Vampires are among us, and they’re not living in the shadows. War between man and this new species is inevitable, or so someone on one side or the other says. Those are the two basic premises behind “V-Wars” #1 by Jonathan Maberry and Alan Robinson, and Maberry hurriedly establishes these ideas early on so that he can get on with the story, quickly giving the issue’s central character an origin of sorts before all-out war erupts and secret agendas are hinted at.
There just isn’t much of a story to tell once everything is set up. All of the usual ingredients are used to cook up a somewhat pedestrian story. A double-page splash of an undead mob squaring off against an army of the living is made a bit mundane by arming the vampires with automatic weapons and Molotov cocktails. It’s logical, perhaps, but diminishes the whole uniqueness of the idea; the threat to humanity doesn’t really come across in a sequence that looks like little more than an amped-up gang war.
Some of the characters aren’t all that terribly well-thought out, either; does every modern day war story really need a war-mongering general with an ulterior motive? There’s also the single-minded “reporter” who’s hardly taking a neutral stance and seems more like a sympathizer/activist with a “vampires are people too” message for anyone who will listen. And every good war has to have the team of military specialists with cute macho nicknames who are always introduced all at once.
Maberry’s narrative and dialogue are passable enough, but pick up a couple of pretty big dents along the way with stilted lines like “Can’t remember the last time good intentions saved someone’s life in a firefight. Ask MLK. Ask Gandhi. Hell, ask Jesus.” It would be interesting indeed to ask Jesus how he fared unarmed in a gun battle, but it would be better if Maberry had tightened up the verbiage just a bit.
It would have been better still if Maberry had explored some of the backstory that he glossed over so quickly. This comic doesn’t feel like the first issue of a series; it instead reads like it’s half a dozen issues into the plot, with some hastily compiled summaries of the previous ones thrown in. Maberry posits intriguing ideas about the origin of the vampire plague, but then fast forwards past these to a part of the story where he doesn’t evoke the same kind of intrigue. Maberry does manage to deliver a rather sensationalized surprise early on, and a lower-key one later, but these kinds of highlights aren’t enough to save the rest of the issue.
Robinson has his own share of struggles. He competently lays out the story, but needs to work on fundamentals like facial construction. His vampires show some diversity, but his more extreme creations look derivative; one looks like he escaped from Arkham Asylum, and another looks like he emigrated from an old Jack Davis gag in MAD. He resorts to blown apart hands and faces for shock value, and it even works, but like Maberry’s script, these moments can’t salvage the rest of the comic.
“V-Wars” #1 is a cool enough idea, but it falls drastically short in its execution. The idea alone might be enough to push readers into giving the second issue a try, but the words and pictures won’t.