The best Vampirella stories are the ones that tend to subvert the cheesecake and go all-in on a wacky premise. Thanks to Joe Harris’s sensibilities, the first few stories in this collection succeed, in the most part. Vampirella is a bikini-clad Indiana Jones in the first miniseries of this collection, Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion. It takes a few pages from Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula playbook, in that the titular character is not the sole focus of the series, which favors the heroic endeavors of the Scarlet Legion, the Vatican’s secret vampire-slaying army. Why yes, they ARE nuns with crossbows. YOU’RE WELCOME.
This story takes place before the events of her 2010 ongoing series, so in theory, it could work as a neat little starting place for people unfamiliar with this iteration of the character. Still, I think the many references to the lore of the 2010 series might render Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion a bit unwieldy for the uninitiated. However, that miniseries’ spirit of embracing over-the-top supernatural shenanigans is what fuels much of this collection, which I’m thankful for. I am of the opinion that Vampirella books are at their weakest when they take themselves too seriously or try to ground themselves too much.
The best parts of these stories are when the writers take the most eyeroll-inducing tropes and flip them into something interesting that advances the plot. Upon the introduction of edgy hacker Kevin (a character that seems more fit for a mid-90s Top Cow comic than a book published in 2012), I was so annoyed by his stereotypical “elite” slang, but Harris cleverly channels the character’s computer knowledge into a knack for understanding patterns and numerology, which ends up serving the storyline much better and makes the character less of an annoying archetype brought along in the story for the sake of “relevance.”
This tactic continues with the second miniseries in the collection, Vampirella Vs. Dracula, also written by Joe Harris, which takes what worked in the first mini and cranks the action up to 11. It’s a little confusing at first, only giving you sketches of the full story. The tale is told in several different timelines, as our characters are trapped in a loop of sorts. This one probably works much better in trade form, since I can’t imagine being able to follow a time-bending story like this one month-to-month. Still, it gets points for taking the reader along on a journey that’s just as confusing for its central characters and bringing an all-new twist on the Dracula mythos.
Third in the collection is The New European by Alan Moore. Thanks to Moore’s script and some excellent artwork by Gary Frank, this is a very moody and effective piece, featuring alternate takes on the characters in the later-published Vampirella Vs. Dracula. Other than that, it doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the collection. This could have just as easily been a standalone Dracula tale for all that it seems to connect to Vampirella. It’s also easily the most dour of this omnibus. While it’s nice to have it collected, it definitely feels more than a little out of place with the rest of the stories presented here.
The final miniseries in this volume is Dan Bremerton and Jean Diaz’s Vampirella: The Red Room. This one is a lot of wacky fun and easily my favorite in the collection. It’s got underground cage matches, occult noir, and a lawman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jeff Bridge’s Rooster Cogburn. It’s very entertaining and the plot doesn’t get too bogged down in convoluted mysticism and double-crosses.
This collection may be a little difficult to crack into for newcomers, but for fans of Vampirella, it’s a decent reminder of what makes the character so much fun in the first place. Definitely give it a look if you’re familiar with Dynamite’s various ongoing Vampirella series and need your horror fix with a glorious side of cheese.
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