There’s no hiding it—most of us here at The Fandomentals haven’t been particularly taken by the debut graphic novel trilogy for The Legend of Korra. We love Korrasami, of course, so it rocks to see more of them individually and as a couple. We love all these characters and love seeing more of them. LoK is a Fandomentals favorite for a good reason, and we still end up talking about it after all this time. So trust me when I say that the last thing I want to write here is that I’m entirely indifferent to Turf Wars. And quite a bit disappointed by my indifference.
But here we are, and here I am. Turf Wars…basically just exists. I guess it’s up to each individual person to decide if that’s enough.
A Rougher Landing Than I Would’ve Liked
You know what, let’s be honest. Turf Wars exists because Korrasami was incredible and validating and people wanted more. I certainly did. So the idea was to give us more Korrasami. And…that’s basically the only thing Turf Wars does. It gives you Korrasami moments.
I might be okay with that if everything around Korra and Asami, and their characters, too, weren’t such a hot mess. With part 3, Turf Wars basically confirmed every worry I had after my review for part 2. I hate to be so bluntly negative about it, but the plot for this trilogy disappointed me on just about every level.
I don’t think it’s bad, by any means. Just…unremarkable. There’s really nothing here I would recommend outside of Korrasami moments and what I hope is an introduction to larger Jargala involvement in future LoK graphic novels. Part 3 basically functions as a large action scene as Korra tries to rescue Asami and together they stop Tokuga. Hey, nothing wrong with that. Give the people what they want.
It just didn’t do it for me. Tokuga was never much of a threat to Korra. I found it hard to really invest myself in what was happening. Then again, I admit this has as much to do with my own adjusted expectations following the first two volumes as it did with anything Turf Wars part 3 did wrong. In the end, I just didn’t care all that much.
As indifferent as I was throughout part 3, though, I was also bitter to see Turf Wars fulfill so many of my biggest worries after part 2. How does the presidential election go down? Raiko does something scummy, Zhu Li has one hero moment, and that’s it. Zhu Li wins. What happens with the spirits? Basically nothing. Korra says a couple lines and they go back and there you go. Tokuga has some randomly evil plot so he can be some completely one-dimensional villain for the heroes to beat.
Turf Wars set up like 4 or 5 different plots, tried to cram them into one climax, and they all suffered for it.
I was pretty sure going in that Tokuga would turn out this disappointingly, but I’m still disappointed. I felt literally no tension from anything he did. When Korra says that she and Asami have been in tough spots but that this feels different, I totally agree…just not in the way she meant. That line is meant to imply that this feels more threatening than usual. Yeah, no. It was different in that I literally felt no danger towards anyone.
Tokuga was a character that would have worked if the spirit portal plot existed alone. There could have been genuine exploration of what the spirits did to him and what that meant for the new spirit portal in Republic City. What happened to him was messed up. He could have used consolidation of the Triads as a power base for an actual run at Raiko’s presidency. He could have gathered the masses against the spirits and made Korra serve as the bridge between the human and spirit worlds. There also could have been further opportunities for Tokuga to actually do things building him up as a threat.
Instead he was just stock-issue evil guy who nearly poisons the city. Except you never feel like he had any chance of succeeding.
I will admit to being wrong about one thing—I thought Asami would have nothing meaningful in part 3. I assumed her role was to be rescued by Korra. She not only escaped on her own, she basically prevented Tokuga’s plot by herself. After a part 2 that saw a…different interpretation of Asami, it was good to see her act more like herself. She got a moment about her father, finally. She used her engineering smarts to save the day (and crashed another vehicle).
As disappointed and ultimately indifferent as I am with Turf Wars part 3, I’m glad to see this Asami again. By far my biggest problem with part 2 was her and Korra. They both felt so out of character.
(Maybe she sweated out all the alcohol she consumed in part 2? It was hot enough to frizz even Asami’s perfect hair. I think this theory has value.)
Still, what exactly was the growth or character arc here, for either of them? That they eventually say they love each other? As squee-worthy as that moment may be, we already knew that. And I’m not going to put that moment down. Two women said they love each other romantically in a graphic novel aimed at a young audience; that’s important and I love it. Hooray for happy wlw endings! Does it constitute a character arc, though?
