By: Joe Keatinge (Writer), Richard Elson (Artist), Antonio Fabela (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
The Review: If it seems like a long time since the first issue of Morbius: The Living Vampire came out that’s because…well, it was. The most conspicuously late shipping book on Marvel’s slate at the moment is (of course) Uncanny Avengers, but Morbius has probably just nabbed second place – #2 has arrived just under two months since the title’s launch. And right now, that’s probably the most interesting thing about it…
Which is a shame. Morbius, much like X-Men: Legacy, has positioned its minor league hero in a interesting place; a largely self-contained corner of the Marvel Universe where the character can develop at his own pace, carve a successful niche and, hopefully, garner a loyal critical and commercial following in the process. Instead it’s floundering, and floundering hard. With a fairly glum and uninteresting story, a cut-out cast of characters and a bland, detached art style it is, quite possibly, the worst book to yet come out of Marvel NOW.
The main problem is a unique case of a lacklustre story poorly hidden behind a fumbled plot device. The main crux of writer Joe Keatinge’s plot is that Morbius/Michael is attempting to live incognito in the crime-ridden streets of Brownsville when he gets embroiled in the machinations of Noah, a low-rent gangster who’s attempting to recruit an innocent young kid called Henry into his gang. Morbius is not having that and takes steps to intervene, at pains the whole time to stress that he is a good man who refuses to give in to his unquenchable bloodlust. Haunted by his past, Morbius is a tragic character seeking resolution (and redemption) through peaceful means…and if you think that sounds like a predictable slice of melodrama you’re not far wrong. The cast has homeless folks with hearts of gold, wayward youths who are looking for father figures in all the wrong places; it’s paint-by-numbers, kitchen sink stuff in many respects, though Keatinge gambles that the addition of a pseudo-Vampire into the mix is enough to jazz it up. It is not.
As if Keatinge realised that his story was coming off a little milquetoast, he also tries to augment proceedings by needlessly cutting backwards and forwards through time, particularly at the beginning of the book. This had me reaching for the first issue in a bid to decipher the confusing coda, though I must admit that once it all came into focus it was barely worth the hassle. I hate stuff like this – compositional smoke and mirrors deployed to mask a disappointing story. Bad, bad form.
Art wise the title fairs similarly poorly, with Richard Elson’s pencils barely reaching beyond the ‘adequate’ level. There’s a half-finished feel to many of the panels which forego the luxury of background detail in more than a few instances, and much of the character design is forgettable or, in the case of big bad Noah, a creative dead end. A squalid pallet of muddied colours from Fabela doesn’t help matters much either. The only bright spot is the issue’s final splash page which contains the series’ first really impressive moment, a dose of visceral horror and energy that lets us know that the art team is alive in there somewhere.
In fact, that final page delivers the only sliver of hope I could find in Morbius: The Living Vampire. With its hero having been so maudlin and cowed so far, it’s great to see him let loose. I understand that the tension-twist impact of this scene is exactly what Keatinge has been driving towards but the sombre build up to it has just not been convincing enough to keep me invested. Ah well, who knows, maybe it’ll turn into a kill-a-minute gore-soaked thrill ride from here on out? Stranger things have happened.
As it stands, I cannot recommend this book to you right now. Its slim elements of promise are smothered by an unconvincing script, two-dimensional cast and uninspired art style – the Holy Trinity of ‘meh’. Morbius may not feel at home languishing in the shadowy, forgotten corners of the Marvel Universe, but for the time being he definitely deserves to stay there.
- Matt Sargeson
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Antonio Fabela, Brownsville, Joe Keatinge, Marvel, Marvel NOW, Marvel Reviews, Michael Morbius, Morbius, Morbius The Living Vampire, Richard Elson, vampires, VC's Clayton Cowles