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Return of the Hunter

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The appeal of the vampire is, pardon the pun, immortal. All matter of pop culture has tapped the folk legend of the blood sucking undead for over two centuries. Vampires have appeared in poems as far back as 1748 and in novels starting 71 years later.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not the first novel focusing on vampires. That honor goes to 1819’s The Vampyre by John Polidori. But Stoker’s work is by far more famous, and Dracula has been adapted more times in to more media than almost any other character.

Vampires have made their way from the printed page into the worlds of movies, television and comics. And everywhere they went they made an impact. More than one work of Vampire fiction has captured a cult fascination with the audiences. Whether it be Dracula or Near Dark in films, Dark Shadows or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on television, Tomb of Dracula in the comics or the Vampire novels of Anne Rice, each vampire story has reached a status of immortality in their particular venue.

So, vampires have always been popular. But, recently, they have been gifted with an extra boost of interest. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series made a splash with the youth fiction set and the upcoming film adaptation of the novels has been creating a big buzz. True Blood has debuted recently on HBO. And Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight is a best-seller.

In the mix is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. Blake has appeared in 16 novels (with the 17th due in stores on November 4th) over the last 15 years and has built up a legion of fans along the way.

The first novel in the series, Guilty Pleasures, hit bookstores back in 1993. Like her fellow vampire stalker Buffy Summers, who made her debut on movie screens a year prior, Anita Blake’s main pursuit is to hunt vampires who have murdered humans and kill them. She also works for the St. Louis authorities as a necromancer—someone who can briefly revive the dead to get their secrets.

The novels are a mix of vampire horror, crime fiction and erotica. Add to this a strong female lead, and you have a series that has gained a lot of fans, especially among women.

As it is with any genre novel with a strong following, it wouldn’t be long before the series made the leap to comic books. The rights to the Anita Blake books were bought by the Dabel Brothers, a publishing company that made a name for itself by tapping science fiction and fantasy authors such as Orson Scott Card and George R.R. Martin and adapting their work for comics.

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter-Guilty Pleasures #1, the first issue of a miniseries adapting Hamilton’s 1993 novel, arrived in October of 2006. The series was one of the first produced under the agreement between Dabel Brothers and Marvel Comics.

The miniseries did very well sales wise but not so much critically (certain bloggers have devoted many posts mocking the series). However, the series was delayed due to a dissolution of the partnership between Dabel Brothers and Marvel.

Marvel, knowing a good thing when it had it, took over the rights from the Dabels after the split and completed the first series. Tomorrow begins their adaptation of the second Blake novel-The Laughing Corpse.

Vampires are “in” now, and the success of Anita Blake is proof of that. And since there is no end in sight for this trend, Marvel might have a very lucrative license on their hands. Hamilton fans might get to see all of the novels adapted into comic book form, series’ they would only be too happy to be sucked into buying.

Also out this week:

Cable #7:

Cable has jumped ahead in time, and has gained a slight advantage on his hunter Bishop. But you know Bishop will never stand for that. He travels back to the past to find clues as to where Cable went. But all he finds is black ops mutant team X-Force and they’re looking for answers of their own.

This has been a fairly decent series so far. It’s not terribly original (it’s sort of a reverse Terminator, if you think about it), but it is good for what it is. Bishop chases Cable. Cable tries to get away. Things blow up. As long as the series keeps doing those things well, it might be worthy of taking a look. 

Duane Swierczynski (W), Ariel Olivetti (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Supergirl #34:

DC reintroduced Supergirl in a big way, with an arc in Superman/Batman written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Michael Turner. Amidst the pomp and the circumstance of her reintroduction to the DC Universe, she received a new ongoing series, written by Loeb.

That was back in 2005. Since that time, the writer on the series has changed four times, each time with a brand new direction that really didn’t seem to have a chance to go anywhere.

This week brings yet another new writer—Sterling Gates—and another new penciller—Jamal Igle—and another new direction—one tying in close with the Superman books. Will this change stick? Maybe if DC gives it a chance to gel and doesn’t pull the plug too soon it will.

Sterling Gates (W), Jamal Igle (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Jazan Wild's Funhouse of Horrors #1: House of Horrors:

Jazan Wild is what they call a hyphenate. Not only is he a comic book creator, but he’s also a musician. He most recently performed a song on the Vinnie Vincent tribute album, Kiss My Ankh. But this week, we are talking about his comic job, as he brings us another look into the funhouse of horrors—just in time for Halloween.

A young man named Jacob stumbles across an abandoned building in the woods, which never turns out well. Another thing that usually turns out badly is when a mysterious stranger hands you a book and two tickets for a “haunted house” at that very location. I would start running and never look back. But Jacob stays and undergoes a journey that will change his life forever, or end it at once!  

Jazan Wild (W/A), Carnival Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

Monsterpocalypse #1:

These days, when you think of comics that adapt games, you have a lot of options. Perhaps the most prevalent are those that adapt video games like Gears of War or Brothers in Arms. Another popular option are those that adapt role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons or Dragonlance.

This miniseries adapts a brand-new collectible miniature game from Privateer Press. The characters are all huge, dinosaur-like monsters (imagine Godzilla, only armed and loaded for bear). The bad monsters destroy your favorite cities, the good ones try to protect them. This series serves to introduce us to the world of the game and flesh out the concept for those who might be interested.

Stephan Nilson & Jason Avery (W), Karl Waller (A), Desperado Publishing, $3.99.  Three-Issue Miniseries.

Justice League of America #25:

I can’t help it, I’m a fan of the alternate reality story. I like asking “What If?” and being taken to Elseworlds. If the story takes place on an Earth with a number after it or if it is a dream, a hoax or just imaginary, you can sign me up. I like seeing how my favorite characters might have turned out if someone else controlled their destiny.

A version of this story type starts in this week’s extra-sized anniversary issue of Justice League. Vixen’s powers have been going haywire. Instead of borrowing her powers from the animal kingdom, she’s been taking them from her teammates. It turns out that the African trickster god Anansi was responsible and Vixen’s powers weren’t the only thing that will be changed. The entire history of the Justice League will be altered, maybe forever unless Vixen and Animal Man can stop him. 

Dwayne McDuffie (W), Ed Benes (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Vixen: Return of the Lion #1:

Vixen is a popular woman this week. Not only is she impetus for the current storyline in Justice League of America but she is starring in her very own five-issue miniseries beginning tomorrow. It looks like the long-time supporting character is getting a major push toward the big time.

A JLA mission reveals information about a tragic event from Mari’s past—the death of her mother. At long last, the culprit has been revealed. The murderer is now trying to gain power in her homeland. Vengeance is finally in her reach, but will her revenge plunge the JLA into an international incident? Will a world war be enough to stop Vixen from avenging her mother? And what role does Intergang play in all of this? 

G. Willow Wilson (W), Cafu (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Four Eyes #1:

The Great Depression was a difficult time in World history. Many children had to leave school in order to support their families. Many of the founding fathers of comicdom were among this generation. Instead of attending high school they created the greatest heroes of all time.

As hard as those people had it, they didn’t have it as hard as Enrico. To help support his family in this time of need, he didn’t put pen to paper, he put a leash on a dragon and trained him to fight other dragons for sport. The worst artists have to worry about is maybe a paper cut. If Enrico makes one false move, it could be fatal.

Joe Kelly (W), Max Fiumara (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

 

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also is the comic review editor for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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