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Vampirella/Red Sonja #1 Review

“Most legends begin with the truth.”

We join Vampirella in 1969, hot on the trail of a mysterious killer in Russia. Naturally, this leads to her poking her nose into a conspiracy involving the space program. It gets spooky.

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Right from the jump, this comic is completely nailing the appeal of historical fiction. By couching its supernatural narrative in a very real and very bizarre event (in this case, the Dyatlov Pass incident, in which nine hikers died under mysterious and violent circumstances), Jordie Bellaire’s clever script gets to show us the “real” version of what happened, along with the wild happenings in the background.

It also allows the story to play with the paranoia of the Cold War by giving us Vampirella in territory that is completely uncharted, even for her. This story picks up one year into Ella’s time on Earth, during which time she’s mostly stayed in New York. She’s more of a fish out of water than she would be portrayed in a modern day storyline, which also makes her the ideal match for an equally out-of-sorts Red Sonja.

Dynamite Entertainment

Much of this issue is used to set-up the meeting of the two title characters, but it’s done in such an interesting and contemplative way. Though she’s still quite old when this story takes place, Vampirella is very green when it comes to human nature. Still, we get to see her observations of our culture and the way we treat one another, which is a fascinating side of the character.

She never comes across as naive. Rather, Ella is a genuine detective, absorbing information but never treating her subjects as less than her. Though she could snap these people in two so easily and they do occasionally wear on her nerves, there’s a real empathy from Ella here that is wonderful to see, even as she tells half-truths to the people she’s investigating.

The narration throughout the issue not only keeps the plot moving smoothly, but it gives us some fantastic context for the time period in Ella’s life. It shows us that the kind of warmth we see in Ella here is genuine, even if she’s understandably still on guard in many ways.

Drew Moss’ artwork is splendid, giving us sparse wintery scenes that still feel like there could be something awful in every shadow. The final sequence in particular is wonderfully illustrated, with the confrontation that closes the issue being almost as disorienting for the reader as it is for Ella. Likewise, the colors provided by Rebecca Nalty reinforce the dark and the cold without ever completely washing out the action on the page.

Again, even though this issue is mostly setup, it never feels like we’ve been shorted a story. There are enough interesting moving pieces to this mystery that the final reveal, though expected, doesn’t feel cheapened. Instead, it should have you curious to read the next issue to see how this all came to pass, as well as what Ella intends to do next.

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Vampirella/Red Sonja #1
Is it good?
As a standalone historical mystery, this series is off to a great start. As a new chapter in the backstories of our two heroines, it's indispensable. I can't wait to see what's next!
Cleverly blends real spooky history into the story
Ella's narration feels exactly right, giving us an even better idea of her frame of mind at this point in time
The artwork is dark and foreboding, but with an odd kind of warmth to it — which feels just right for this tale

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