In Review: Vampire State Building #1

A decent premise is undercut by art that appears incorrectly printed.

The covers: There are fifteen covers to find on this opening tale of terror in the iconic American building. The A cover is by Charlie Adlard has a vampire’s pale hand pushing on a door. Blood is on this monster’s digits, with it leaving a smear on the door. To the left the door is partially open and flecks of crimson are flying. Good tease of what’s within this issue. The B is by Inhyuk Lee and has a flash of light capturing the moment when a vampire seizes a male victim by the shoulder and chin to expose his neck. The vampire has a hoodie on, but it can’t hide the pasty face of this undead bloodsucker. The man looks more angry than frightened. There is another vampire to the left and another’s hand rises in the bottom left. Pretty cool. Next up is the C (Black & White & Red) by Adlard. This has a vampire head in the lower right with its left hand reading out on the right side of the illustration. Not enough vampire here. A hard pass. An interesting choice is the D (Infinity Gauntlet Parody) by Guilherme Balbi. This has a vampire holding his closed left fist before him with eight panels around him showing different scenes from this series. It’s a funny take, but I’d rather have a more serious cover. The E (Glow-In-The-Dark Incentive) by Adlard is the A cover with a glowing hand. Meh. Neat gimmick, but not for me. Kelly Williams is the artist of the First Legacy Comics Exclusive Variant. This has the reader looking down a tight exterior shaft that has several vampires climbing up. There’s one creature in the foreground roaring at the reader and raising up a hand. It’s nice, but difficult to see clearly due to the colors. This is foreshadowing something negative about this issue. You’ve got to grab a copy of the Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive Variant by Alan Quah. This is done like a classic Tomb of Dracula cover by Gene Colan. On the roof of the building, a man in a trench coat holds a shiny dagger in each hand, with one poised to be thrown at the silvery vampire that’s holding the unconscious body of a blonde woman. A full moon is behind the creature’s head and the sky is smoky red. This is a must-buy frontpiece. The Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive Variant by Matt Timson has a vampire holding a smiling severed head before him. The head gets the spotlight more so than the monster. It’s okay, but I’m in this for the monsters! The A Place In Space Exclusive Variant by Adlard shows the mural in the foyer. It’s gorgeous in gold and white. Oh, and there’s blood over it that resembles a vampire moving from the left to the right. Clever and cool. A Walking Dead inspired cover is the what the NY Collector Cave Exclusive Variant by Vinz el Tab is all about. A Negan looking man, has his backside to the reader, is turning to show he’s tossing up two shotgun shells. Behind him are several dead vamps he’s killed. Pretty good. The Comic Kingdom of Canada Exclusive Variant by Armando Ramirez is a stunner. I want to read this book! With the Empire State Building in the background, surrounded by a red, cloudy sky and florescent blue clouds.  A mob of vampires look at the reader, some looking more humanoid than others. One creature in the foreground has on a hoodie and raises his hand as it wails. There’s a vampire hanging from a gargoyle in the upper right. Several bats are in the sky. This is spectacular! John Gallagher does the Comic Kingdom of Canada Exclusive Variant which has a dead man on the ground surrounded by blood on a white background. The vampire that killed him emerges from the upper right to rage at the reader. Decent. The Groundbreaking Comics/AA Comics Exclusive Variant is by Craig Rosseau and I really like this. The iconic structure is shown from the point of view of looking up at it. The sky is a dark, burnt red and there’s a full moon in the upper right. Blood is splattered over its windows. Emerging from the left is a giant white vampire head that bares its fangs to reveal blood around its mouth. This is awesome. The Sanctum Sanctorum Exclusive Foil Variant by Lee is the same as the B, but is a foil cover. Meh. The final cover is the Paper Asylum Exclusive Foil Variant by Adlard. It’s the same as the A cover, but is a foil cover. Meh. Overall grades: A B, B A-, C D, D C+, E C, First Legacy Comics Exclusive Variant C+, Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive Variant Quah A+, Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive Variant C+, A Place In Space Exclusive Variant A-, NY Collector Cave Exclusive Variant B+, Comic Kingdom of Canada Exclusive Variant Ramirez A+, Comic Kingdom of Canada Exclusive Variant Gallagher B-, Groundbreaking Comics/AA Comics Exclusive Variant A, Sanctum Sanctorum Exclusive Foil Variant B-, and Paper Asylum Exclusive Foil Variant C+

