Marvel's Morbius #1 Soars When It Leans Into Bloody Horror

Of the classic antiheroes and horror-tinged figures running around the Marvel Universe, none are more tragically tortured than Morbius, the Living Vampire. Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in 1971's Amazing Spider-Man #101, Michael Morbius appeared as a sympathetic antagonist to the webslinger before channeling his vampiric powers towards good, combating both street-level and supernatural threats while enduring his cursed existence. With the character poised to star in his live-action feature film debut this May, Morbius has received a new comic book series by Vita Ayala and Marcelo Ferreira showcasing the nocturnal defender doing what he does best.

As criminals gather in the seedier parts of Brooklyn, they quickly find themselves stalked by the eponymous vampire, picked off one-by-one to requisitely bloody effect. As he dispenses lethal justice, Morbius contemplates his own tortured history and ravenous nature while potentially launching into a new, terrifying status quo for the character under the promise of a possible, permanent cure to his condition. But as Morbius contemplates his own elusive salvation, he finds that his hopes for recovery could lead to something far worse.

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Ayala knows exactly what has made Morbius such an effective character for nearly fifty years, staging action sequences like a horror movie rather than standard, mainstream superhero fare. And yet, with the darker, more frightening tone and pacing, the expected bloody action is never particularly unsavory or off-putting; this is a comic set in the main Marvel Universe after all. And when Ayala leans into Morbius' conflicted psyche, the operatic agony long associated with the character certainly shines through; all of Morbius' most appealing qualities to readers are on full display here.

However, as with most opening issues, the inevitable exposition providing Morbius' backstory is where this debut issue begins to stumble a bit, throwing off Ayala's carefully paced opening action sequence. Ayala definitely knows the character and what works about Morbius but the sudden musings of the protagonist about his past jarringly pulls the momentum out before ramping things back up towards the end of the issue. Fortunately, most of the issue has Ayala lean into the character's strengths; when the obtrusive exposition does rear its head, it feels obligatorily forced, with Ayala dispensing with it as quickly as possible.

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Ferreira similarly stages the visuals like a horror comic rather than a superhero one, aided in the atmospheric artwork by inker Roberto Poggi and colorist Dono Sánchez-Almara. The art team purposefully leaves much of the more visceral nature of the action to the reader's imagination to great effect, especially as Morbius begins to pick off his victims, often just off-panel and/or obscured in darkness. However, just like with Ayala's scripting, the more the art team reveals of Morbius himself and his flirtation with salvation, the more inconsistent the visuals. When the art team goes full tilt on the monstrous possibilities of the character, fortunately, the more effective the proceedings become.

For longtime Morbius fans or readers curious to what has made the character so popular ahead of his film debut, the new series by Vita Ayala and Marcelo Ferreira offers a fantastic showcase at what makes Michael Morbius work. When leaning into the horror trappings associated with the Living Vampire and his tortured nature, this opening issue really soars but falters slightly when it provides the requisite exposition. Fortunately, all in all, the new series teases an effective exploration into the horror side of the Marvel Universe that is too often neglected or handled with less aplomb as the creative team plays up what has established Morbius as such a fan-favorite antihero for decades.

Morbius #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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