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Review: Vampirella #8

VampiVol2-08-Cov-A-MayhewVampirella has been a series has been a bit of a mixed bag so far should be evident to any readers that have made it this far into the series.  After dealing with the vampire hunt which formed the first arc in this series, Vampirella is now after her second major target, Dr. Faustus or at least she thinks that she is.  One of the problems with the first arc was the rapidity in which it wrapped up.   After touring the globe garnering the power of other ancient vampires, the main threat was beaten relatively easily.  On the reading of this issue the same problem seems to be here, as after only his second appearance Dr. Faustus would seem already to be vanquished.  That is not the end of the story however, and what remains still seems worthy of some praise, though it is not particularly noteworthy either.

The best place to see this mixed bag is probably in the characters.  What this series does deserve praise thus far for is its presentation of the titular heroine.  She is a character who is likely most famous for her name and her costume which is a just a monokini.  So far in this series though and especially in the past two she is treated more like how it is argued that female characters should be displayed.  Strong and maybe even sexual but not a sex object.  While this is a worthy change for the character, equally the supporting characters have a long way to go to being more than two-dimensional.  The strongest one here is Tristan Caillet, the werewolf assigned to assist Vampirella in this case.  While it is a fine idea for a character, it is also too forced in a sense, with the exposition from her questions making it seem almost like he is being interviewed by a five-year old.

The failures and successes of this series so far almost balance each other out and make this series a little more than average in most ways.  There is certainly potential here for the series and the character to be more, especially with the more realistic approach to Vampirella, but it is still marred by writing that leaves something to be desired when it comes to anything except the main character.  It is nice to see a modern version of the series which puts Vampirella in a position other than cult status sex symbol,  but it depends on the story and the characters to make this version successful enough to stick, which is what the creative team seems to be missing.

Story: Nancy A. Collins Art: Patrick Berkenkotter
Story: 7.2 Art: 7.2 Overall: 7.2 Recommendation: Pass

Dynamite provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

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  • Hi Edward, I’m wondering if you could elaborate on how Vampirella is, at least, as you say, in this series, “Strong and maybe even sexual but not a sex object”? I’m curious to know more about the story that Dynamite seems to be developing with Vampirella and how you are coming to read her as not a sex object. Looking forward to your thoughts!

    • I think that there is a difference between being sexual and being a sex object. Most women want to be regarded as sexy in one way or another, but at the same time they want to be recognized as more than just as an object of lust. The history of Vampirella is much more towards the latter, seeing as she is more of cult status sex symbol, much as a lot of other female characters from science fiction and fantasy are (for instance Dejah Thoris). In this series they are still after the sex appeal with the covers, but the interiors paint a different story. In the past two issues she is not shown in her “costume” at all, rather showing up as how a vampire hunter might actually be dressed. The style of her clothing is still attractive, but it is not exploitative. It is similar to what Zenescope did with its female characters, exploitative covers and strong female characters within, usually mostly covered up, that is until Zenescope got a bit wacky in its overall story line.

      • Quite interesting. ” Most women want to be regarded as sexy in one way or another, but at the same time they want to be recognized as more than just as an object of lust.” And yet, regardless of creator intent, the possibility for sex appeal to *be* synonymous with sexual objectification is undeniable constant, since it is implied in nearly every image of any scantily clad woman that sex appeal is meant for a certain someone (i.e. those who would sexualize the body being depicted). Why do you think there remains a reliance on sex appeal with the cover art of Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, and Zenescope’s books? And do you think it’s possible for a story to portray a “strong female character” whose is simultaneously sexualized, and not have the latter compromise or problematize the former? Thanks for responding and writing!

        • If you look at Zenescope, of the largest demographics among its readers are women, which is maybe not surprising considering it is the publisher that focuses the most on strong female characters. Equally, the publisher also puts out an annual swimsuit issue with depictions of characters which are sometimes far more provocative than what one might see in Sports Illustrated, and so too are the variant covers often focused around sexually exploitative scenes. I think that it is an attempt to appeal to the most fans as possible. I think especially with Zenescope, that the interior is less impressive to men, and the covers are less impressive to women. I guess they hope that both demographics look past the imperfections to get the part which they want. When I first started reading Zenescope I was very surprised by the fact that the stories had such good material considering what the covers suggested. It would seem that the smaller publishers all do the same. I did an interview a while back with Joelle Jones, and she mentioned that covers cannot really be subtle. Comic fans can be pretty fickle, especially when trying out new things, and especially so with the smaller publishers. I think a lot of what they go for is a “sex sells” concept for their covers, even if they don’t want to. In the case with this particular issue, it seems as though the creative team want to restyle Vampirella as someone known for her intellect and abilities, not her costume and her physique, but the only way to get people to check out what is inside is to get their attention on the outside.

          • Thank you, Edward! I think that’s a rather good analysis of a major problem, at least as far as I see it; namely, that because sex sells, it has to be on the cover of smaller indies in order to get reader into what might otherwise be a not-totally-sexist story. Joelle Jones has a new series out from Dark Horse, Lady Killer, which I quite liked despite the first issue’s brevity and which I’ve had far too little time to review. I’ll be curious to see what you think about it if you have the chance to read/review it.