I don’t believe so. Neither Korra or Asami faced any new challenge or circumstance forcing them to change or learn anything new. They’re the exact same people they would have been if Turf Wars didn’t exist. When the two characters these comics literally exist for don’t undergo a character arc, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem emblematic throughout the entire trilogy.
Did any character have a character arc? Even one? Bolin and Mako sure don’t. The airbenders don’t. Korra and Asami kind of do, but without much execution or actual arc involved. Tokuga might honestly have the closest thing to a character arc, where he devolves into Bond-esque villainy. Zhu Li ends up in a vastly different position compared to the beginning of Turf Wars, but there was no arc involved. She just ends up president without any real strife to overcome or development involved. She functions as a plot device, rather than having anything happen that actually makes her act the way she does.
Actually, you know who had the most character development? Keum. He had a pretty substantial journey from money-grubbing CEO building a Spirit Wilds amusement park to good guy helping protect the Spirit Portal.
The ultimate goal of any good story should to make some point or define some character. If your story involves returning characters, then you need to do something that further defines what we already know. Something needs to change. However you feel about The Legend of Korra as a whole, you never doubted the larger growth and character arcs involved. Every season contributed to the development of everyone featured.
Even Asami, as sidelined as she could unfortunately be for fans of hers, always walked away from each season in a different place than when she started. Book 1 firmly plants her on Korra’s side and puts her in charge of her company. Book 2 has her struggle with these developments. Book 3 grows her relationship with Korra. Book 4, as frustratingly limited as it might feel as a fan, deals with her abandonment issues as she navigates the return of both Korra and her father.
I feel like this type of development would be especially in focus within Turf Wars when one of the selling points of the trilogy was Korra and Asami’s relationship. How did this relationship change them? What does it mean for their lives? Is there anything here they haven’t been through before that changes who they are? Anything that informs on them in some new way?
I don’t believe so. Maybe others disagree with me. But in my case, it seems like a huge missed opportunity. Part 3, despite featuring a lot of Korra, makes her feel almost invisible to me. She has no function within this volume outside of fighting Tokuga and telling Asami she loves her.
Overall, I wonder what storyline here had any real point to it? Again, this falls back on the decision to try and fit so many storylines into three volumes. Maybe there was some larger point they intended to make with Turf Wars, but whatever it was, it fell flat or didn’t exist.
I mentioned in my review for part 2 how each of the various subplots could have carried their own trilogy, or even mixed together. The Triad storyline and the presidential election could fit together. Tokuga and the spirits could, with a dose of Korrasami mixed in. Whatever we think of its plausibility, the homophobia mentioned in part 1 could have mixed in with any of this, as Korra and Asami deal with public perception of their relationship and how it hurts their efforts in any of these storylines.
Instead none of this came together. Homophobia flat out didn’t exist past the first comic, so what was the point of mentioning it? Tonraq is called out for not supporting Korra’s relationship, I guess, even though that’s literally the exact opposite of what happened. If you’re going to bother injecting homophobia into the LoK universe, you need to follow up on it. The Creeping Crystals kind of matter, but not really. Mako and Bolin might as well not exist (with Bolin not even speaking for almost the entirety of this issue). The presidential election was half-hearted and poorly executed. So was the spirit plot and the airbender protest.
And does anyone even remember that Republic City is destroyed and thousands of refugees need homes? Talk about dropping a storyline like a ton of bricks.
Really, the only intention here seemed to involve getting everyone at the spirit portal for Tokuga’s poison gas to threaten them. Once that happened everything else just fell away. Though I’d also say the theory of Varrick engineering everything seems more plausible. Oh sure, he just happens to have a docu-mover crew there to see all this go down, all coincidentally. Right.
Even the character interactions, which gave me some genuine enjoyment in the first two parts, were relatively nonexistent for part 3. Everything was so centered on Tokuga’s threat that everyone else played a backseat. Even Korra did, as she was basically just chasing Tokuga around to save Asami. And when I didn’t buy into Tokuga as a threat, well…I’m probably not going to buy in to this volume all that much. I’d have rather watched Asami design apartment buildings while Korra dealt with the displaced masses. But maybe I’m weird like that.
