shows that.
Vampirella tries to navigate her way into a world of incredibly complex histories, feuds and adventures. She’s the one who’s meant to be on probation, learning how to be a good hero. Her propensity to take the lethal approach earns her the disfavor of The Flame: heroes don’t kill. She has to learn that if she wants to be one. And it’s his world, and his rules.
But Vampirella is becoming increasingly convinced that the Flame’s “noble” determination to “bring people to justice” is simply prolonging a terrible cycle of death, retribution and more death.
Pages eleven to fourteen
This issue certainly isn’t an argument for the death penalty or the use of lethal force, but it does ask questions about mercy and forgiveness. Is the high cost paid by the heroes on the Flame’s world down the years simply a result of the fact that the Flame always lets his psychotic foes live, so they can strike again?
I love Paul (Davidson)’s work, and it especially shines in these pages, where he throws inventive characters, machines and monsters at us. We don’t explain all of them, because we want the reader to share Vampirella’s bewilderment. This experience, to her, is like picking up the hundred and something issue of a long running comic or the thousand and something episode of a long running soap, and trying to learn the continuity. It’s all strange, it’s all crazy, and it takes a long while to get the hang of it. The reader or viewer has no context, and neither does she.
Page fifteen to eighteen
By the time Vampirella – and poor Flame Girl – are prisoners of the malicious Professor Suppressor, the real darkness starts to emerge. The Flame is not a fool, he’s genuinely trying to do good and behave according to a moral code. And he’s been doing it for years, so he’s weary. The maniacs he fights, for all their color and gimmickry, are simply that: maniacs. They are sociopathic and psychopathic. As Vampirella suspected, the Professor has no real plan at all — just a nominal one about “something something world domination”. He’s simply locked in an endless cyclic battle with his nemesis, and to him, the entire point is to hurt the Flame… to hurt him and keep hurting him until he breaks.
Pages nineteen to twenty-two
In this final sequence, there is a somber moment of reflection. The Flame almost admits it’s just a cycle. The entire issue – which appeared to be a lot of lightweight, old school superhero fun and games – is very dark indeed. Vampirella is the voice of reason – albeit an extreme and dangerous voice – and the Flame learns as much from her as she does from him, though he hardly is going to admit it.
More than anything, Vampirella makes her statement – the Project is composed of many, very different characters. Each one brings their own viewpoint, skill-set and, ultimately, their own strengths. If they want her to be part of it at all, then then they should value her for her, and let her be herself. They shouldn’t try to fix her or turn her into something she isn’t. They should appreciate her — and employ her — for what she’s good at. And that might just be more than they can handle.
Only time… and the issues to come… will tell if they need a Vampirella at all, and if they can handle the honest, but extreme, outlook she represents.
It’s that time of the week again for another writer’s commentary courtesy of the good people at Dynamite. And inCOMICONRead More