In Review: Vampirella/Red Sonja #1

Russia in 1969 is going to get redder with Vampirella and Sonja meeting. 

The covers: Hold on to something: there are thirty-four different covers on this book! Here we go! The A cover is by Terry & Rachel Dodson and has an incredible illustration of Sonja in the foreground letting loose a scream as she pulls her sword into attack position. She has on her iconic silver armor, but also sports a brown tattered cape, brown gloves, and brown pants. Behind her Vampirella begins to levitate with her hands before her as bats fill the sky. Both characters are in a graveyard that is filled with fog. This was the cover I had to pick up and I did. A very trippy cover can be found on the B by Julian Totino Tedesco. The reader is looking up at both characters with Vampirella squatting down and blowing a kiss to the reader. Behind her is Sonja who has a long sword in her right hand and a battleaxe over her shoulder. Bats flit about down low and the entire background is make of hypnotic lines on green and yellow. This could create vertigo, but it really captures a cool 1960’s vibe. Babs Tarr created the C that has Vampirella in her classic red outfit looking upset, as her hands are open with nails ready to claw a victim and her bat wings are out. She’s standing on snowy cliff with a sword in the foreground buried in the powder. Behind her is the ghostly image of Sonja. Is the Hyrkanian really there? Buy this issue and find out! Great look to the characters and the coloring increases the cold. I love this and want to see Tarr doing more! The D by Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire is on a bright yellow cover with the title characters in violet. Sonja is in the foreground wearing a fur cloak, her metal bikini, and holding a sword over her right shoulder. Behind her is Vampirella who smiles as she holds up a clawed hand dripping with blood. Very cool. The E cover is a very interesting combination. On the left is a close-up of Vampirella as she’s flying forward, her bat wings out behind her. She looks to the upper left scanning the sky. Behind her is the illustration from the first cover by Frank Frazetta. The new Vampy illustration is by Drew Moss and Rebecca Nalty. This is a cool mash-up. The same illustration can be found on the 10 Copy Incentive B&W Incentive by Moss. This features his illustration in black and white. I actually like this better than the E cover. Next up is the 20 Copy Incentive “Virgin” Incentive by Romero and Bellaire. This is the same cover as the D, with no text. I also like this one better than the original. The 30 Copy Incentive “Virgin” Incentive by Moss, Nalty, and Frazetta is the same as the E, but with, again, no text. I prefer this without the text. I really like the 40 Copy Incentive B&W Incentive by Romero. This is the D cover in black and white, but Sonja’s sword now goes before the title. This is a great cover. The 50 Copy Incentive B&W Incentive by Terry Dodson features his A cover in black and white. If you liked that cover, you’ll like this. The Blank Authentix cover features only the number and publisher on the left and the title of the book at the top center. This is perfect to get a sketch from an artist or to the get the signatures of the book’s creators. I love this idea for a cover, but it’s not much to look at when blank. The Atlas Signature Edition by the Dodsons features the art from the A cover that slowly disappears at the bottom so that there’s an actual space for a signature. Pretty neat. The Limited Edition Virgin Incentive by the Dodsons is the A cover without text. Yeah, I want this. The Limited Edition Virgin Incentive by Tarr is the C cover without text. I like this better text-less. And I really like the Limited Edition Virgin Incentive by Tedesco that has no text. This deserves to be a poster, print, and/or tee-shirt! The next original cover is the Stadium Comics Exclusive cover by Ed Benes. This has Vampirella in the foreground with a hand out to the reader. Her back is arched to show off her attributes. Behind her is Sonja with a battleaxe in her right hand over her right shoulder. Behind the pair are the remains of a dragon and violet mountains and grounds, with a waterfall on the left. Bats fly behind Vampirella. Benes never disappoints. The grooviest cover of them all is by Ben Oliver for a Scott’s Collectibles Exclusive. This has the vampire wearing her traditional red top, but instead of her wearing her traditional bottoms they become bell bottom slacks. Behind her sitting in a white chair in profile is Sonja. A white television, white plants, and white lights that drop from the ceiling are on a tan circle that’s atop a light blue cover. Kicky cool! The Scott’s Collectibles Exclusive cover by Inhyuk Lee has Sonja in the foreground sitting in a red cushioned high back chair. Her leg is kicked up over a shield. Vampirella is sitting on the right arm of the chair with her head resting on its back. This chair is outside under a full moon that has several bats flying behind a tree limb. Really well done with the heroes’ faces drop dead gorgeous. The Kirby’s Comic Art Exclusive cover by Gerald Parel is a great atmospheric piece. Sonja is in the foreground squatting down, holding a massive sword point down in her right hand. Behind her Vampirella stands with her massive bat wings open. The sky is filled with a huge skull that devours the background. Beautiful and wonderfully moody. A much cuter piece is the Unknown Comics Exclusive cover by Chris Ehnot. This has the pair outside in the daylight. Vampirella sits near a stream holding a skull in her left hand. Sitting on a rock behind her is Sonja, who has a lock of hair caught by the wind. The settings is beautiful and the sky is gorgeous in blue filled with clouds. Nice reflection of sunlight in the water. Kael Ngu also does an Unknown Comics Exclusive. This