Plus there’s not really much of an ending to anything. The spirits basically confirm that they will be back. Tokuga is still around and will be back unless he’s so unpopular that they drop him. Raiko’s last panel is him staring out a window in a way you can read either as resignation or scheming. Republic City is no closer to being rebuilt than before. It hurts when there was no real resolution to so many of the plots throughout the trilogy.
The presidential race has an ending. Korra and Asami, too. That’s about it. Turf Wars was all about Korrasami moments. I suppose your mileage depends on how much you care about everything else compared to those moments.
Is It Enough?
You know what? It is not my place to say whether this is really enough or not, because this comic wasn’t made just for me. Hell, it wasn’t made for me at all. Turf Wars was created for those tearful fans posting reaction videos on YouTube in the aftermath of the LoK finale. It was meant for the people who sent Bryke the Korrasami Project. From what I see, they love Turf Wars.
Whatever my opinions about it, I’ll leave the ultimate judging to those fans. This was a love letter to them, a thank you for all the love poured Bryke’s way by a very grateful community. The reaction to Korrasami was so genuine, emotional, and thankful that it couldn’t help but pull fringe supporters like myself in. I can’t even imagine how it felt for Bryke and everyone who worked on LoK to receive such overwhelmingly positive support in the aftermath of the finale.
If they want to give back to those fans and worry about everyone else later, good for them. I fully accept that. Not everything has to be aimed at everyone. Sometimes, a story exists just for certain people and if they like it, that’s all that matters. It’s unequivocally awesome to have Korra and Asami’s relationship so out there now, with kisses and I Love Yous and a complete lack of ambiguity. It always matters to have more representation.
My feelings on Turf Wars are no ultimate judge of the trilogy and in no way are meant to invalidate those who love it. I’m so, so happy for everyone who does. If everyone else can have flawed entertainment aimed at them, then why not the LGBTQ+ community as well?
Ultimately, Turf Wars is what it is; a relatively stress-free comic with a lot of flaws that aimed to give Korrasami fans more of the couple we love. On that end, it delivered. We got their Spirit World vacation, the reactions of those close to them, confirmed lesbian Kya and bisexual Kyoshi, Korrasami kisses, proclamations of love, and a final volume that saw both women work together to take down the bad guy.
If there was one major regret about Korrasami in the aftermath of the Book 4 finale, it was the missed chance to really make Korrasami explicit. Both Bryke and the fans lamented missing the chance to end with a kiss and permanently shut up everyone who spent 4 seasons mocking the idea of Korrasami. Now we have the kiss and then some. Korrasami was a trailblazer in LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media and TV as a whole, and Turf Wars was a nice capping point on the reality of their relationship.
This may not be satisfying for everyone. I can’t say it satisfied me. But again, that’s not the point. I wasn’t the one Turf Wars set out to satisfy. Have fun, Korrasami fans. This one was for you. Here’s hoping we get more LoK and Korrasami soon, and also that the recently announced next trilogy will shore up Turf Wars’s flaws.
Images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics
The Wicked and the Divine + The Unforgiven and the Redeemed
There’s something special about WicDiv one-shots. They have a pattern and a very distinct kind of narrative: after each arc, we take a leap back in time to get a lost piece of the big picture. At the beginning of each new arc, the truth becomes clearer to us. The latest arc, Mothering Invention, has introduced something of a spanner in those works with the occasional flashbacks to ancient times, to the bloody days of Ananke and the first Persephone. By now, there is comparatively little we don’t know.
For centuries, Ananke has continued to preserve her existence by sacrificing Gods in each Recurrence and inhabiting Minerva’s physicality to ensure the next cycle happens without a hitch. Ancient Persephone’s gambit is for somebody to eventually break that cycle by taking advantage of the rules to the game between the two Goddesses. So, what’s new this time around? Strictly speaking: not much. But do we really need a reason, a morsel of truth, to have a one-shot? Can we not just enjoy a story of doom and despair, beautifully illustrated by guest artist Ryan Kelly (of Lucifer, Local and New York Four fame)?
Yes, yes we can, dear reader.
