Despite being fairly well read, I must confess to knowing little about Vampirella as a character and caring to know even less. My previous experience was limited to having seen some rather provocative covers and the 1996 movie, which was so bad that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would not dare touch it. I thought she existed primarily to provide pornography for those youths too honest to shoplift nudie-mags.
The truth is more complicated. While the years have not been kind to Vampirella in regards to the quality of story and artwork her name has become synonymous with, her pedigree is one of the richest in American comics history. Created by artist Trina Robbins and writer Forrest J. Ackerman, Vampirella was originally designed as a hostess for one of Warren Publishing’s horror anthology comics. Unlike most host characters, however, Vampirella also starred in her own adventures which quickly came to dominate the magazine.
Luminaries such as Frank Frazetta, Archie Goodwin and Nancy Collins have had a hand in working on Vampirella. Over the years they developed a mythology so complex and inherently contradictory that Vampirella could give the likes of Hawkman or Donna Troy a run for their money!
Thankfully, Vampirella #0 avoids any kind of complicated backstory. Indeed, it almost entirely avoids having any backstory at all! Writer Paul Cornell adopts the same tactic used by Gail Simone in her Red Sonja run and the Legends of Red Sonja mini-series. All the past stories are vaguely referred to as legends rather than history, leaving the reader able to accept this story as being part of whatever past continuity pleases them.
The action of the comic is brief, focusing upon three unfortunates in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They are fleeing something, seeking Vampirella’s tomb. Who they are and what they are fighting is ultimately unimportant. They are merely a means to an end, establishing that quite a bit of time has passed since Vampirella was last seen and bringing about her resurrection in this brave new world.
The artwork by Jimmy Broxton masterfully evokes the feeling of the classic horror comics from which Vampirella originally sprung. There is a dark aesthetic to Broxton’s work yet there is a remarkable and rare sense of clarity to his work as well. The original pencils are never overshadowed by the inks. The colors are subtly muted, implying the death and decay of the world even before we see the dusty depths of Vampirella’s tomb.
Fans of Cornell and Broxton’s previous work on Knight and Squire will find Vampirella of comparable quality, though there is little humor in the same vein as that book. (No pun intended!) Those like myself who are new to the world of Vampirella will find this book to be a gripping introduction. The whole affair is easily accessible to new readers, quite reasonably priced for a print copy at your local comic shop and available for free on Comixology for those who don’t have a local comic shop.