Published on October 27th, 2014 | by Steven Roman
Review: Vampirella: Prelude to Shadows
A demon invades a French convent and seeks to offer a sweet, innocent young nun (who, of course, is totally hot) to Satan as his next bride, and the only one who can stop the ceremony is Vampirella—who must go undercover as a nun before the Devil claims his wife!
This one-shot special (billed on Dynamite’s website as this year’s Vampirella Annual) serves as a prequel tale to the current Vampirella, Volume 2 series, and is written by series scribe Nancy A. Collins (Sunglasses After Dark), with art by Cristhian Crizam Zamora (Arthur: The Legend Continues). Set in the period before the new series and the last, when Vampi was employed by Cestus Dei, the Vatican’s monster-hunting division, this tale reintroduces a one-off character from Vampi’s days at Warren Publishing: Metifa, Satan’s Mistress. How much of a one-off character is Metifa? Her one and only Warren appearance was in a one-page “Vampi’s Feary Tales” strip that ran on the inside front cover of Vampirella #15 (reproduced here for your reading pleasure).
Given how much I’ve been enjoying Collins’s work on the new Vampirella series, I have to admit I was disappointed in Prelude. The notion of Vampi as an undercover nun confronting Lucifer’s girlfriend could have been a fun, over-the-top adventure, but Collins takes the setup all too seriously and (surprisingly) overwrites the story, with characters speaking in blocks of text. And speaking of character, just as I pointed out in my review of Collins’s Vampirella #1, there’s no depth to Vampi’s—she’s just a sarcastic, monster-hunting weapon pointed like a gun by the Vatican at the latest threat. A little more time on Vampi’s character development and a little less time on establishing the piety of nuns would have gone a long way in improving the story.
The art by Zamora, while good, is just a little too stiff and lacking in any interesting layouts—it tells the story, but his “camera work” is firmly rooted to one angle, on ground level. Even when Vampirella sprouts bat wings and flies, we only see her by looking up.
As a bonus feature, the classic b&w Vampi tale “Lurker from the Deep” (from Warren Publishing’s Vampirella #13) is reprinted in full color. Written by comics legend Archie Goodwin (who’s responsible for Vampi’s Lovecraftian mythology) and illustrated by Jose Gonzalez (the gold standard of Vampi artists), it involves Vampi and her best friend, the oft-inebriated magician Pendragon, being hired to perform their stage act—which generally consisted of Pen “magically” transforming Vampi into a bat—on a yacht owned by the mysterious Johnny Triton. But when Johnny decides to show Vampi his personal copy of the Chaos cult bible, The Crimson Chronicles (what, you thought he was gonna show her something else?), Vampi wants nothing more than to get off this hellish Love Boat.
As far as I’m concerned, anything that introduces modern-day Vampi fans to the classic Goodwin/Gonzalez pairings is a good thing, but considering “Lurker” has no connection to the main story, its placement in this annual screams “filler” that’s being used to pad out the comic’s page count. If anything, Dynamite should have reprinted Metifa’s previous appearance, especially since they mention the Warren connection on the comic’s Web page. A missed opportunity, to be sure.
One thing that annoyed me, though, was this: In the introduction to “Lurker,” the editor refers to it as “an apocryphal tale of the Daughter of Drakulon, from a canon long by.” Is Dynamite now saying that the original Vampirella stories published by Warren—the ones they’ve been reprinting in hardcover editions and an Essential volume, the ones that Nancy A. Collins has been using as background for the latest Vampi series—are suddenly non-canon? Because “apocryphal” means “of doubtful authenticity.” It could just be that the editor is unaware of the word’s definition, but it’s a hell of a slipup to make, especially when they’re celebrating Vampi’s 45th anniversary this year.
Bottom line? Vampirella: Prelude to Shadows has decent story and art, but its pre-Volume 2 setting (with its only connection to the current Lady Umbra storyline being a one-page epilogue), its unnecessary reprint of a classic Vampi story, and its $7.99 cover price (!) don’t make it essential reading. But I do really like the cover art by Emanuela Lupacchino. Hey, Dynamite, any chance you could get her to draw a Vampi story at some point?
Vampirella: Prelude to Shadows
Stories by Nancy A. Collins and Archie Goodwin
Art by Cristhian Crizam Zamora and Jose Gonzalez
Cover art by Emanuela Lupacchino
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
48 pages • full-color
On sale now