by Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Andrea Sorrentino (art), Marcelo Maidlo (colors), and Pat Brosseau (letters)

The Review: Every once in a while, you read a comic that just has that indefinable, special “something” where everything just clicks.  This is one of those books and despite being semi-retired from WCBR, I had to come back for it.

With Catwoman, Red Hood, and Voodoo all coming out over the last two weeks, a lot has been made about the sex and violence that’s present in the DCnU.  For many, things like Starfire’s sex drive, Catwoman’s various states of undress, and Voodoo’s stripping constitute “mature content.”  I, Vampire is a book that makes such a definition of “mature content” appear laughable.  This, my friends, is quite possibly the most “mature” of the DC new 52.  There’s off-screen sex, there’s dead bodies galore, there’s violence, and there’s blood.

But unlike those other DC titles I mentioned, not a bit of this content is sensationalist or exploitative.  None of it is done purely for its own sake.  This is “mature content” that lives up to its name, where the violence is meaningful and emotionally laden and hence, all the more horrifying and affecting for it (there are a couple panels, a vampire attack in a subway station, that will surely haunt any reader).  The sexual tension between main characters Andrew and Marie is sincere, gripping, a relationship that is completely character driven.

There’s a strong argument to be made that Mary may be the sexiest female of the new 52.  She manages this without ever contorting her body into strange poses or showing off her lingerie.  Rather, it’s all in her words.  Mary’s dialogue is absolutely riveting.  Her sexuality is palpable, one psychological weapon in a mental toolbox for a character that is brilliant, sadistic, sociopathic, and utterly manipulative.  Fialkov has managed to fashion a character that leaps off the page.  Moreover, he’s made Mary into a character that is at once attractive and repulsive.  It’s clear that she’s evil and twisted as hell, and yet there’s no denying her charisma.  In fact, she’s such a seductive character that she seduces the reader almost as much as she does Andrew.  Her words, her playing on Andrew’s guilt and their shared history, her sadistic and sickening playfulness, all lead to an absolutely fascinating foil for Andrew.

Structurally speaking, this is an amazing comic.  While it’s a little disorienting at first, Fialkov tells two narratives: one in the past, a conversation between Andrew and Mary, and the other a mega fight/chase scene in the present.  Both scenes inform each other brilliantly and bounce off one another in remarkably elegant fashion.  Having Mary and Andrew’s pained conversation almost narrate the present scene makes that scene so much more meaningful and tense.  Moreover, it emphasizes Andrew’s role in the present: a powerful guy who’s trying to hold everything together, an increasingly impossible task that seems to be boiling over.  The end result is that in Andrew, we have a sympathetic protagonist with a heavy burden and the impossible and unenviable job of trying to do the right thing, which is more often than not far from pretty.

Fiakov also does really well in his use of classic, Bram Stoker vampire powers.  Again, this is a mature book in the sense that nothing feels throwaway.  This month, Fialkov makes excellent use of the various animal transformations his vampires are capable of.  These transformations provide remarkable metaphors for Mary and Andrew’s respective personalities, emotions, and motivations.  There’s a particularly haunting scene involving Mary and a swan that represents both her and the central conflict of the book really well in another masterful display of Fialkov’s abilities.

But I’ve not even touched on Sorrentino’s art.  Put simply, there’s no book in the new 52 that looks like this, and barring JH Williams’ Batwoman, there may be no book in the new 52 that looks this good either.  Sorrentino is absolutely perfect for this book.  His work is gorgeous, moody, and full of atmosphere.  His urban environment manages to be both modern and grim, a really cool mix of contemporary noir and horror that feels just as alive as its inhabitants.  It’s work that is just stunning, carrying as much mood and emotion as Fialkov’s writing.  In essence, it’s heavy art to match a heavy script.

Let me tell you something.  I bought 13 issues this week, half DC and half Marvel.  I, Vampire #1 was the second book that I read this week, and I did so right before bed on Wednesday night.  I spent a good chunk of Thursday thinking about this book while at class and it got better and better in retrospect.  Despite having 11 other unread comics, I re-read this one the moment I got home that day.  Then, today, I read it again before writing this review.

And it gets better every time.

Conclusion: Amazing character dynamics, amazing dialogue, amazing structure, amazing art, and an amazing setting.  Do not let this book pass you by, as it is easily in the top five, maybe top three, of the entire relaunch.  If there is any justice in the universe, this book will be the one to make Fialkov and Sorrentino’s respective careers.

Grade: A+

-Alex Evans

 

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