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Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #1

Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 15, 2008

Cover date: December 2008

"Seize the Night!"

Writer: Kevin VanHook
Penciller: Tom Mandrake
Inker: Tom Mandrake

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

At night in Gotham City, a dead man is hurled from a rooftop; his body partially eaten by his attacker! From a distance, a creature can be seen on the rooftop, but is gone immediately. Batman arrives in the alley to investigate, and questions one Marius Dimeter, who is on the scene. Marius is clearly not the "simple tourist" he claims to be; and Batman is quite suspicious. When Batman attempts to detain Dimeter for police questioning, Dimeter reveals occult powers by "melting" into the wall and vanishing. For once, the Dark Knight Detective is actually taken by surprise!

Elsewhere, a young woman has been working late at the office and walks tentatively in the dimly lit parking lot towards her car. She almost makes it to safety! A gruesome-looking vampire strikes suddenly as she is attempting to climb into her vehicle. He bites her neck hungrily and draws blood. His attack is swift and deadly. Her final thought is that she should have parked closer to the building as her mother always told her. Then death claims her.

Wonder Woman arrives to confront the monster, who is tantalized at the prospect of drinking her blood as well. Wonder Woman's response is swift and aggressive; but somehow the vampire is amazingly able to draw some blood from her wrist despite the protection of her indestructible bracelet. Wonder Woman quickly retaliates; subduing the beast and wrapping him in her golden lasso, to use its magic powers and reveal the truth. When it is revealed that this is a man who was once fully human, and is now instead a hideous vampire, Wonder Woman is incredulous.

In the Batcave, the World's Greatest Detective is examining the body of the man thrown from the roof, for clues. When Alfred Pennyworth arrives to offer Batman a meal he has prepared, Batman fills him in on the details of his ongoing investigation. Alfred receives the horrific details with interest and a certain aplomb; being truly accustomed to the often morbid nature of Bruce's work.

Later that night, in Gotham Park, Marius Dimeter confronts a werewolf who he clearly knows. They engage in a dialogue about whether it was wise to allow Batman to become involved in their affairs. They mention a "professor" who they are looking for.

Batman, following the trail from where he last saw the rooftop creature, confronts Doctor Herbert Combs; a man who claims his innocence, but clearly knows more than he is letting on. After Batman leaves, we follow Combs downstairs to his office basement, and discover what he is hiding: a roomful of ghoulish creatures, many of them attached to IVs. It appears that these creatures are captive and under the control and care of Dr. Combs. The doctor exclaims that soon it will be too late for Batman to intervene.

5Story - 5: Let me begin by admitting that I am generally not a fan of the Horror genre. I avoid Vampire novels and movies. Movies designed to make me scream are not my cup of tea. I am not a big fan of Halloween. You get the idea.

However, I am of course a HUGE fan of Superman & Batman; especially when they are teamed up together. I decided I could enjoy most any genre if these two heroes are featured. In fact, I imagined that vampires and werewolves might pose a special challenge for our heroes. So it was with great interest that I sat down to read the first issue of this 6-part series.

Author Kevin VanHook is both a film-maker as well as a comic book writer. He is no stranger to the Horror genre. His list of movie credits includes writing and directing the films "Frost: Portrait of a Vampire" and "Voodoo Moon", among others. So clearly he is in his element here. However, to my knowledge, he has never written Superman or Batman.

So now VanHook gets the singular opportunity to take these two iconic DC superheroes, and immerse them in the world of sinister, supernatural creatures of the night; a world VanHook is so familiar with. By his own admission (on his personal web site), VanHook is thrilled at the prospect.

So how did he do? For my money, he succeeded admirably. This issue really delivers! This story is nicely crafted and well-paced. Like any good story, details revealed in each scene lead logically to the scenes that follow. The mystery is unraveling at a methodical pace.

VanHook succeeded in making this story enthralling enough that a relatively "vampire-averse" reader like me was drawn in and captivated.

There is a ghoulish tone throughout this book. VanHook paints a picture of a dark and sinister world of the occult, and then superimposes our favorite heroes. I found this unique juxtaposition of the horror genre and the superhero genre to be the special appeal of this book.

However, be warned! There is more gore than I have seen before in a Superman comic book. This book is not for the squeamish. (And, at times, neither is this review.)

Since he is new to writing Superman & Batman, my litmus test was to see if VanHook displays a keen knowledge of the DC heroes; and if he portrays them in a manner consistent with their legacy. He does! Batman's detective skills are showcased extensively. Batman's personality is accurately depicted. He is direct, assertive, and commanding; almost rude when confronting a potential witness or suspect. Alfred is perfectly portrayed as professional and unflappable while watching Batman examine and dissect the cadaver he has brought home. Wonder Woman is accurately portrayed as aggressive, determined, decisive, powerful, yet compassionate towards a helpless victim of foul play.

I enjoyed the dark humor during the scene when Alfred's dry wit is on display. While Batman is divulging the most grizzly aspects of his examination of the bloody and masticated cadaver, Alfred dryly and matter-of-factly chimes in with details of the lasagna he has prepared for Batman with "just a touch of fennel to the sauce". Or when Alfred is attempting to set down the tray of food, and proclaims "I had hoped to find a spot without a portion of the dead gentleman on it, Master Bruce." Despite myself, I laughed heartily at that scene. When was the last time a comic book made me laugh out loud?

The final splash page promises that next issue, the Man of Steel will join the fight!

So far, this series is off to a promising start!

5Art - 5: There is a macabre quality to Tom Mandrake's artwork that sets a chilling tone for this book. His gothic style serves this particular story very well!

Things start out interesting immediately on the page 1 splash; as we see a close up of the victim falling from the roof, his bone protruding glaringly from his left arm; his entrails partially exposed due to the work of his attacker. As stated above, this is more gore than I am accustomed to. And yet, it succeeds in setting a very grizzly tone to the book.

In the scene where the woman is attacked leaving her office, the first panel showing the glow of street lights and the shadows on a semi-lit parking lot at night is very effective. The lights look so real, I almost had to check to see if my comic book came with batteries! Kudos to the colorist Nathan Eyring, whose handiwork certainly contributed to this effect. Similarly, on the splash page where Wonder Woman first appears, the bright colors of her costume make a stark contrast to the subdued gray and blackish-green tones for the monster and his surroundings, causing a nice effect.

Mandrake shows a creative use of perspective at times. I like the splash page where we watch Batman at a distance working in the Batcave; seen through the jaws of the well-known Tyrannosaurus Rex trophy, which we see close up in the foreground. A similar graphical trick is used effectively, later in the book, when we see Batman at a distance; looking through a spider web in the foreground. Inventive techniques like this add richness to the book.

5Cover Art - 5: Superman and Batman are arriving, and are observed by a monstrous creature who is half vampire and half werewolf. Blood is dripping everywhere. This grizzly cover of course is not a depiction of an actual scene in the book. Rather it is a symbolic cover that captures the tone and essence of what lies inside. It is eye-catching and effective. I like it.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2008

February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008

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