Dr. Herbert West is up to his old tricks again, raiding tombs and stealing artifacts that point him toward a possible mystical resolution to his lifelong quest to control life and death. Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite space vampire is drinking the blood of the wicked and protecting the innocent. When West unleashes an ancient evil from its crypt, Vampirella is drawn into conflict with an enemy she had though long-vanquished.
So far, this miniseries seems to be playing fast and loose with the lore of the title characters, boiling them down to their base elements to tell the story at hand. Vampirella is an ancient, heroic vampire from another world and Herbert West is a scientist who has found a method of reviving corpses and is on a quest for further necromantic knowledge. That’s about all we get in the way of backstory or explanation for the leads in this issue. It’s just enough to get the reader on board and to set the plot in motion, which can be great for new readers and perhaps slightly frustrating for longtime fans.
The plot is pretty light for this first installment, which mainly introduces us to the titular Reanimator and Vampirella. We get a hint of what Herbert is up to and how Vampirella may be connected to the Aztec death god that West is trying to conjure up, but it looks as though the real meat of the story will be coming in the following issues. Hopefully it amounts to more than a punch-up, but I’m still intrigued to see how Herbert West will remain involved in the battle ahead. In the original short stories and various adaptations, West has always been much more of a cerebral character, preferring to sway his opponents to his side or simply off them when their backs are turned. Even in Dynamite’s delightfully bonkers crossovers with Army of Darkness from 2006 and 2013, which saw West allying himself with ancient beasts straight out of the Cthulhu mythos, he preferred to watch the carnage unfold from a safer distance. It will be interesting to see if he will be forced to physically go up against forces that are literally larger than life.
Aside from the main characters, the real draw for this book is the artwork. Blacky Shepherd (Pumpkinhead, Voltron) goes for a style that echoes the classic black-and-white Vampirella horror anthology series, with occasional splashes of color to highlight a spatter of blood or the unearthly glow of Dr. West’s syringe full of reagent formula. It’s a brilliant choice that surprised me when I began reading, but it adds to the overall pulpy feel of the story and enhances the bloodshed of Vampirella’s fight scene and the stark cruelty of Dr. West in the early part of the issue.
There’s also a darkly comedic undercurrent to Cullen Bunn’s script that really works for me as a fan of the Re-Animator film series and various versions of Vampirella. At one point, West asks his zombie horde to massacre people a little more quietly, since they’re breaking his concentration. The comic’s tongue is planted firmly in its cheek, which I very much appreciated. I’m hoping for more of that tone as the miniseries continues.
Despite the thin story in this first issue, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Fans of the two properties will most likely want to pick this one up to see how the real battle will go down.