The Avengers vs. Dracula vs. the Legion of the Unliving…who ya got? It’s an idea just crazy enough to work and it’s a story that integrates Blade into the Avengers lineup. It’s a crazy concept that is carried off well by Jason Aaron and David Marquez in this 136-page collection.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
As vampire civil war throws the world into chaos, the mysterious Shadow Colonel and his squad of undead revolutionaries have one burning question on their murderous minds: Where is Dracula? And if the Avengers find him first, will the lord of the damned be friend or foe?
Why does this matter?
Make no mistake the stories here aren’t throw away action, but meaningful world building. Ghost Rider, Blade, and even Dracula are all getting arcs here that will matter as Jason Aaron continues to shift what Marvel is all about. Don’t miss it!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
As I said in the quote gracing the cover of this collection, “This is good horror comics meets action comics.” Aaron and Marquez have our characters fight, redirect, and fight some more. They’re up against the Legion of the Unliving, general vampires, and from a distance Dracula himself. Aaron and Marquez have put together a cool group of vampire supervillains for them to fight and it’s an eclectic bunch giving the mightiest heroes something to dig in to defeat. There’s plenty of blood, darkness, and a heavy focus on Ghost Rider making this series lean more heavily into the horror spectrum. By the end of the issue, it all feels like it matters too and it should be fun to see when (or if) Dracula is used again soon.
The issue actually opens with a focus on the ancient Iron Fist. It’s a bit off track from what the meat of this story is about, but it’s a good one-shot tale. It introduces readers to Fan Fei who lives amongst the people of K’Un-Lun in the Lotus House. This story takes place 1 million years in the past before humanity even created a society and spoke a language. It’s a fascinating story due to it revealing how old K’Un-Lun is, but also how the Iron Fist was born. I won’t spoil it, but her violation is directly connected to the power and her journey after gaining it is intriguing. Andrea Sorrentino draws a great issue utilizing his symmetrical panel layout to please the eye. Clever use of bubbles draw the eye and the characters’ resolve is always sound. It’s a long game story since it’s setting up the ancient Avengers and it does a good job setting up what is possibly the first threat the ancient Avengers must stop.
The main story takes place over the remaining four issues collected here and it’s all about the vampires. It establishes the players, the stakes, and establishes Blade as a worthy member of the team. There are multiple fight scenes thanks to battles taking place in a variety of locations which allows Aaron and Marquez to play around with different Avenger groupings. Seeing Hulk and Ghost Rider fight zombies is particularly fun and it’s nice to see Aaron give Robbie extra attention in this issue. It appears he’s getting the most character work in the series as a whole after his triumphant turn in the first arc.
A strong element that permeates the series is subtle character work that feels natural but will certainly be important down the road. One example occurs early on when Aaron reveals Tony’s take on killing vampires, followed by T’Challa’s. It’s very different and it’s a clever way to show the difference between these two men. In another, the captions are given the most badass line of the issue, pointing out Captain America doesn’t attend church because “some men are just too busy standing to ever stop and kneel.” Blade has tons of fun one-liners throughout too. Later on, Blade gets key moments and there’s even blink or you’ll miss it moment with Captain Marvel.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Aside from the somewhat jarring placement of the Iron Fist story that will certainly confuse some folks this is a rather solid collection. It’s sad to see Marquez is leaving Marvel, but he sure went out with a bang with this series.
As far as the main event more could have been done to integrate Dracula into the mix. We’re told there’s a war between vampires taking place, but for the most part, we don’t see it happening. Instead, we get insulated fights with the Avengers. A grander sweep of what is going on would have added some weight to the story. The stakes are never really defined either with most of the storytelling focusing on character struggles like Ghost Rider.
Is it good?
To mimic what I said in a review from this collection, this is a fang-tastic action-packed adventure that does not suck.