DC vs. Vampires gets a special “Hunters” tie-in this week devoting its time for Damian Wayne. If you haven’t read the latest issue from the ongoing DC vs. Vampires series, avoid the review at all costs as it’s impossible to discuss it without giving things away. The dystopian alternate reality where vampires rise up and heroes are comprised continues in this side adventure that seriously adds to the valor of Damian Wayne.
This issue opens with a group of people trying to stay alive, knowing full well vampires could be lurking anywhere. Soon we learn Martian Manhunter is with them, but danger and fire are about to take his attention. Right off the bat writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Neil Googe make it clear this is a very scary and uncertain universe.
Enter Damian, a new vampire who works for Nightwing attacking these innocent folks. We soon learn Damian is a hunter for Nightwing who is tasked with bringing in heroes and humans. If you didn’t read the first six issues of the main series you also learn Nightwing is the ruler of all vampires, although that’s reserved as a kind of surprise making this issue work on its own to some extent.
The Batman characters were a highlight in previous issues of the main series and it’s nice to see a few of them get extra time here. Damian and Alfred are written well and their new mission makes sense. This issue ends up feeling important for that reason.
The main point of this issue deals with the messy place Nightwing left the bat family. Namely, he massacred most of them and ripped out Batman’s heart. Damian takes that personally, and we soon see even as a vampire Damian does everything to the beat of his own drum.
Rosenberg could have played this out in a way that makes Nightwing truly pure evil–he certainly came off that way in the last issue–but he thankfully adds a bit of nuance to him. He’s still himself to some extent. Nightwing fans will likely cry foul at the fact that Damian holds onto his humanity and Nightwing goes to the dark side, but the split of these “brothers” going different ways works narratively.
This issue does fall prey to limited page count. Surprise twists are predicated on characters knowing things while drama depends on what we do or do not know. It’s also a bit callous with how it treats heroes who are revealed here. I guess they all either died or were turned into vampires, but that’s not on the page.
Art by Googe is good with a cartoony look and feel when it comes to the heroes, but a realistic grizzled look for characters like Alfred or Nightwing. Black Mask in particular looks a bit goofy and too animated as well as Damian due to his mask and red eyes.
Design-wise, Nightwing has a cool leather costume that suits his new vampire role. An escape action sequence is a major highlight with Robin going Oldboy through hallways and then down flights of stairs. The way Googe draws the panels is exciting and interesting to look at.
DC vs. Vampires: Hunters is the very definition of what makes a tie-in good. It’s not some cash-grab, but serves to flesh out characters and their storylines while adding new insights into the main villain. It’s also not 100% necessary to the main series, at least it doesn’t seem to be, so fans can choose to skip it too. Humanizing villains is always important and this issue does that, while also keeping Damian Wayne fanboys fed.
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