Dynamite’s relatively adorable “Li’l Vampi” one-shot includes a main story by writer Eric Trautmann and artist Agnes Garbowska, as well as a strip called “Pantha” that runs along the bottom of each page, also drawn by Garbowska but written by Brandon Jerwa and Orion Jerwa.
The main “Li’l Vampi” story by Trautmann and Garbowska is good fun, with Li’l Vampi setting out to undo mayhem caused by classmate Vlad finding the necrocomicon (a variation on the HP Lovecraft Necronomicon). In Li’l Vampi’s world, the necrocomicon has all the spells visualized as comics, and thus Vlad, who can otherwise barely read, has been able to cause all sorts of trouble by getting his hands on it. Vampi easily defeats Vlad and walks off into the sunset with Adam Van Helsing (still in Octopus form), as they set to put things back to normal. It’s a fun little tale, with a lot of visual treats for Garbowska to draw.
Garbowska’s artwork is the big draw here, as she has an appropriately adorable style and creativity to spare. Her storytelling is strong throughout but it’s at its best when the story lets her get extra cartoonish in her expressions and actions, stepping outside even the comic’s stylized look to make characters look like they’re in a video game, and similar devices.
Interestingly enough, there are even more visuals treats by Garbowska in the “Pantha” story that runs along the bottom quarter of each page, but because it’s relegated to such a small space, some of the visual brilliance is a bit lost. The “Pantha” feature is more of a series of gags focused around Pantha than an actual story, which is probably why the book was structured this way, but it’s still a bit of a missed opportunity, as it’s both not enough room for itself and it makes the main story feel cramped.
Though Garbowska’s work is so strong I wouldn’t have wanted any other artist for either story, putting both stories on the same pages is doubly confusing since they have the same artist. If the “Pantha” stories had a different artist or style, it might have been easier to separate the two. As it is, the special panel border is not enough to keep eyes from drifting into the second story and creating confusion in the first.
Strong work from all parties is unfortunately undermined by bad layout decisions which prevent each of the stories from performing at their highest level. Still, I’d happily ingest more “Li’l Vampi,” especially with cartoonist Garbowska at the helm.