Also because this may just feature my favourite Lucifer so far.
“This is my body… which is given for you.”
Naturally, spoilers ahead.
This story takes place in Avignon, France in the year 1373, which is telling enough about the setting: Roman Catholicism and heaps of death from the Bubonic Plague. As per WicDiv tradition, the icons on the prologue circle reveal the Gods remaining: Lucifer and Minerva. This means we arrived late to the party, and the Maiden-Crone duo probably have all they need for their ritual. Still, this is an interesting subversion since Lucifer tends to be one of the first Gods to bite the dust in this comic series.
The first thing that comes to topic proper here is the design. Kelly’s pens are as sharp for detail as always. The rainy, grey-blue choice of inks helps enhance the dready atmosphere, and it also does wonders when it comes to contrasts – for example, when looking at (gorgeous) Sister Lucifer’s hell-red eyes. However, the contrast extends also beyond colour and into how detailed the plague’s sores on the general population are. Furthermore, Lucifer’s Hellboy-esque sheared horns add an unsettling, painful tint to the Sister’s beauty. This very much falls in line with the contemporary ways of modesty and self-repression.
On to the story now. At the behest of the Mother Superior, Sister Lucifer greets a messenger – a young girl with an ailment of her own – who has come seeking she who walks through the plague untainted. In a matter of two panels, we get the nature of this Recurrence’s Lucifer. Despite becoming the incarnation of evil (according to the Catholic paradigm), she is very much a devout person, and believes that nobody is irredemeable. The messenger comes on behalf of another, an old, very sick woman who wishes to give confession. Being the only one untouchable by the plague, Lucifer is the one to call.
After a two days’ travel, they arrive at their destination. But a wild pack of flagellants, foreign to the village, has shown up. These folk believe that self-harm will spare them from the disease. It has not worked brilliantly, as they’re very obviously ill. The Good Sister tells the young girl to wait while she handles the situation. Now, things are looking pretty bleak in this little affair. The flagellants don’t look kindly upon the church, let alone the “Devil Girl”. What follows is an unpleasant show of implied and explicit carnal punishment. After mentioning that she had already been burned at the stake, to no effect, she disrobes herself nude.
The scars on her back reveal herself to have been a flagellant herself.
But neither the nudity, nor the usage of the proverb “do to me as you would have done unto you” leads to any sultriness – something which has become something of a trope in several indie comics and mediums. No, Sister Lucifer sets herself to be lashed as the flagellants do to themselves. This she does to humble them, and evidence their hypocrisy. Their actions come out of vanity rather than actual wish for redemption. After telling them they will not live to see the next day, she encourages them to repent as they will. So, the Sister and the young messenger carry on without further disturbance.
Finally, at the village, Lucifer meets the old woman, whose sight vexes her. Despite being severely marked by the plague, she is still very much alive. This is Ananke, and she has summoned Lucifer to know why, after two years, the Devil Girl is still sane, quite unlike her 455 ADD counterpart. This exchange is pretty revealing about French Lucifer. In spite of witnessing the diversity of the Pantheon, she deems her peers ‘false Gods’. Regardless of what she’s experienced, she still abides to the narrative of her belief and hopes for a peaceful afterlife. But Ananke knows better about such matters.
Ananke still claims that Lucifer will eventually go mad and cause great disaster. But Sister Lucifer is stubborn like that, or maybe her worldview and faith (however rigid) makes her impervious to Ananke’s words. The old woman notes she’s always been troublesome one way or another. Lucifer realises in that moment that the Messenger that brought her here was the same girl who introduced her to Ananke over two years ago. If you haven’t guessed already, yes – this is Minerva of this age, and she needed very little to convince the Sister to meet Ananke.
The old Goddess notes this has never happened before. Even before Ananke dropped the big reveal on her, the young woman already knew she was Lucifer. Judging by the brief flashback of her ascension, she lashed her own back even before becoming the Devil Girl. Thus, it becomes obvious just how heavy the burden of faith has been on the young woman. Or has it? Later in the conversation, Lucifer tells of her human birth. Her mother died from the plague, but the child lived. It was basically a miracle. But her father did not see it that way. He thought it should have been the child who died, and he never let her forget that. As foul a parent as the plague itself.
