So maybe I’ve been living under a rock for the last few months because this V-Wars thing is supposedly a pretty big deal and I had no idea. At least, IDW is making a big deal about this; you can check out Jude’s copy/paste of the press release to confirm that the phrase critically acclaimed has already been attached to part of this Vampire Wars project. Unfortunately, my vampire attention span has already been somewhat spent on recent films Vampire Academy (bad-ugh) and Only Lovers Left Alive (good-ugh), and I’m still bleaching knowledge of the Twilight franchise from my brain. So I’m probably not the target audience of this series, but so what?
IDW is presenting readers with an attack on multiple fronts. Writer Jonathon Maberry has already provided a prose novel set in the V-Wars universe, with a second volume available later this year. Monthly comic books, also written by Maberry, started appearing with an issue #0 on Free Comic Book Day. Since then there have been two monthly issues. So far, all three issues each contain about 20 pages of illustrated story, with an additional prose section, which seems to be from the novelization. Finally, a pilot episode has already been ordered for a television series based on this franchise.
The Free Comic Book Day Issue #0 provides a good introduction to the V-Wars world, with a brief overview of the nature of Maberry’s particular interpretation of the vampire archetype. Global Warming has caused melting of polar ice, releasing a long dormant virus into the atmosphere. This virus acts on human junk DNA, activating genes related to symptoms of vampirism. As an added layer of fictional-scientific complexity, the virus manifests differently among different human races, leading to a world where pretty much every version of every vampire from every story will be available for use as a socio-political metaphor
I mean, sure, the blood-drinkers are the most famous of this group, but many vampires attack humans in order to feed off life essence, breath, or sexual essence. A few feed off emotions, others on faith, fidelity, and even knowledge. And quite a few vampires are necrophageous – flesh eaters. -- Luther Swann
Issues #0 and #1 follow Luther Swann, former professor specializing in folklore. He is somehow simultaneously working as a vampire consultant for the US military and as a conscientious objector, espousing his desire for peaceful dialogue as often as the plot permits. Including a character that monologues about the ambiguity and complexities of war will not help the reader come to realize these truths himself. Similarly, having a character constantly lament his lost academic career is not the same thing as “smart writing.”
Fortunately, during issue #1, focus shifts away from Swann onto a mindless action sequence. Issue #2 introduces Lucy Liu lookalike and television news reporter Yuki Nitobe. She has been conspicuously present in the background of earlier issues, but now appears as a main character and a hostage of a vampire terrorist cell. You can tell that she’s in deep trouble and everything is super serious because she’s swearing a lot. She dramatically escapes, uhhh... no, she is cut loose and enjoys a cup of tea with her captors. It just makes NO SENSE!
There is a difference between unexpected and incongruous storytelling. In my opinion, V-Wars does not have characters with comprehensible or consistent behaviors. The dialogue is disconnected from the images. The layouts are overly complex and distracting; in a story with an ensemble cast and a large number of locations, the artist should help the reader identify temporal and physical scene changes.Overall, Maberry and his creative team (art by Alan Robinson, colors by Jay Fotos, and letters by Robbie Robbins) have failed in the transition from prose to sequential art by ignoring the ‘show me’ part of visual storytelling.
The premise of V-Wars feels like something cooked up by a marketing team searching for the next Walking Dead and its execution falls well short of its ambition. Just stay away.