It’s safe to say that Paul Cornell takes the task of rebooting the Vampirella series extremely seriously in what may be one of the weirdest single issues I can recall. This story is intended as a jumping on point for anyone who has ever considered following the character. Don’t expect to get the Vampirella that’s described on Wikipedia or on the back of any collected volume. Vampirella undergoes a lot of changes in Vampirella #1 and there is a lot of potential, but the inconsistent momentum of the story makes it hard to feel satisfied or optimistic about the new direction.
From the first panel it is clear that Cornell wants the reader in his world, not in the past. Though Vampirella is a character with a long history, Cornell wakes her from a seriously long nap and instantly sets her off to investigate her new, strange environment. He does allow for a small nod to the past as Vampirella begins the issue in her classic red sling costume. It’s mostly covered by a tattered and dirty hoodie, but it’s still there.
Later in the issue, Vampirella undergoes a makeover. The new look is modest, yet still revealing–more of a sexy go-go dancing hipster vibe and less of the sexy demon-hunting vampire from another planet vibe. Cornell wants a bold new direction for Vampirella and the changes are very thorough.
The biggest challenge this issue faces is the awkward pace and dialogue. It seems like Cornell wants to let the visuals explain Vampirella’s surroundings, but he still inserts tidbits of dialogue that really just build on the strangeness. At one point, Vampirella is flying around with her bat wings looking down on a vast crowd of eccentrically dress individuals. The visual by itself emphasizes this isn’t a city Vampirella is familiar with, but Cornell adds in dialogue like, “Why is everyone so white? I speak as someone who is, themselves, very white.” It’s such a superfluous detail to focus on when there’s a crowd furries, cosplayers, and clowns, all acting overtly sexual and wholly uninterested in a flying vampire.
The amount of unimportant detail conveyed gets frustrating. Vampirella may be on a quest to find out more about her strange new setting, but her dialogue continually fluctuates between inquisitive to utterly mundane so much that the pace of the story takes on the same fluctuations.
Jimmy Broxton‘s art is interesting throughout Vampirella #1. He clearly understands the science fiction/horror atmosphere of Cornell’s story. The dark gray and purple tones paired with the vibrant red of Vampirella’s new dress makes the reader visualize a kind of “one of these things is not like the other” situation and Vampirella is the thing that doesn’t fit. Toward the end of the issue, Broxton really shows his skills as the focus of the story narrows in on the sexual attitudes displayed throughout the city. Vampirella is confronted and sexually assaulted, which inspires several panels of well-drawn action and a final panel that inspires hope Cornell’s story is going to provide a similar clarity and consistency at some point.
The main problem here is that as a jumping on point for the character, this issue creates more questions than answers. With the numerous unknowns surrounding this entirely new world that Vampirella finds herself in and the graphic nature surrounding the sexual expression of this new world, new readers may quickly lose interest. I think the amount of potential in the story is enough, however, to warrant giving Cornell more time to develop what direction this series is actually going to take.