Thus… Lucifer, the Unforgiven. I’m gonna go off on something of a tangent here, but I’m a bit infatuated with this Lucifer as a character. So, let me have this. While the Christian view will always hold Lucifer as sire of all evils, one must never forget they were also an angel, a light bringer originally. This duality lives reversed in Sister Lucifer. She is deemed a devil in origin, but her choice to take on the religious office turns her into a light bringer. A rather dim light, but a light all the same. All of the things she says about redemption, those are not hollow words. But she still, tragically, does not recognise that switch in her. Perhaps because that would be vanity and pride, vices associated with the Devil.
Okay, tangent over. Ananke confesses, meaning she spells out all of her plan to Lucifer. This means, what she’s been up to from the beginning, her goal, and her part in the deaths of all the Gods. But, she does keep one thing to herself: Minerva’s role. Then, a bonus. Ananke got bored from how the world was coming along, so she essentially took action to prune civilisation a bit. When asked on how the plague started, Sister Lucifer alludes to what most believe, either the miasma, or the poisoning of the wells. She herself believes her own birth caused the plague.
Ananke dashes all of it by revealing the truth. Someone from the last Pantheon created the disease as an experiment. Then, to test it, the Old Goddess boarded the tainted ship in Crimea and sailed it herself to Italy. That’s right, Ananke imported the Black Plague with her own immune flesh. She is responsible for a far, far greater number of deaths than just Lucifer’s peers. The true devilry has been lifted off Lucifer’s shoulders, but there is no relief to be had. The Devil Girl, with Ananke’s knife in her hands, looks on the old woman with murderous eyes.
At this point, we’d expect savage comeuppance, no different than the carnage Ananke unleashed on her sister all those centuries ago. But Lucifer is not Ananke. The Good Sister pierces the palm of her own hand with the knife and extracts a bit of her own flesh. You can see where this is going… The Transubstantiation of Lucifer, blasphemous as all Hell… and oddly not at the same time. Placing her flesh in Ananke’s mouth, Lucifer completes the communion by burning Ananke and herself to death in Hellfire. The words she spoke while being lashed earlier, “Father, forgive me”, return with a darker reprisal. The comic’s cover doesn’t do the real thing justice, does it?
Unforgiven no more, this is Lucifer Redeemed, burning for the sins of Ananke.
All the while Minerva looks on from the distance, with a full bag in hand…
So, that’s it for this special one-shot, and at the risk of letting my loud-as-thunder voice permeate this review… HOW THE HELL DOES KIERON GILLEN UP HIS GAME EVERY DAMNED TIME, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THESE ONE-SHOTS!? Of course, this is just a personal opinion. While I can’t think of any actually inferior one-shot, the quality curve with these special issues has been, for me, consistently rising. I wouldn’t be surprised if another future one.shot (if it were to happen) could take the top spot in my favourites. But for now, this is definitely my favourite WicDiv one-shot. And this is my favourite Lucifer, period.
And who knows, when it comes to comics, Kieron Gillen may just have become my favourite.
The Wicked + The Divine 1373 AD Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Ryan Kelly, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Images courtesy of Image Comics
Vampirella: The Gay You Know
Spoilers for Vampirella Volume 2: The God You Know (issues #7-#11 of Vampirella 2017)
So…my first comic review. Huh. Let’s see how this goes!
Okay, so this is the part where I confess to not having read a whole ton of Vampirella comics in my life. I mean, I’ve read some obviously, and I know who she is. You do too, even if you’ve never read a single issue. She’s this lady-
See? You know her. One of the classic queens of horror, first appearing in 1969 (and isn’t that a fitting year?) and as recognizable as Elvira. Sometimes she’s funny, sometimes she’s scary, and she’s always some degree of sexy. Oh, and if that swimsuit with a collar thing (I don’t know if there’s a specific name for that outfit) she’s wearing is a turnoff for you, it’s not what she looks like in the current run. She’s currently sporting this look-
So there’s that. Anyway, yeah, so I have mixed feelings about her in general, but the nice thing with a character as old as Vampirella is that you can generally find at least a couple stories to like of hers. She does a lot of crossovers too, meeting characters like Cassie Hack, Lady Death, and the Xenomorphs, so there should be a gateway drug for you lying around somewhere.
