Overview

Blade #1

Review

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Blade #1

Credits

  • Words: Marc Guggenheim
  • Art: Howard Chaykin
  • Inks: Howard Chaykin
  • Colors: Edgar Delgado
  • Story Title: Splinter Group
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Sep 20, 2006

The Daywalker returns, and just in time to take down a vampire infestation . . . within S.H.I.E.L.D.

Whenever the subject of comic revamps, re-imaginings, and re-introductions comes up, I think of Tim Burton’s Superman. The conceptual drawings from 1999, when he was attached to what would eventually become Superman Returns, depict the Man of Steel in black latex with a metal "S." I’d like to see that story on my shelf next to Godfall and Red Son, but not in my DVD collection, as that’s not the Superman that should be on the big screen. Conversely, the Blade franchise has conquered both film and TV as the most successful character revamp of our age, virtually eradicating the 70s incarnation from cultural memory. Today’s Blade has style, skills, and is on the inside what The Human Torch is on the outside. But in a larger sense, he’s now a high point in a tradition of American cool that started with Miles Davis and runs through The Matrix’s Morpheus and Samuel Jackson’s Afro Samurai. He’s got better fashion sense than The Punisher ever had—and he kills vampires. Take that, Buffy.

So what better way to kick his new series off than with a one-on-one throwdown with Prince of Darkness himself? They’ve tangled before, and here the result is the same—a wooden stake through the vampire’s heart—but it’s the aftermath that proves to be the real challenge. S.H.I.E.L.D. has a nosferatu problem, and a big one, as they’ve infiltrated the Howling Commandos and taken over an entire helicarrier. But Blade is nothing if not prepared, and he takes them down with lots of silver bullets and well-place explosives for good measure. But it’s only the beginning, as Blade learns that there are more vampires than he knows, and some of them are at work in some very high places.

Marc Guggenheim serves up a technically proficient script, one that bucks the five- and six-part story-arc trend and tells an accessible one-and-done while also flashing back to pivotal points in Blade’s youth and laying seeds for further developments in the series. The pacing and dialogue chops Guggenheim unsheathes monthly in Wolverine are just as sharp in Blade #1, and like today’s best television writers, he packs a lot of punch into a single "episode." However, love it or hate it, that decompression and long story-arcs have changed the way we read comics is undeniable, and one of the casualties of the new norm is popcorn movie action. Because there’s so much to do in this issue and no successive chapters to build up to, the big action sequence feels like a car chase in a 70s cop show—by-the-numbers and skimpy on narrative impact. On the other hand, though the action is flat, Guggenheim’s characterization is full-bodied. He could’ve taken the easy route and opted for first-person narration, but he comes at Blade from a more oblique angle with text entries from the "secret dossiers of the Order of Tyrana," as well as scenes from Blade’s birth and childhood, where we find the best writing in this issue. The effect is that we get to know a bit of what makes Blade what he is, with an integral sense of mystery preserved, as well.

I like to make comparisons between things that don’t seem related at all. So, if Frank Miller is the Jack Nicholson of comic art, a brilliant madman always in danger of parodying himself, Howard Chaykin is the Al Pacino, an uncanny combination of world-weariness and passion who, when he blows, is like a volcano. That he’s no stranger to vampires is a second very good reason to hand him Blade’s artistic reigns; but the first is right there on the pages—like a volcano, Chaykin’s visuals are a force of nature. Other artists are more technically accomplished and produce prettier pictures, but few have a more identifiable style, and fewer still can match the energy of his panels, not to mention his consummate skills as a storyteller. His images look rough and ragged, but they’re also highly detailed and stylized because of dramatic framing and an intuitive precision of line that privileges intensity over economy. And Chaykin too is at his best in this issue when depicting Blade’s childhood, where his daguerreotype flashbacks are simply gorgeous. In an age when good or great artists stay on a title for a few issues then leave, I hope Marvel makes the smart move and lets Chaykin stay on Blade for as long as he likes.

Were it not for the big and small screens, Blade would be nowhere. It’s now time for this volume of his comics adventures to do what the previous two couldn’t.

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