Writer’s Commentary: Christopher Priest On ‘Sacredsix’ #4 From Dynamite
by Olly MacNamee
[+++WARNING: Possible Spoilers: Buy & read the book and then come back here for our commentary+++]
Obligatory Newcomer Information:
Skip this if you already know: “sacred” is a PLACE, the City of Sacred, Georgia. The Six are the BAD GUYS— a fundamentalist militant wing of a shadowy organization called Lumea Următoare, “Next World”, bent on global domination (think: Vampire Taliban). sacredsix is a Hatfields vs. McCoys story about an enclave of peaceful vampires who are being oppressed by religious bigots who have built their own super-modern Epcot Center up the road. The Six have vowed to protect Ashthorne from the Sacred bigots and advocate wiping out that city.
Two young boys have gone missing from the gleaming City of Sacred. The search for the lost boys threatens the fragile peace between the two communities as law enforcement uses the missing boys as an excuse to escalate their vampire hunting in Ashthorne.
DRAGO, Ashthorne’s vampire mayor, asked his mother LILITH, a powerful sorceress from the planet Drakulon, to help him protect the town. Lilith, in turn, lured the half-vampire bounty hunter CHASTITY, the fire demon NYX, her “adopted” daughter Victory (whom she has re-named DRACULINA), as well as her biological daughter VAMPIRELLA to Ashthorne where Lilith engages in saber-rattling against The Six.
(Minor spoiler here) Now, where we’re going is obvious: to prevent the peaceful vampires from being wiped out, Ashthorne will obviously need Wyatt Earp and his clan to defend it. It should, therefore, be fairly obvious that The Six will ultimately be replaced by our ladies, hence the title. (End minor spoiler).
End of Obligatory Newcomer Information
And now onto sacredsix #4:
Pages 1 – 5:
Our Pantha origin story, told in five parts, begins winding up this issue with Tairin the concubine hiding the dead Pharaoh’s infant son from Samira, Pharaoh’s power-mad teen wife who is hellbent on killing the boy so she can remain pharaoh herself.
Samira has suffered losses in her quest, notably being captured, sold into slavery and getting a pretty bad haircut. Samira has lied to the war goddess Sekhmet, claiming desperation to locate her beloved child, and the goddess granted Samira a kind of ancient Egypt GPS — the ability to see through the eyes of every cat in Egypt — in order to locate the child.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of cats wandering around the Egyptian desert, and Samira failed to locate Tairin and the baby. So, on page four, Samira goes all biblical and orders the death of ALL babies in Egypt, just to be sure the true heir to the throne gets whacked.
After which she takes a bath and has orgies. Now, personally, I probably would have reversed the order of those activities, the latter of which is interrupted by an unnamed slave girl — Samira’s roomie when she was being held in bondage — who looks much more like the Warren-era Pantha than does Samira, the more geo accurate pan-African golden child (hint: Egypt is in Africa). This is probably a tease to fans of Warren-era (or even Dynamite Mark Texeira-era Leopard Bikini) Pantha, who returns in our 1969 flashback special, Vampirella #17, but that’s just my guess.
Slave Girl turns out to be Sekhmet, a test of Samira’s integrity which Samira has obviously failed. Rather than apologize or, y’know, concede, Sammy doubles down on her B.S., this time ordering the death of all cats in Egypt as if to punish a god. As we will see next issue, punishing a god is a very bad idea.
Our main story finds guest artist Giuseppe Cafaro joining colorist Mohan in a glimpse of Ashthorne Police Chief Allen’s domestic life. If you’ve ever lived with a teenager, I’m sure you kept plenty of Advil handy.
You won’t recognize her but Jordan, demanding room service here, is the teen girl Malik, our Pantha story narrator, regaling with that classic tale as they walk back to town. These are the perils of work schedules and pandemics, newly-introduced art styles disturbing the visual narrative and forcing an over-reliance on words over pictures. We’re producing comics, not novels, so there’s no Gardner Fox arrow caption, pointing to the girl in bed, reading, “Hey, kids! This is Jordan, the same girl from the prologue!” But it is.
This is how Jordan began her day, a day wherein Malik, her would-be suitor, talked her into ditching school to attend a basketball game in the big city (Atlanta). Here on page six, it is the morning of that big adventure, which started as most of Chief Allen’s mornings did— trying to drag his granddaughter out of bed and get her off to school while dealing with foreboding news that the missing boys still had not been found.
Time skip to later in the day. Here we pick up from last issue: Chief Allen is one of few humans permitted to attend a secret town hall of Groovy Ghoulies in an old mining office below ground. I’ll assume Giuseppe misunderstood the script and drew a bunch of cops and what appears to be a fancy flatscreen TV, but, no, this is a gathering of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other critters in a ramshackle, dusty, shadowy office belonging to a long-abandoned mine.
Last issue, The Six, in cliché hoods, made their play: they want the ghouls to rip the invading policemen to shreds as an abject lesson to humans to stay out of Ashthorne. Here Chief Allen and Drago, the vampire mayor, struggle to keep peace alongside what appears to be an extra from Star Trek: TNG.
We see the raid in progress, with not-nearly-enough-cops kicking in doors and some inexplicably surrendering, apparently arresting each other. The important takeaway here is Chastity, the half-vampire bounty hunter hired by Lilith in issue #2, has snuck into Ashthorne dressed as one of the cops and is on the move.