I haven’t read the previous six issues of this run. It was written by Paul Cornell, which is reassuring since not only is he a good writer (he’s written for Doctor Who and Elementary among others) but he is a big classic horror fan, he even has a podcast that’s just him and a friend watching the Hammer Horror library chronologically, so there’s that. The writer for these issues I’m going to be talking about though is Jeremy Whitley. He’s a good writer, probably best known for the series Princeless and The Unstoppable Wasp, as well as quite a bit of work on My Little Pony (and Secret Empire, but we’ll try not to hold that against him).
Now, since this is Vol 2, starting with issue 7, we are picking up in the middle of things. That…is a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, I’d say you can get a grasp on things without much difficulty. I managed to understand most of what was going on, but there will be moments of confusion. Especially in the first half of issue 7, which is wrapping up a bit of a convoluted mess about Vampirella meeting alternate versions of herself, probably in an attempt to square all the retcons of the past five decades. It’s interesting, but a bit of an odd place to start with. And keep in mind that this is Vol 2 of an ongoing series, not a mini-series or spinoff. So while there is a beginning, middle, and end to these issues, and I found the ending of issue 11 satisfying, it’s not a tidy ‘the end’ so much as a reasonably good ‘to be continued’.
Anyway, enough preamble, let’s get to the comic itself. Starting with
Since comics are a visual medium, it makes sense to start here. The art style of a comic is very important since it needs to convey as much, or even more, than the dialogue. And the art style for these five issues is…very specific. I say that because it’s very clearly trying to invoke Tales from the Crypt by EC Comics. Which makes sense, given the nature of a Vampirella comic. And it’s not bad. Not really. I’ve read Rob Liefeld, Ben Templesmith, Greg Land, and late Frank Miller works. Compared to those bundles of bad, this is fine. I know, it’s not the greatest praise, but that’s just never been my favorite art style. Characters sometimes look off model and weird, especially in terms of their faces, and there is an unreasonable amount of big 80’s hair for something set in the future, but it’s never more than a minor distraction and certainly never a turn-off. Okay, let’s move on to more important things to address.
So, what’s the plot? Well, we start off issue 7 in Vampirella’s mindscape, when she’s essentially having a lucid dream. That’s not made immediately clear, presumably because issue 6 initiates said dream and I’m probably not supposed to start with Vol 2, so it’s a little confusing at first and you have to grasp onto the context pretty hard. Basically, we start with Vampirella and…an attractive redhead in a maid costume. We don’t actually get a name for her until page 20, though again, I assume she was properly introduced in previous issues so I can’t really fault the comic for that. You shouldn’t have to write every issue as an entry point after all. Her name is Vicki, moving on. Vampirella and Vicki end up in a room with multiple alternate versions of Vampirella. Some are definitely actual incarnations of her, others I’m not so sure. This is, as I said mainly to square the circle of all of the various iterations of Vampirella, explaining that they were alternate versions of her that the one we’re following has absorbed into her own mindscape. Personally, I don’t care about this sort of thing (I’m not a fan of the ‘three Jokers’ thing DC is going with to explain the differences between the character over the years) but at the end of the day, it’s not a bad idea. And it stops being important pretty soon after issue 8, so no harm is done. It is neat to see this done, I just wish it was in the ‘real world’ of the comic.
Anyway, Vampirella learns the reason why she has a multiple choice origin story in her own head, why sometimes she’s an alien and other times she’s a demon, sometimes born in the Garden of Eden and other times in Hell, and she allows her alternate selves to move on, after a short brawl with some of the other alternates who aren’t happy with the situation. She briefly speaks to a bipedal cat and what I guess is a male version of herself, then wakes up to Vicki making breakfast and her cat Grit licking her. She is then confronted with the realization that she always has two friends, a sidekick, and a love interest, and since she’s not about to romance the cat…Vicki walks in with bacon, and Vampirella pretty much immediately starts crushing on her, wondering if this attraction is sudden or if it took finally getting to see Vicki happy and relaxed to realize how pretty she is. Either way-cool! Vampirella gets a female love interest this time around! And there’s no panic or really even much thought on Vampirella’s part just ‘guess I’m attracted to this girl, *shrug*’. Because of course, Vampirella would be bi. She specifically states later on that she’s attracted to males, females, and non-binary individuals, so yay!
