The opening pages of this issue comprise maybe the most genuinely horrific scene in Vampirella’s 50 year history. Without spoiling anything, we watch as a young woman rides her bicycle through a scene of carnage in the middle of her small town, a bike ride that becomes a David Lynchian tracking shot full of shocking gore and incongruous humor. It’s disorienting and shocking and purely alien, but strangely intriguing, taking us along for all of the emotions that this young woman must be feeling.
The action of the story is told out of sequence, as Vampirella attempts to explain the violent scene from her perspective to the world’s most nonplussed psychiatrist. The dialogue in these scenes is humorous, but occasionally a little hard to follow. A lot of this is by design, a product the doctor’s habit of cutting off Vampirella in mid-sentence. Some of it is because of Vampirella’s own confusion surrounding what she’s supposed to next, while a few other bits seem purposefully obfuscated by half-explanations, with answers presumably to come in future issues.
The time jumps are occasionally confusing, especially when some of them have their own subtitles, like they’re different chapters of a scene we’ve previously been to. It doesn’t really distract from the enjoyment of the book, but it did necessitate a few moments of backing up and making sure I knew where and when I was in the issue.
Tonally, the book feels very new, which is a great sign when you’re dealing with a character that’s been around as long as Vampirella. Christopher Priest gives us an intriguing mystery and some vague world-building right up front, but doesn’t quite top his hand too early. This first issue is all about setting a mood, leaving us as desperate for answers as Vampirella (but mostly in a fun way). We haven’t quite gotten a feel for Vampirella’s personality here, but much of this is again due to how she is processing the nightmare she has been through. I suspect we’ll get more of that in the coming issues.
The highlight of this issue, aside from the haunting opening, is an especially well-done fight on an airplane in the middle of the issue. It’s quick and brutal, with Vampirella going straight for the kill at the earliest opportunity. Though the fight is in such close quarters, illustrator and colorist Ergün Gündüz lends it an almost balletic quality, with Vampirella launching herself off of her enemy and bright sprays of blood arcing through the air. It culminates in an incredible escape sequence and splash page that Vampirella fans will go nuts over.
This first issue was a real trip. While the idea of yet another relaunch of this character seemed like an odd decision, Priest proves right out of the gate that he has some intriguing new ideas and new directions for the character.