Perhaps my favorite storyline of this series is emerging to be about Victory, Vampirella’s nut-job ex-girlfriend. Vic has been bamboozled by Lilith who gave her a demon’s cursed ring and a new name — “Draculina” —before sending her undercover at an ecumenical school in the City of Sacred. Vic has, in turn, seduced Holly, her clueless roommate. A devout Christian, Holly is struggling with the ethics of their clandestine affair, which irritates the hell (literally) out of Victory. Victory despises Holly’s weakness and her apparent fealty to some Invisible Pal Up In The Sky somewhere. She fantasizes about killing Holly but needs Holly to help her on her mission as well as recharge her demon ring (Belial’s ring is powered by the blood of innocents). However, by the bottom of Page Nine, Vic is just fed up and needs air. Thus, when Holly opens her eyes, Vic is gone.
Vic is off to Atlanta to report to her adopted Mommy Lilith, using the demon ring to open a mystic gateway she can float through. But just before arriving at Lilith’s place, she spots the fire demon Nyx streaking across the sky, which brings us back to where we left off last issue: Nyx’s attack on Lilith and Vampirella at Lilith’s Atlanta penthouse. Nyx’s attack blew Vampirella across the street into an office tower, drawing Nyx away from Lilith’s place and into this office.
Vampirella suffers paralyzing PTSD from just seeing Nyx. Nyx viciously killed Vampirella in an earlier series, impaling our heroine on a spear. Fear is a tough obstacle for any of us, and here Vampi locks up, unable to defend herself from a far more powerful foe— until Vampirella blows it by expressing way too much concern for Lilith’s injuries (at least that’s supposed to be Lilith lying on the floor).
The reveal, which is completely unclear here, is that Nyx had been looking at an illusion, a spell cast by Lilith, who is safe across the street, still in her Penthouse along with Vampirella and Cadiratra, the leader of The Six who had come to parlay with Lilith for a solution to the Ashthorne problem.
Realizing she’s been tricked, Nyx heads back across the street, where she is spotted by Victory-Draculina. Nyx is blocked by expert hand-waving by Lilith who traps Nyx in one of her dimensional gateways while urging Vampirella to go ahead and kill Nyx. Vampi cannot; she’s still tripping over her PTSD.
No such problem for Victory-Draculina who, after first recharging her demon-cursed ring with the blood of a nitwit cyclist (Atlanta is overrun with them), takes the fight to Nyx without hesitation.
Much like Marvel’s Human Torch, Nyx is problematic in terms of the scale of her abilities. What I mean is, if she gained enough altitude, Nyx could conceivably French Fry most any enemy before they’d even realize she was there. Nyx and Vampirella going toe-to-toe doesn’t make sense and never really did, but—
—Victory-Draculina gets the job done out of sheer ignorance, like Wyle E. Coyote not falling because he hadn’t realized he’d run off a cliff. Draculina has no idea who this fire chick is, she’s just fiercely loyal to Lilith so she charges in and, guess what? Draculina gets it done by not doubting herself.
Lilith banishes Nyx to Ashthorne, which irritates Vampirella because she feels she needs to prove something to herself by taking Nyx on. So Vampi heads after Nyx, snubbing Draculina, which pisses Victory off and, as we will see, sends Draculina teleporting to Ashthorne to give her ex-lover a piece of her mind.
In Ashthorne, Nyx is unceremoniously dumped out of the gateway, where a passerby presumes she is just another of the supernatural creatures residing in town and tells Nyx she’s late for the Ghoul Summit down in the mining station, where we catch up to Chastity, still dressed as a cop, shimmying down an air shaft and making her way toward that very meeting—
—where our favorite zombie is giving notice of how fed up he is with living un-life in the closet. He’s done nothing to harm anyone, why isn’t he entitled to un-live his un-life in peace? Which is actually a good question. If vampires aren’t biting anyone, do they still deserve to be hunted and killed? Are ghouls entitled to civil rights? And, apparently, that wasn’t a Star Trek red shirt. It was a pastor holding a bible.
Nyx arrives, looking for the party. She has no specific reason to hide but Lilith has her scepter, the focus of her abilities. Without it, she cannot fly, cannot re-charge her energies by stealing souls, and will eventually revert to her human form. So I imagine it’s best to lay low until the cops clear out than to risk confrontation by walking around town.
The ladies converge on Ashthorne, each for their own reason, sparking a confrontation at the mining station at the exact moment Lilith gives Chastity the green light to kill off The Six. While standing with their leader Cadiratra, Lilith pulls a Michael Corleone and has her agent, Chastity, take out The Six (or at least five of them).
Chastity then trains her aim on ZYLAVEN, Cadiratra’s second in command, and takes her shot just as the bickering, squabbling Nyx, Vampirella, and Draculina burst in, distracting her and spoiling her aim, leading to the death of not the evil vampire council, but of Ashthorne’s chief peacekeeper.
My thanks to Guilherme Ralbi and Giuseppe Cafaro for stepping in this issue. I realize it was a lot like walking onto the set of a complex TV show in the middle of the season — lots of moving parts and absolutely no time on the calendar.
Our Pantha origin concludes next issue as “Numerology,” our premiere story arc, reaches its penultimate chapter with the fragile peace between humans and ghouls shattered over the death of Chief Allen, and Vampirella making an astonishing sacrifice to prevent a full-on bloodbath.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe!
sacredsix #4 is out now from Dynamite