MORBIUS: BOND OF BLOOD #1/ Script by RALPH MACCHIO/ Art by TOM REILLY/ Colors by CHRIS O’HALLORAN/ Letters by VC’S ARIANA MAHER/ Cover by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOL & ERICK ARCINEIEGA/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Morbius The Living Vampire is notable for several reasons. He was Marvel Comics’ first attempt at a vampire character following the first major revision of the Comics Code Authority rules, which outlawed traditional monsters like vampires and werewolves until 1971. He was also the first Spider-Man villain co-created by a writer other than Stan Lee, having made his first appearance in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man written by Roy Thomas, with art by Gil Kane. He did not stay a villain long, however, and was soon showing up in his own comic books as a Gothic anti-hero.
The latest of these comics, Morbius: Bond of Blood #1, runs the reader through the origins of Dr. Michael Morbius and how his efforts to cure himself of a rare blood disease led to his transformation into a pseudo-vampire and the death of his best friend, Nikos. Cursed with intense bloodlust, Morbius was also granted a small sampling of the powers of a true vampire, including enhanced strength, enhanced speed, limited flight, fast healing and (for some reason) a hypnotic gaze. A noble monster who seeks a cure for his condition, Morbius has resolved to use his powers to target criminals, only drinking the blood of evil-doers and only killing to defend others.
After a flashback explaining Morbius’ background, Ralph Macchio’s story picks back up in modern-day Manhattan, where Morbius is checking up on Nikos’ young son, Christos, who has been hospitalized with an incurable disease of his own. A chance conversation sends Morbius in search of Dr. Calvin Zabo; a former colleague who was close to developing a cure, before he turned himself into a modern-day Mr. Hyde. This leads Morbius to make a devil’s bargain to save the life of the boy he made into an orphan, though he knows it may lead to great evil.
Macchio’s script is a pleasant throwback to the good ol’ days of Marvel; not only in how it takes great care to introduce all its players and not just assume the reader will already know Morbius’ background or just look it up on-line, but in how it paces its action and exposition. The story flow is fantastic and this one-shot stands on its own quite well.
The artwork proves equally impressive. Tom Reilly draws a suitably scary Morbius and keeps pace with Macchio’s story. The inks are suitably dark without being all-consuming. The colors by Chris O’Halloran perfectly set the dreary mood of Morbius’ world and Ariana Maher’s lettering is suitably stylized throughout.
Undoubtedly the intent of this book was to inspire interest in the upcoming Morbius film. While I’m largely indifferent to seeing Jared Leto mincing his way through another comic book movie after Suicide Squad, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Morbius in the comics if his stories were all this well crafted. Horror fans and anti-hero enthusiasts will really be able to sink their teeth into this book.
(I know. I know. At least I didn’t say this is a vampire book that doesn’t suck.)