is a very stylized interpretation of the characters on a white background. Sonja stands cleaning the blood from her sword with a gloved hand. Catching the blood is Vampirella who is sitting on a tombstone. Sonja’s legs are covered in blood and so is Vampirella’s left hand, which is also holding a skull. There are bloody swords planted in the ground on the lower left and blood is everywhere on the ground before the heroes. Neat. The final Unknown Comics Exclusive cover is by Mark Sparacio. This has Vampirella in profile from the right, though her bottom is exposed thoroughly showing she’s in the middle of a turn. Her right hand is in the reader’s face as if beckoning to them. Next to her is Sonja who is in three-quarters view facing the reader. She has a really big sword in her left hand and a really small dagger in her right behind her back. The sword is too big for her to hold that steadily. In fact, Sonja’s body is twisted out of proportion. The pair is on a sky blue background. A really creepy cover is the Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive by Mirka Andolfo. In an open grave that’s filled with blood, Sonja stares blankly at the reader as Vampirella, whose lap she’s sitting on, drinks from her throat. The cool blues of a graveyard on black dominate the background. This is an excellent cover! Comic Kingdom of Canada has an Exclusive cover by Ryan Kincaid. Sonja sits on the left on the side of the massive skull of a horned demon. She raises her sword to the reader in her right hand. On the other side Vampirella stands, holding a small demon skull. This is okay, but Sonja looks to be floating in the air. The Parelel Evren Exclusive cover by Ergûn Gündüz has Sonja in the foreground slicing her sword through the reader, leaving a trail of red in its wake. The Hyrkanian screams as she deals this mortal blow and in the background Vampirella holds her hands high as she witnesses this killing. The background is gray and bats can be seen coming in from the right to partake of the spilled fluids. Very nice. The Comics Elite Exclusive cover by Bill McKay has Vampirella on the left in her red outfit and Sonja on the right wearing her metal bikini, metal shoulder pads, a fur cape, a large leather belt, brown gloves. Both have their hands on their hips and there’s a bright orange background behind them. Simple, but it looks good. Next up is the Comics Elite Exclusive cover by Alfred Trujillo. Sonja is on the left, Vampirella on the right. A monstrous full moon is in the center with a trio of bats in it. The title characters are in an ceiling free structure with several limbs of recently defeated foes at the bottom. Sonja is replacing her sword in the scabbard on her back, while Vampirella has her hands out with her sharp nails ready. I like what I can see of this in the book. Marat Mychaels also does a Comics Elite Exclusive cover and it’s a winner! Sonja is in the foreground, twisted almost completely around to bring her sword down on the reader. An explosion of yellow and orange is at the bottom to indicate the violence she’s just committed. In the background Vampirella is in the sky, before a full moon — naturally, also filled with bats. She raises an arm forward as if condemning the reader to their fate. This is beautiful.The Flying Monkey Comics Exclusive cover by Sean Forney has Sonja on the right and Vampirella on the left with both sitting on a mountain of skulls. Each has a sword in their hands buried in the bones. Behind the pair is a full moon. Nice, but it does look as though their rears are hovering above the skulls and not resting on them. The Stadium Comics Exclusive cover by Benes does the Stadium Comics Exclusive cover which is the same as his previous cover just without any text. Also very nice. Frankie’s Comics/Golden Apple Comics Exclusive cover by Jay Ferguson is very dark with grays dominating. Vampirella is on her knees and with her right hand on her neck and her left reaching behind her to stroke Sonja’s leg since the Hyrakanian is standing behind her. Sonja has her hands on the vampire’s shoulders. Sonja looks at the reader, daring him or her to come closer. The pair are in a forbidding setting of pointed mountains. Nice, but too dark! The FOC Incentive by Drew Chew is also gray, but the illustration is much more easily seen. This features Sonja in her usual outfit, a furry white coat, and leather gloves bearing a shield in her left hand and a long sword in her right. Behind her are several images of skulls of different sizes. Many of the skulls are blurry. This is nice, but only features one of the title characters. The FOC “Virgin” Incentive by Chew is the same image as the previous cover but has no text on it. If you liked the previous cover, you’ll like this. The final cover is the FOC Incentive by Lee which features the same artwork as the Scott’s Collectibles Exclusive cover. It still looks really good! Overall grades: A A+, B A+, C A+, D A+, E B, 10 Copy Incentive A, 20 Copy Incentive A+, 30 Copy Incentive A+, 40 Copy Incentive A+, 50 Copy Incentive A+, Blank Authentix Cover C, Atlas Signature Edition B+, Limited Edition Virgin Incentive A+, Limited Edition Virgin Incentive Tarr A+, Limited Edition Virgin Incentive Tedesco A+, Stadium Comics Exclusive Cover A, Scott’s Collectible’s Exclusive Oliver A+, Scott’s Collectibles Exclusive cover A+, Kirby’s Comic Art Exclusive B+, Unknown Comics Exclusive Ehnot B, Unknown Comics Exclusive Ngu A-, Unknown Comics Exclusive Sparacio C+, Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive A, Comic Kingdom of Canada Exclusive B-, Parelel Evren Exclusive A-, Comics Elite McKay B, Comics Elite Trujillo B-. Comics Elite Mychaels A+, Flying Monkey Comics Exclusive B-, Stadium Comics Exclusive A, Frankie’s Comics/Golden Apple Comics Exclusive B-, FOC Incentive Chew B, FOC “Virgin” Incentive B, and FOC Incentive Lee A+

