In Review: Hack/Slash vs. Vampirella #1

The characters are the highlight of the issue as the villain and her plot are introduced.

The covers: Ten covers for true fans to find for this premiere issue. The A cover comes from Jenny Frison, who came to my attention with her incredible work on Red Sonja covers. This is a cool looking frontpiece modeled after a playing card. The card is the Queen of Hearts and Cassie is using her iconic baseball bat to try and bash in Vampirella’s skull. She has the vampire by the throat, but the undead woman looks fairly unconcerned at her predicament. This is a gorgeous cover. The B is by Goran Sudzuka with colors by Fran Strukan. This has Cassie being held from behind by Vampirella. She has her baseball bat in her hands, which was probably used to smash the mirror to their left, but it’s not going to be of any use should Vampirella bite her neck, which she’s poised to do. Unbeknownst to the older heroine, behind her is the behemoth Vlad, who is sure to save his younger ally. Great cover with stark colors that makes everything pop. The C cover is the Cosplay cover featuring a young woman dressed as Cassie. She’s sitting on the floor with her bat before her. She’s a little more pale than I expect the character to appear, but she still looks great. The D is a Jenny Frison Virgin Art cover featuring the art from the A without any text. If one likes the A cover, one will want this D as well. A black and white version of the B cover is available as the E cover. This is a good way to see what Sudzuka created before Strukan provided colors. Also very cool. The F cover is the Atlas Comics Signature Series cover, featuring the art of B cover, but has a signature by Tim Seeley. There’s a New York Comic Con Exclusive cover by Billy Tucci featuring cute versions of the characters back-to-back with one knee raised. Each has a bat, with Vampirella’s alive and flapping its wings. Very cool. Mike Dooney is the artist for three exclusive covers from Jetpack Comics and Forbidden Planet. In a graveyard at night, Vampirella walks forward, putting a hand through her hair, while sitting on a tombstone behind her Cassie cockily cradles her bat behind her head. There is a cover with text, a Virgin Art cover without text, and a black and white version. This reminds me of 1980s independent comics art and looks okay. Overall grades: A A+, B A, C A, D A+, E A, F A-, NYCC A-, Jetpack Regular B-, Jetpack textless B-, and Jetpack Black and White C+

The story: Shawn Aldridge starts this tale right after a violent event. A playing card, the Queen of Hearts is shown with blood splattered on it. A finger wipes the red card and a woman puts her digit to her lips to taste the fluid. She walks out of the room, with a man left tied to a bed. There’s a hole in his chest and blood is everywhere. The scene then shifts to the Las Vegas Strip where Cassie pumps her fist in the air in joy at being in Sin City. Next to her is Vlad, who is unimpressed. He puts on his gasmask since the air “burns the hair of my nose.” She grabs a backpack from their van and they begin to make their way down the iconic street. Vlad asks if they’re staying in the hotel with the bright lights. Nope, they’re staying in the Dead End Hotel that makes the word dive seem like a step up. Before they can cross the street, Cassie sees some paramedics putting a covered body into their vehicle. She hears one say, “–ripped right out of his f!@#$%’ chest.” She begins to turn back, but Vlad says, “Nope. Vacation. Remember?” They resume their walk, with her ultimately pulling away from her bulky friend and back to the paramedics. Cassie can’t help but do good when she knows something bad has happened. The dialogue between Cassie and Vlad is great and how she’s able to investigate was fun. In the dead man’s room she runs into Vampirella, and neither trust each other. Their meeting makes sense and how they react to each other was true to their former series. Vlad soon appears and that’s when he and Cassie are clued into who’s causing trouble in Vegas. This book is setting up the premise and with that accomplished the action begins on the last page. This was a good cliffhanger, leaving two of the characters in trouble until the second issue. Cassie and Vlad are fun in this opening installment, but Vampirella is just a mouthpiece for the plot. I’ll definitely be checking out the second issue, because I love these characters, but I’m hoping the older star gets some more action. Overall grade: B-

The art: Rapha Lobosco’s style reminded me of something I’d seen before, but I didn’t recognize it until my third read: this book looks like the style used in the Ralph Bakshi’s American Pop. This book looks like frames from an animated film for adults. I really liked it. The pull back from the playing card on the opening page is very theatrical. The killer’s lips are beautiful, as is her silhouette when she walks away. Cassie and Vlad’s first appearance on Page 2 has them appear completely out of place on the Strip. Cassie emotes wonderfully in this book; angry, concerned, and mischievous emotions have her winning over any reader. The two pages with her on the floor of the casino are great; the first panel on 9 sums up Vegas perfectly! Vampirella’s introduction in the book is a full-paged splash, but she’s so far from Cassie and the reader the importance of her reveal is lessened. Cassie’s reaction to Vampirella is awesome, with the vampire having an equally impressive reaction. Vlad and the vampire’s interaction is terrific, with long time fans, such as me, knowing exactly what was occurring based solely on the visual. Page 16 reveals the killer to the reader in a full-paged splash. This is followed by several graphic panels on 17 that are set up in the most disturbing fashion, shaped like slices from a body. The fifth panel on 19 had particular unique body parts way too small, so much so that they looked ridiculous. Fisticuffs on 20 look outstanding and the final page reveals trouble that will start the final issue. I’m really liking Lobosco’s art. Overall grade: A- 

The colors: This book has got a terrific noir feel due to the colors used by Chris O’Halloran. Vegas is notorious for its overwhelming, garish lights at night. O’Halloran instead uses muted colors through the entire book, even on the floor of the casinos, to endow the book with a classic hardcore detective feel. This is demonstrated by the full-page splash on Page 2 that features the Strip at night, with the buildings faded oranges, practically tans, and light blues to show glaring lights. This allows for later pages to have the characters in dark violets and the backgrounds to be yellows and oranges. The casino’s interiors are done in unnatural oranges and yellows to give the spaces an otherworldly feel. When the title characters react to one another, the backgrounds go a bright red to accentuate the tension. The colors on this book really add to its noir tone. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Crank! creates the narration, dialogue, the story’s title, Vlad’s unique speech, sounds, yells, and a whisper that ends the book. I am always enamored by a letterer that uses a different font for narration and dialogue, so Crank! has my undying (“Undead”?) respect. Vlad’s speech is so visually different from that of other character it further separates him from humanity. The sounds also look good, but not too many are needed in this issue due to this just being the first issue. However, based on how this issue ends, I’m sure that Crank! will be using more next month. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The characters are the highlight of the issue as the villain and her plot are introduced. Cassie is the big winner, with enough personality to fill a room. Her companion Vlad has some fun moments, too, but Vampirella serves only to provide exposition. I enjoy both characters enough to continue, though I’m hoping the story has the vampire doing more. The visuals, however, were terrific noir pieces that wowed. Overall grade: B+

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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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