Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Booknote: Vamps

Elaine Lee, Vamps. New York: Vertigo Comics, 1994. ISBN: 1-56389-220-0.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: horror, vampires, road trips, motorcycles
Format: trade paperback
Source: I bought this one at Half Price Books 

This is the story of five Harley riding female vampires on a road trip from North Carolina to New York. As the story opens, they have killed their sire, a big sin for any vampire, and they are now discovering their new life of freedom. Or so they think. Led by Howler, Screech, Whipsnake, Skeeter, and Mink, are hot and alluring, feeding on the men they find along the way. However, Howler still has a part of the past tugging at her, a child that the courts took away unjustly, and she wants her revenge. Will her quest for vengeance ruin their new found freedom?

The volume collects the six issues of this comic book series. The volume also includes a small cover gallery, and an afterword by the author where she puts the comic in context. In the afterword, she writes how she got all kinds of mail and e-mail from readers. Some of it was positive; others were negative. Some folks loved the empowered, strong female vampires who took life in their hands. Some saw them as feminist heroes. Some hated them as feminist man haters. I will let readers decide how to label the comic if they must. While the comic does have the potential to turn into a feminist preaching piece, almost like a Thelma and Louise stereotype without the tragic ending of that film, in the end, I think it is a pretty good vampire tale from the point of view of newly liberated vampire brides. You do not get to see that point of view everyday, so the author is certainly exploring new ground, and she does so in a comic that combines good elements of traditional vampire lore with horror. These ladies are not cuddly or emo vampires; they are blood thirsty women hitting the road and feeding along the way leaving a trail of destruction.

Therein lie some of the issues I had with the comic, which is why I do not rate it higher. The ladies are very sloppy as vampires. In killing their sire, they do not fully kill him. Let's be honest, a good bonfire would have taken care of the bastard for good. The guy gets buried instead, albeit with his body parts spread in different graves, but you know he will come back somehow, and he does. Then they leave just enough clues for cops and a very dogged P.I. to come after them. Now this issue could be a good thing in conveying that the ladies are relatively new vampires and still learning the ropes, but even that, well, over time, their common sense does not get any better other than they figure out they maybe should not feed on other bikers and mechanics because those guys can be helpful. And then there was the plot where the P.I.'s assistant was the twin sister of Howler, and they sisters share some bond, and sister will be the one who will eventually care for the child when they find it, dumping the P.I. she allegedly loved before Howler showed up. It had a touch of contrivance and soap opera. Like the author needed something to make the somewhat happy ending for the child work and still allow Howler to go free as someone else could care for her child. In the end, until Howler is able to let go of her human past, the vamps are not truly free. It is when she finally settles her affairs that they are able to ride on once and for all.

Overall, this is a pretty decent vampire tale and comic. It draws on some traditional elements of vampire myth, and it makes for a good horror piece. The comic has a good pace, and the art is done very well for its time. This is a comic of the 1990s, and it shows a bit of age in the art, but it is still good overall. If you are looking for a decent vampire tale, and you want something different from the usual, this is one to pick up. I have noted my issues with it, but I still think it is worth reading

For libraries, this would be a comic for adults. The comic does feature violence, which is a given in the genre, but it also features various sexual situations. If a library already has a good selection of horror comics, this would fit in nicely.

In the end, I liked it, but the issues I outlined kept me from liking it more. I am still glad I bought it as it was a good read overall.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

No comments: