[+++ NOTE: Potential spoilers! Buy & read Vampirella: Dark Powers #4 then return here for some commentary. +++]
This Vampirella miniseries has been about taking her out of her comfort zone and placing her in a world where she traditionally hasn’t belonged – that of out-and-out superheroes. And when I say ‘world’, I actually mean ’worlds’, because we’ve encountered — directly or indirectly — many of the home worlds of the Project superheroes. The Project is a pan-dimensional superhero team that protects the “Plural Worlds” and every one of them comes from a different iteration of Earth. Up until now, these versions have been fun to build, but they’ve also been quite ‘larger than life’, such as the Flame’s very ‘fire’ themed world. Each world has been constructed to reflect the nature of the hero representing it, including their ‘home era’ (so, for instance, the Fighting Yank comes from a Revolutionary War era Earth).
In this issue, Vampirella is finishing her probation as a Project member, which means she has to return to her own homeworld for a trial tour of duty. Now, to reflect her own background and origin as a character, I decided to make it a very late sixties/early seventies version of Earth, the period when she was created. But, unlike the other Project members’ worlds, it couldn’t be themed to her (eg a “vampire” world). Her Earth is perhaps the most realistic of all the ones we’ve seen: it was simply meant to capture the flavor of the era in which she was first published. It’s a major story point, after all, that she comes from an apparently ‘ordinary’ Earth and her recruitment is due to the fact that she is the only metahuman present.
Pages one to five
My idea for her world — and this issue — was to create a sense of a recognizable and authentic past, but an alternate one. Vampirella will encounter a number of threats, so the issue is essentially an anthology of short adventures as she faces and takes down different metahuman menaces. In the opening sequence, she’s targeting a vampire…an empathic vampire who feeds of life-force and hypnotically controls others. The story is introduced in a very matter of fact narrative, as though it’s a documentary describing genuine historical events, and referencing genuine historical elements. I’ve tried to do this convincingly — not my place to judge!
Her confrontation is dramatic and dynamic and with her victorious…but also keen to finish the job in lethal vampire style.
Pages six to nine
She’s brought up short by Black Terror, the classic and veteran superhero who has been sent to supervise her probation, sort of like a ride-along. Terror is from a very militarized, World War Two era world, and has some outdated and old school attitudes, though we get the impression he’s quite enjoying the liberated lifestyle of Vampirella’s world.
Indeed, as we see in the beautifully rendered diner sequence that follows the take-down, they are becoming friends. There’s a mutual respect, and they are getting along, despite the big differences between them and the fact that Terror was dead set against her inclusion in the team (he considered her a monster). In their discussion, we learn that they’re dealing with a new rash of metahuman threats, almost as though Vampirella’s presence (and selection for the team) has kickstarted the emergence of metapowers on her Earth. Duty calls, and they’re off again.
Pages ten to fourteen
Our second ‘vignette’: they work together to stop a robotic rampage. Once again, I’m using the ‘documentary’ narrative for quick exposition but also to try and capture an ‘authentic flavor’ for the era and setting. There is some particularly dynamic action as they lay into the robot menace. Terror keeps calling her ‘Fangs’, an affectionate nickname for her, but which reveals that he still regards her as either less or more than human.
In the end, she saves the day by using her vampiric powers (hearing, this time) and more importantly, her quick wits. She defeats a very smart enemy by being smarter. She’s really getting the hang of this, and Terror is quite impressed.
I have to call out this page: it’s a simple ‘in between’ moment which allows Vampirella to think about her situation and reflect, moving her story and motivation on. But she does it while shopping. Yes, Vampirella, grocery shopping. I wanted this world to seem more real, more like our own, than any of the others we’ve seen, and for her life in it to seem the most real. Love this page. Love the abandoned shopping cart at the end — she’s off again.
Page sixteen to twenty
For the third mini-mission, she finds herself alone, unable to call Terror in. She goes in anyway. Now the threat is sonic… I’ve played on some classic late sixties tropes so far: the Californian lifestyle, cults, gurus, charismatics, movie stars, emergent technology, so this time it’s music. The fashion and decor of the era is beautifully captured in the art.
The threat is a metahuman, a rock star, driven to distraction by the problems of the day, the ‘hopelessness of the world’. Vampirella tries to talk him down to reach a peaceful resolution, a surprisingly sympathetic approach for her. She’s really learning what this job entails.
When that fails, she cuts loose, and is forced to be pragmatically brutal to stop the threat and save millions fo lives. And she doesn’t like it.
Pages twenty one to twenty two
In this final sequence, she heads home, more worried about the missing Black Terror than anything else. We’re not sure she’s settled to the idea of being a superhero yet, but we can clearly see she’s pretty good at it, if a little unorthodox. She has done some fairly amazing and heroic things, and saved many lives. You would think she’s proven herself.
And that’s what makes the ending so shocking and unexpected. It seems to come out of nowhere. To find out what it means and why it’s happening, you’ll have to come back next time… as we pave the way into a truly unexpected showdown, an amazing clash, and perhaps a much, much bigger story altogether!
Vampirella: Dark Powers #4 is available now from Dynamite Comics
And you can read Dan’s writer’s commentary on the first three issue here.