Fairly quickly this niceness is interrupted by a crazy lady with a bomb in her exposed ribcage exploding the hell out of Vampirella’s home. This being the end of issue 7, with Vampirella’s internal monologue stating that there’s very little chance that Vicki will be able to survive this even with Vampirella shielding her with her own body, scared me a bit, I won’t lie. I was very apprehensive entering issue 8 and prepared to give a less positive review. Fortunately, Vickie does survive, despite having a very large piece of wood impaled in her stomach. An angry Vampirella stomps out to confront the bomber’s friends, four biker people with weapons who are all furious with her. What follows is a rather gory action scene as our heroine mauls three of them, but before she can follow through with the fourth is confronted with the realization that she didn’t actually kill any of them, despite ripping out one dude’s heart and yanking a chain out the back of another’s skull. Why aren’t they dead? Well…huh.
Okay, so we are again confronted with the fact that I have not read issues 1-6 of this run, so this next bit is confusing. That’s not the comic’s fault obviously, and it does a fairly good summary of summarizing, but a lot of context and background is left out as a result. What we know is that in the past, Vampirella destroyed Heaven…kind of. It was a fake, digital Heaven that was actually Hell apparently, one in which the Devil trapped God. So, with Hell destroyed (sort of, we find out later that Vampirella really just made it crash and a villain was able to turn it back on) and God trapped, there was nowhere for souls to go, and so nobody has been able to die. This has led to resource shortages and major wars, and as we see later Earth has essentially become Mad Max. Though on the bright side, this means that Vicki isn’t dead! Vampirella interrogates the motorcyclists, learning that they’re the followers of some big bad boss who had promised to send anyone who brings them Vampirella to Heaven, and sets off on one of their motorcycles with Vicki, intent on finding this person and getting them to heal Vicki.
Along the way they get attacked by some more punks in tricked-out vehicles, which leads to an interesting fight scene and the revelation that Vampirella can sprout big bat wings from her back. This mainly leads to the pair taking refuge in either an abandoned house or motel (not sure which, not that it matters), and Vampirella admitting that she’s fallen in love with Vicki. The two had previously kissed on the road before finding refuge, but now Vampirella briefly feeds on the redhead to heal herself, then the two have sex off-panel, since some stuff ‘is just for them’.
Eventually, they make it to the lair of the villain, and Vampirella knowingly walks into a trap, as she doesn’t fully realize the full effects of said trap. The two are captured, with Vampirella’s powers suppressed, and we find out who’s behind all of this-Pantha, a Vampirella side character, former ally, and formerly the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. See, apparently, Vampirella slept for one thousand years, during which the Devil instituted the whole ‘trap God and make a digital Heaven’ plan. This plan included violent cyber angels, forcing people to buy there way into Heaven (resulting in a crappy childhood for Vicki as her mother was abusive and mainly utilized her to make more money) and…clown police…for some reason that’s not really explained or addressed in this volume. Again, not the comic’s fault. Anyway, the beginning of this resulted in the death of Pantha’s beloved partner, and this led to Pantha going on a bloodlust filled rampage, constantly being harassed and attacked by Satan’s minions until she gave up and went to work for him as a torturer. Now she’s furious, twisted and broken, with a grudge against Vampirella and a need to prove that Vampirella is the same as her and would break under similar circumstances. This is, admittedly, one of the most cliche villain motivations possible, it’s essentially just an abridged version of The Killing Joke, and I’d be lying if I said the comic put a new twist on it, but it’s serviceable.
Pantha tortures Vicki for a bit, choking her to the point that she’s rendered mute, but eventually relents in exchange for getting to toss the two into a colosseum. She even makes an offer that the first person to decapitate Vampirella or stab her in the heart will be sent to Heaven…an offer that is eventually accepted by Vicki, who stabs her lover in the back. Again, a somewhat worrying turn of events, but I’ll go ahead and say that it works out. Pantha fulfills her promise and sends Vicki to Heaven, and after some dark stuff involving the fact that there’s no food in Heaven but Pantha’s followers are being sent in their bodies instead of as souls and a scene of Pantha draining Vampirella’s blood supply and locking her in a room of children to break her, we find out that Vicki had a plan.
