In Review: Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #1

With the exception of the visuals, this is a good book.

The cover: Jennifer pulls her gun from her holster as Vampirella comes at from behind, against a blood red moon with several red silhouettes of bats beside it. I’ve been impressed with Billy Tan’s work on DC’s Green Lantern books and it was his pencils that drew me to this cover. The coloring by Alex Guimaraes is brilliantly red, that draws on what the vampire needs for sustenance and what the “most dangerous woman” leaves in her wake. Overall grade: A

The story: Vampirella looks to be on the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California trying to track down the “Pacifica Slasher”, sent by the Kabal to investigate if this serial killer is more than he appears. She looks away for only a second and the man she was following has disappeared with a young woman. The man has sped with the girl under the pier to get to know her better, “Inside and out.” His fingers elongate and become pointed, prompting the woman to scream. Just in time, Vampirella arrives, kicking the man to the ground from behind. She tells the attacker that she knows who he is “…your name is Tahquitz, and that you go on a cannibal rampage every two hundred years.” The monster turns to a vortex that suddenly appears and leaps through it, with our heroine right behind, stating, “I just hope there are no dinosaurs waiting for me on the other side.” This is made in reference to the adventures from Sword of Sorrow #1. Leaping into this new dimension has her encounter Jennifer Blood, whose backstory is told in five pages. Nancy A. Collins has written a good introduction to both characters, so that any reader could jump in with this issue and become familiar with both leads. Each character is seen in action, and when they do meet it’s not exactly as the best of friends. Collins does a great job setting up the pieces of this four issue series with a terrific tease of a villain on the final page that I was not expecting. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals are by Dave Acosta. Each of these characters demands a certain level of realism, with both characters looking attractive but capable of being much more than just a pretty face. The opening with Vampirella has her looking gorgeous and more than able in battle. However, when Acosta has to pull away from a close-up, details disappear. For example, the bottom of Page 2 looks great, but the third panel on Page 3 has her looking like a completely different woman. She loses her face entirely at the top of Page 13, and in the third panel on the same page she has two slits for eyes and a thick vertical line for a nose. This is not good. Things improve at the bottom of the same page when he pulls in closer to her, and they continue to look good when she finally meets with Jennifer. In fact, Jennifer is rendered the best on this book. The character goes through many different looks and all are done really well. Page 18 has a nice graphic two-panel sequence where the true face of the villain is revealed. I was impressed with the skin work Acosta does here. However, the first three panels on Page 21 which feature a flashback for the villain look like loose sketches, with the colorist doing most of the work. The settings start strong, but get really sketchy by the end of the book, and the character that makes an appearance in the final panel is equally unfinished. This is a real mixed bag of illustrations. Overall grade: C

The colors: Good work by Valentina Pinto, who does a nice job with lighting effects, such as in the first panel of Page 1, and some really excellent backlighting in the third panel on the same page. I liked the nice blending of colors during the transition from violet to blue at the bottom of Page 2 and how it bled to the panels above it. The use of pink for the vortex was a nice change from the usual blues and greens in most comics. Pink is also masterfully used for Jennifer’s sunglasses when she is first shown. Having her narration colored red and black during her origin story is a good way to reinforce her violent beginnings. Pinto puts a lot of dimension into the visuals, especially the characters, and is doing more than her fair share to create a good looking book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Erica Schultz provides narration, dialogue, Tahquitz’s speech, a scream, sounds, yells, and thoughts. I was impressed to see her making thoughts different from dialogue (I can’t think of any letterer that’s done that) and I’m always thrilled with narration being different than dialogue. Her sounds also look good, with a car’s squealing tires being appropriate and funny. Overall grade: A+

The final line: With the exception of the visuals, this is a good book. Sadly, art is key to a comic, and this book will flounder unless the illustrations improve. Overall grade: B-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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