VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE #6/ Stories by TIM SEELEY, TINI HOWARD & BLAKE HOWARD/ Art by DEVMALYA PRAMANIK & NATHAN GOODEN/ Color Art by ADDISON DUKE/ Letters by ANDWORLD/ Published by VAULT COMICS
Despite being an experienced role-player, I’ve never actually played Vampire The Masquerade. Oh, I know the setting, having bought the rulebook as a baby goth teenager. I dabbled a bit in an on-line multi-user experience game that mashed up the Vampire rules with a number of other urban fantasy settings, including the Immortals of Highlander. I did run a few demo games of the New World of Darkness for the RPG club at my library and my friends. I even did a Let’s Play video series for the now legendary Bloodlines video game. Yet I’ve never played the classic, old-school Vampire The Masquerade, which was recently revamped (no pun intended) into a 5th Edition meant to capture the spirit and setting of the original game.
Vault Comics’ Vampire The Masquerade comic acts as an introduction to the setting of the game: specifically the night afterlife in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. While those who are already familiar with the setting will get more out of the series, total newbies shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into the swing of things, though the comic does make liberal use of the technical terminology from the game world. A trade paperback collecting the first five issues is being released on the same day as Issue #6 and is well-worth reading. Yet this issue is also a good jumping on-point for newcomers.
The main story of Winter’s Teeth centers around Cecily Bain; a vampire who works as a freelance troubleshooter for the older vampires who organize the Twin Cities area. Despite being a lone wolf who likes to play by her own rules, Cecily found herself stepping in to take responsibility for Alejandra “Ali” De Luna; a fledgling seemingly abandoned by the vampire who created her. There’s more to Ali than meets the eye, however, as she possesses a strange talent to resist the mind-control powers of other vampires. There is also evidence, which Cecily didn’t discover until after adopting Ali as her “childe,” that Ali might be a vampire hunter who made the ultimate sacrifice in a bid to infiltrate their world. The action of this issue centers on Cecily as she begins hunting the hunters, looking for other vampire hunters who might know Ali and her plans.
The back-up story, The Anarch Tales, tells the stories of a small group of unaffiliated vampires who were once part of a pack with Cecily. This month’s story focuses on Mitch; a vampire whose gifts give him an affinity for shape-shifting and wilderness survival, who leaves the group to go off to the woods. Unfortunately for Mitch, there are things in the deep wilderness that do not like vampires and are more than capable of fighting back against them…
Both chapters are engaging, with Tim Seely establishing Cecily as a likeable protagonist and doing a good job of explaining most of the details of the VTM setting as Ali questions Cecily. The action is also thrilling, with Cecily getting a good fight scene once she finally attracts the attention of a vampire hunter while being a little too obvious in picking out a meal for herself. Mitch isn’t quite as likeable (particularly if you’ve read the first five issues and know why he went off on his own) but Tini Howard and Blake Howard make his tale equally engaging.
The artwork for both stories is phenomenal. Both Devmalya Pramanik and Nathan Gooden work an amazing level of detail into each panel and, while their styles are different, they both display a similar command of shadow. The color art by Addison Duke created for both stories is fantastic, with muted shades perfectly capturing the feel of a cold winter’s night and the subtle ennui of Cecily’s vampiric existence except in the rare occasions she cuts loose listening to the punk music of her youth. The lettering by Andworld Designs likewise blends into the background for the most part, except for the rare occasions when it is necessary to stand out: a subtle similarity to the vampiric protagonists and their efforts to go unnoticed among humans.
If you’re a Vampire The Masquerade player, you’ll find this comic an enjoyable companion to your own game and may find use for the character sheets and gaming resources the comic also contains. If you’re a comic reader who enjoys urban fantasy and horror, this will be right up your alley. I dare say even if this isn’t your cup of tea, Vampire the Masquerade is so well-executed you may well enjoy it anyway.