Sunday, February 27, 2011

Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves (comics)

Writer: Kevin VanHook
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Collects: Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves #1-6

I can't help but sit here and ponder whether it's even remotely possible to have a more straightforward name than this. I'm not so sure it is. I don't think you can be much blunter about the contents.

There are probably about a million jokes to be made about the name alone, but really, there isn't much point. I was sold from the cover alone, because if a man's not allowed to be even a little excited about the Dark Knight and Superman taking on frickin' vampires and werewolves there's something seriously wrong with the world today. Granted, it's a bit tougher these days, but this book doesn't use the sissy varieties of either like you might find in certain uber popular franchises I could name but won't.

Sure, the names a little bland - they could have come up with a snappier title, for sure - but it's just a wrapper on what's an otherwise fairly enjoyable romp pitting two of our favorite DC heroes against two of horrors most beloved types of monster.

The story starts with a body someone had for a meal tossed off a roof. Now, a half eaten corpse falling from the sky isn't an everyday occurrence, even for Gotham, so naturally Batman knows something's up. Before too long, he crosses paths with a vampire and a werewolf, both of which become uneasy allies with the Dark Knight against a lot of feral vampires and werewolves released by your typical mad doctor type. Superman shows up too and since werewolves are based on magic in this story, he quickly finds himself vulnerable. Then at some point we find that these supernatural creatures are the result of these crazy demon things that look like aliens from a low budget horror flick. Time for some punchin'.

The story feels old school. It's heavily narrated in a way I haven't really seen in a while and maybe a bit over-written. But in that way, it feels like an engaging adventure that might not have been out of place in, say, the 70's, barring loosened standards on blood and such.

Despite my feeling it's a tad over-written, I didn't feel it was to the stories detriment. I felt it gave it mood. It felt like an old fashioned horror comic. Pulpy even. Sometimes you're just over-writing something. Chris Claremonts work tends to have that problem. But there are cases where that might be pertinent; I'd say this is a case that benefits from it.

The artwork is fairly decent, if not always to my taste. The best way to put it is that it's stylized. Exaggerated, even. But it really works for the story. Mandrake's also pretty good at drawing the numerous beasties that come with the territory, which is really essential if you're going to do something like this. Better still, he's able to put those same beasts in a comic with the often brightly colored superheroes and make it work. Tom Mandrake's proved to be another one of those guys who I never heard of before - which is actually happening a bit too much to me lately - and managed to succeed in surprising me.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

It's not going to change how you look at things or challenge your mind, but if you're looking for some superheroics with a supernatural twist, you could do worse than this. There's another story by this creative team called "Batman vs The Undead" and I assume that it's a sequel to this story. I had enough fun to guarantee I'll be back for that.

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