I love the idea of DC’s “National Comics” with its spotlight on underused and smaller side characters. Unfortunately, one-shots, even with a longer page count, are incredibly difficult to pull off and sadly, Ian Edginton and Mike S. Miller’s “National Comics: Looker #1” doesn’t succeed in its mission.
Considering the market saturation, perhaps the only thing harder to pull off than a satisfying one-shot these days is an interesting vampire story. It’s absolutely possible — just look at Vertigo’s “The New Deadwardians,” DC’s “I, Vampire,” Vertigo’s “American Vampire,” and even Marvel’s “Wolverine and Jubilee” mini-series. Regrettably, with a few minor exceptions, Edginton’s “Looker” falls into all the old seen-it-before cliches without bringing anything sufficiently new to the table. It’s particularly unfortunate because the idea of a supermodel that can no longer be a supermodel since she can no longer be captured on film, is a fun idea, but except in long expositional narration this isn’t really explored. Instead what we get is a standard, “this is how I became a vampire” (i.e. I got bitten and swallowed some blood) and then a typical vampire that kills, but “only the bad guys”, saves the girl, kills the monster. The end.
I think what frustrated me most here was that Looker herself is a compelling character. She’s not a typical hero even beyond the vampire thing because she’s vain and selfish and more than a little bitchy. That can be a great doorway to showing a flawed but complex character but there’s not enough here and she ends up just feeling uneven. We never quite get a feel for who she is, or who she wants to be. There’s a hint at a possibly interesting love story, but there’s no page-time for it to go anywhere and so it, like many parts of “Looker,” it just ends up feeling unfinished.
The art, in general, is extremely pretty. Miller tries his best to get some good character acting on the page and his “monster” has a fun design. The art is bit inconsistent — thin in details in some places while luxurious and rich in others. Miller’s backgrounds are definitely on the skimpy side and since the art is very cleaned lined with digital coloring, the bare backgrounds make the book feel rushed and missing some layers that would add depth. But Miller draws a beautiful Looker and on the whole the art is fun with a good energy.
The biggest problem with the book however is a more practical one, and it’s not easy to tell if it’s a writing or an art problem, or a combination of both. “Looker” has a handful of rather bizarre storytelling gaps — like how Looker goes from dead on a beautiful grassy knoll under a tree to being resurrected in a dump. There’s no explanation and it’s simply too much of a leap to leave to the gutters. A page later we arbitrarily switch from Looker’s first person narration to third person narration, and then immediately back again. Perhaps the latter was just an error, but it’s a jarring one that yanks a reader right out of the story.
There’s certainly a market for hot female vampire anti-heroes (Vampirella’s series springs to mind instantly) but you need a better and more consistent book than “National Comics: Looker.” There’s simply not enough greatness or intrigue here to compel a reader to come back for more.