The White Wolf/Onyx Path RPG Vampire: the Masquerade returns to comics courtesy of Vault, and this issue is a wonderful entry point into a complex world of alliances, hierarchies, and yes, bloodthirst. Tim Seeley, Devmalya Pramanik, and Addison Duke handle the lead story of Vampire: the Masquerade #1 focusing on Cecily Bain, who is muscle for a vampire clan in Minneapolis. However, she also has a fiercely independent streak and the tiniest trace of a soft side beneath her murderous, take no shit attitude. On the flip side is Tini Howard, Blake Howard, and Nathan Gooden’s backup story about the anarch, Colleen, who isn’t beholden to the Twin Cities power struggle and just wants to make sure her and her vampire buddies survive to the next day. It was really nice to get two incredibly different perspectives on this rich world, especially as a newcomer to the franchise. (My only real exposure to Vampire the Masquerade was in the Baphomet/Morrigan-centric issue of WicDiv even though the lore has always fascinated, and I picked up some of the RPG sourcebooks via Humble Bundle.)
Seeley and Pramanik set up Cecily as an anti-hero with a heart of gold in Vampire: the Masquerade #1’s opening story. She proves her ruthlessness by killing the clan accountant’s girlfriend (He’s just valuable enough.) in the opening scene, but then she shows tenderness with her sister Karen, who has dementia, and a new vampire, Ali. Pramanik with the help of colorist Addison Duke uses intense shadows to create intimacy in their visuals and hint that Cecily is strongly considering turning Karen into a vampire so she doesn’t have to deal with the pain of completely losing her and also that her youth is restored.
This concern for the weak continues to Ali, who was sired by an anonymous vampire and is clan-less drifter in a highly hierarchical world except this may not be the case thanks to some suspenseful silent sequences from Seeley and Pramanik. Visually, Devmalya Pramanik and Addison Duke lean into an industrial, post-punk vibe that hints at past “glory days” for Cecily and Karen and also hinting that Cecily might have a sense of nostalgia between her tough, get the job done veneer. Her interest in alternative culture and music does dovetail nicely with her refusal to be more of a company woman and just do her job for the Prince instead of getting the vampire clan equivalent of a desk job and lose some of her precious freedom. (And, by extension, a lack of prying eyes on Karen.)
In both stories, Tim Seeley, Tini Howard, and Blake Howard lean on characterization and easy-to-connect-with personal relationships instead of the deep Vampire the Masquerade lore to drive the story. Without the vampirism, Colleen and her band of anarchs (Basically, vampire without a cause.) could be young people with wanderlust that favor the open road instead of stable jobs and lifestyles. The character sheet for Colleen (And Cecily too, while we’re here.) adds real depth to her character and the messed up relationship with her husband/sire Mitch and also acts as a rare peek at the bottom of the author’s theoretical iceberg. The backup is a free spirit to the rigid structures that Cecily encounters in the main story, and Addison Duke uses a lighter palette because as a thin blood, Colleen can actually go out during the day. The Howards and Gooden’s story adds depth and perspective via a momentum-filled On the Road with vampires plotline instead of relying on boring exposition to show what life as another kind of vampire is like.
With two memorable leads and a focus on showing readers what it’s like in the universe instead of exhaustively explaining its rules, Vampire: the Masquerade #1 is an enjoyable read even if you’re not familiar with the RPG. The dual nature of immortality shows up a lot in the comic, but Tim Seeley, Tini Howard, Blake Howard, Devmalya Pramanik, Nathan Gooden, and basically Gothic set-dresser Addison Duke dive into other implications of being a vampire in this world like navigating bureaucracies and complicated interpersonal relationship. Hey, it sounds like the real world, but with hotter outfits, blood, and fangs.
Story: Tim Seeley, Tini Howard, Blake Howard
Art: Devmalya Pramanik, Nathan Gooden
Colors: Addison Duke Letters: Andworld
Story: 7.9 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Vault provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review