The story: This was an incredible opening chapter by Jordie Bellaire. It’s 1969 and Vampirella is in Russia. She’s there to learn the truth about the Dyatolov Pass Incident. She attends a news conference on a proposed Russian mission to Mars as an American reporter and asks the speaker about the incident, stating that there are rumors the space program was involved. “They are as you say, rumors,” he begins. “We are scientists and academics. We have no reason to hide anything from our great nation. We certainly have no comment on such gruesome matters, except that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the lost.” His response provokes a smile from Vampirella who thinks, ‘A pretty face and a liar. I can work with that.’ Not getting much from him after the presentation, she decides to meet the locals to see if she can get information. She finds an old man in a bar and she gets a bit of a tale from him until Page 12 when someone interrupts the old man. She doesn’t take this new character seriously until he produces something that takes her by surprise. She decides to investigate this latter man’s claims and takes to the woods. It’s there that she sees something and follows it. What she she finds surprises her. This was a solid story with lots of clues dangled before the reader for the long haul of this series, but it’s the final pages that Bellaire teases something major and delivers wonderfully on the final page. Oh yeah. I’ll be back for more of this! Overall grade: A

The art: I was happy to learn that Drew Moss would be drawing this book because I’ve enjoyed his work on other books, so I was looking forward to seeing what he could do. I was not disappointed. This book is set in the late 60’s in Russia and he’s captured that look exceptionally well. The opening page has Vampirella arriving in an airport and I wholly believe that’s how it would look in Russia at the time. I enjoyed seeing the clues she goes through in her hotel room, with the third panel on Page 3 having something interesting shown. The news conference on 4 and 5 looks great, with peoples’ clothing exceptionally cool looking. What Vampirella is wearing for a necklace is simply fantastic. I love her hair at this conference and the poster behind the speaker is perfectly in line with propaganda at the time. The three middle panels on 7 feature two wonderful close-ups to show how Vampirella thinks and the third panel is such a delicious image. The bar she visits also is great, with that sixth panel on 8 making me snicker every time I look at it. Boris is a great looking character: he looks Russian, drunk, and absolutely in pain. The visuals clearly communicate he’s ready for his world to end. The new character that appears in the bar looks big and buff, but also has the look of someone who’s not the brightest bulb in the box. His actions on 14 confirm this appraisal. Where Vampirella goes next is gorgeous. I love that five pages are devoted to her journey and that how every one of her abilities doesn’t have an easy time in this environment. What she discovers will intrigue the reader as much as it did her. What’s revealed on the final page is outstanding looking. I have to see how Moss continues to interpret this character in the next issue. Overall grade: A

The colors: Rebecca Nalty uses the drab, formal colors of the late 60’s beautifully on the opening page. It’s only when Vampirella appears in the second panel sporting a red turtleneck does any bright color appear. The final panel on the page is a close-up of her and the entire background goes an intense orange that makes what she says incredibly dark. The intense colors continue in her hotel room as she dressed for bed wearing a red nightgown. Her lips are a matching color. I love the whites in the third panel on Page 3 — they look primitive, but they are definitely not. The colors at the press conference are wonderful, from the image behind the speaker to the clothes of the reporters. The progression of colors dimming in the top panel on 7 are terrific. The use of browns in the bar makes the setting primitive and run down, which is exactly what this space is. The location that Vampirella journeys to at the bottom of Page 14 is excellent with different shades of white, gray, and blue. Once again Vampirella stands out in red in this setting. The oranges and reds on the final page are outstanding. I need to see Nalty coloring more books! Overall grade: A

The letters: This issue’s text is by Becca Carey and includes the opening date, narration and dialogue (the same font), transmissions, Russian text, sounds, a yell, the story’s title, and the book’s credits. I love the inside cover that only contains the date. It’s powerful, gets one’s attention, and it’s got a round kick to it like groovy lettering of that time. The narration and dialogue are the same font and are differed by the shape and color of their balloons and boxes. They’re easy to tell apart, but I do with they had been in different fonts. There is a television going while Vampirella is in her room and its text is in italics. This gives it a metallic sound. There is some Russian dialogue from some characters, reaffirming where this story is set. The one yell towards the book’s end stands apart from the dialogue due to its size. The story’s title and credits are on the final page and they look awesome, done in an ancient scrawl. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A fantastic period piece with two characters out of place. I love the time period of this book and the mystery that draws Vampirella to Russia is great. The visuals are excellent, capturing the time and the fantastic elements extremely well. I’m incredibly interested to see where this is going. Russia in 1969 is going to get redder with Vampirella and Sonja meeting. Overall grade: A

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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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