God is still trapped. And since this is the exact same digital ‘Heaven’ that Vampirella shut down, Vicki is able to find God and release her. Oh yeah, God’s a black woman in this universe, it’s great! Pantha is summarily defeated when other deities are released at the same time as God, namely by Ma’at, the Egyptian judge of the dead, and her beast Ammit. God, who loves love in any form, quickly takes Vicki to Vampirella, freeing the children and allowing Vampirella to save herself by feeding on Vicki. Then, with the digital Heaven collapsing, God takes the two back to the real world.
So, how is “The God You Know”? Pretty damn good! Fairly solid art, very solid writing (nothing groundbreaking mind you, but good), and of course wlw romance! Good things all around. I will say though, that I do not recommend this as an entrance to Vampirella, either the current 2017 run or to the character in general. It’s not bad! And it’s still fairly understandable despite not having read vol 1. But, unless you just hate Paul Cornell’s writing, starting with issue 1 just makes more sense.
So good storyline, mediocre starting point.
Vampirella Volume 2: The God You Know
Writer: Jeremy Whitley, Paul Cornell
Art: Andy Belanger, Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios, Rapha Lobosco
Cover: Andy Belanger
Images courtesy of Dynamite Comics
Full Disclosure: Review copy of this volume was provided to The Fandomentals
Rainbow Brite Captures the Beauty of Childhood Imagination
Being a kid comes with all sorts of perks that many lose as they enter adulthood. One of those is the ability to conjure all sorts of magical and exciting scenarios and stories in your head and just simply believe in it. Imagination is a fertile ground in which we build hopes, dreams, and morals. At some point or another everyone has imagined that they were a proud or noble knight on a quest to slay a dragon or some other hero of greatness. It goes without saying that Jeremy Whitely beautifully captures this nostalgic feeling of childhood dreams in a story that could remind you of something you played as a child.
Rainbow Brite was a children’s show in the 80’s and most likely half of you reading this may not have even heard of it, myself included. The first issue of this brand new revamp of the series is good for both newcomers and fans of old as it introduces a brand new story. Like most comics catered to all ages, the story is quite simple but Whitely manages to throw in the feeling of nostalgia, summoning the urge to be that age again where all we knew was what adventure our young minds take us next.
In this comic, we follow the lives of Willow, who imagines herself as a wizard, and Wisp, who fashions herself as a knight. The lightheartedness of their games and the way Willow’s parents try to keep their immersion is truly heartwarming and wholesome. The two, of course, have their play time, or rather their rescue of a village that doesn’t deserve it, cut short by nightfall and rain. However, after Willow’s father drops Wisp off things begin to get weird.
Before getting ready for bed, Wisp hears noises coming from outside her house. Being the brave knight she is, she goes to investigate only to see a trio of shadow creatures stealing the color from her mother’s car. She strikes one and runs away, before meeting a flying sprite named Twinkle. He explains to her that they are servants of the King of Shadows who wants nothing more than to drain all the color from the world. Because Wisp was able to hurt one, they are hunting for her. Twinkle tries to teleport them to safety but the lack of light drains his magic. Wisp hatches a scheme to use Willow’s home security lights to give him his magic back, bringing her friend into the game. By the end of the book, Twinkle teleports the two girls to a Rainbow land that is devoid of color.
The comic was quite enjoyable to read. Even though it is for all ages, it is aimed at much younger audiences. Yet, adults will find an innocent joy in recalling their own dreams and games as children and that is where the heart of this book lies. The power to dream and imagine is one of the most important concepts of the human mind and sometimes all it takes is a child or our recollections of when we were children to truly grasp its potential. If you want a spark to awaken your inner child or reignite your love for the foundation of fantasy, then this is a comic for you. It certainly brought those wonderful memories back for me.
Rainbow Brite #1 – Dynamite Comics