It took me three reads to understand what was happening in this comic book. When I did get it, I liked it. I’m not someone that minds a comic that makes me work for it, but it didn’t have to be this difficult. That said, what’s being done here is more interesting than most of what I’ve read this month by half, so this book shouldn’t be counted out by any stretch.
Let’s start with the problems. While the writing is strong throughout “I, Vampire” #1, the narration captions alternate between our two main characters, and unless you’re reading under the bright fluorescent lights of a supermarket, it’s really difficult to tell Mary’s “pink” captions from Andrew’s “red” captions. Like really hard. I had to turn on all the lights in my house to be sure. To make matters worse, the characters are having a conversation that is both important but also somewhat deliberately confusing. Plus, we flash back and forth in time so that we can hit a good reveal at the end of the book. The reveal is good, as is the storytelling; it’s just slightly too convoluted thanks to things like the narration captions and some of the art. The art and coloring is, while high-impact and beautiful, very confusing for a good portion of the book. The coloring shifts are slightly too subtle to know when you’ve changed to a new scene (flashing backward or forward) on first read and the main character of Mary looks far too similar to another young female vampire in the story.
So what’s great here? First of all, Joshua Hale Fialkov’s writing is lovely. It’s strong, powerful, and beautiful when the story calls for it. The way he lays out the history of these characters thus far, the story we’re heading into, and the stakes for everyone is nuanced and wonderful. It’s the best I’ve seen in the new DCU at tackling all those concerns in a first issue and doing it well, without anything feeling like clunky info dumps. He’s created a pair of powerful protagonists in Andrew and Mary and Fialkov manages to make you feel for them and their battle in just a few short pages. Fialkov has also done a fantastic job of tying this book and vampires in general to the larger DCU in a smart way that could turn out to be fascinating to watch unfold.
The art by Andrea Sorrentino is, as I mentioned, beautiful and high-impact from cover to cover. It’s dark and disturbing but also breathtakingly gorgeous. Vampires changing into wolves, Andrew changing into something much more than that, wolves hunting swans on peaceful water than then morphing into something that flies to carry it away. It’s all stunning.
The colors by Marcelo Maiolo are moody and bold, setting a perfect tone for the book. This looks unlike any other book DC is putting out, and for that I love it all the more. We need more books with dangerous risk-taking art like this one, and with time, I suspect they can work out the remaining issues and have something truly unique and powerful. For now, however, both Sorrentino and Maiolo seem to blame for some of the confusion. Panels that skew too dark and faces that look too similar combine to make things confusing that shouldn’t be. And in the end, that plus the captions really do get in the way of this story.
The good news is that what’s here is excellent and if they can just get some of the storytelling kinks removed (half of that will be just changing the narration caption colors) they’ll be well on their way to a great book, and the surprise hit (for me at least) of the re-launch. I think what I love more than anything is that Fialkov proves definitively that it’s not the concept (what’s more tired that Vampires right now?) but the execution that matters. And his execution is spot on.