The story: The book begins with a quick three panel sequence that summarizes the building of the Empire State Building and how it’s currently being renovated by the Green Foundation. A transition moves the story to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor where cousins Terry and Ashley are having a conversation about his possibly going to Afghanistan. She’s tells him it feels like he’s running from something, like following in his father’s footsteps and dying in the same country he did. She then asks if it’s because of his breakup with Mary Dent. Or possibly what went down with Rachel. Before he can answer, their friends show up: Rachel, Gavin, and Will. Writers Ange & Patrick Renault are setting up the typical horror story of friends meeting up, with tension between some of them not revealed to everyone. The group looks at the sunset to ponder the future and the story then moves to the 75th floor where the Green Foundation accidentally unleashes something — vampires! That’s all one needs to know. The vamps run loose, feeding and killing on all who are in their way. It’s a simple premise and it’s fun. Like most horror movies, I have no character to glom on to because I know someone of them will die before the end of this series. And that’s exactly what happens to one of their number in this issue. The highlights of the book aren’t these twenty-somethings discussing their relationships, but the vampires making their way through floors and bystanders. The situation on 20 and 21 wasn’t too much of a surprise, because the characters need a safe space. I was surprised by the arrivals on the next two pages, with the conclusion reached on 23 fitting. The big surprise was on 24, with a character with a very specific title revealed. This is an interesting enough concept for me to return for more. Overall grade: B

The art: Charlie Adlard’s art was the reason I picked this book up. It had been a long time since I had seen his work in color after The Waking Dead’s black and white run, so I wanted to see what Adlard could do. The book looks fine. The setting is obviously key, with the building’s exteriors and interiors needing to look believable to sell the premise. This building does look good. The characters are visually different from one another and also look good. The reveal in the third panel on Page 7 is a good tease of what’s to come. The reveal of the first creature on 12 is a solid surprise as is the action it takes. The next page has several excellent panel layouts, with the pulling back in the final three outstanding. The first panel on 16 is great; I wish it had been larger. The panel that follows it is something not often seen in comics, with a throng of people trying to get out of harm’s way. Very realistic and very cool. The final two panels on the page are cinematic. I don’t know how the body in the sky got to its location in the second panel and the nude man in the next panel was funny, but, again, I’m at a loss to explain why he’s there, let alone is nude. The silent panels on 21 are really good, showing how people would react to such a situation in a quiet, supposedly safe, place. I love the city streets on 22 and 23, with the second panel on the latter excellent. The tease of the final panel on the next page is good, with the final page showing in three panels who the key characters are to be in this saga. Nicely done. There is one major flaw with this book and it’s the size of the illustrations; it seems like this book is printing the art way too small. It’s as if the sizing on the printer is incorrect and the visuals are an inch too small. This could be the layout, but Pages 2 – 6 have such large margins at the top and bottom. I felt as if I was straining to see what was going on in the panels. This book is also colored very darkly, which affected what I could see of the visuals. It was slightly frustrating to read because I felt as if I was being cheated out of the correct format to read this book. I liked what I could see, but the size of the illustrations just seemed off. Overall grade: B-

The colors: As stated in the art review, this is a darkly colored book from Sébastien Gérard. Granted, the book is set at night, so it’s going to be dark, but I was surprised at how dark the interiors were of the building. The beginning has a very effective sunset with the coloring beautiful. I was surprised how dark it is on 6; even with the crew gone for the day, wouldn’t the lights be on for this pair to look at the work that’s done? I did like the supernatural teals for the dust and debris, but, again, it’s really dark. The coloring in the bottom panel on 9 is absolutely spot on — that’s how I remember it looking when I was in that building a few years ago. Why does the fourth panel on 12 have to get dark suddenly? The panels before it and after it are brighter, with the final panel on the page the brightest. The lighting sources are all over the place. It’s really dark in the last panel on 14; so much so, it would probably look better in black and white. It was at this point where I began to wonder if the entire book would be better uncolored. Not because the coloring is so poor, but Gérard isn’t really getting a lot of panels that could use color. If the panels are too dark, the art is lost, as is my interest. If I can’t see what’s going on, why buy this book? Overall grade: C-

The letters: There’s no credit given to a letterer in the credits. The different texts include the Green Foundation’s logo, narration and dialogue (the same font), scene settings, sounds, signage, yells, a telephone recording and a translated language (the same font), and the three word tease for next issue. Because of the small panels, the text is the smallest I’ve seen in any comics in years. It’s small size completely neuters any screams or yells — they look like dialogue because they’re so small. The scene settings are done in a fancy font to mirror the design of text when the building was constructed. It’s difficult to read them because of their coloring. The sounds are good, but are just too tiny, depriving them of any power. Bigger would mean better and more enjoyable. Overall grade: C-

The final line: A decent premise is undercut by art that seems printed incorrectly. The idea is fun, though its delivery is average. The art looks misprinted, being too small, with colors too dark and lettering that’s the smallest of any comic currently published. I’ll go another issue, but if the visuals are just as tiny, I’ll be looking for four colored thrills elsewhere. Overall grade: C+

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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