Let me preface this review by saying that I’m all for all-ages books. Anyone who has read my Samurai Jack reviews knows that I think there aren’t enough of them in the market. Getting kids to read comics is important for the industry as a whole, not to mention that it improves literacy in youth. In that vein Dynamite has taken some of it’s more iconic brands and given them the all-ages makeover and thus we have L’il Vampi – the classic Warren Publishing character Vampirella reimagined as a kid-friendly comicbook. But does it transcend it’s pulp origins and forge a potential new corner of the market for Dynamite or is it too much of a gimmick to hold any lasting appeal?
Ok, the elephant in the room. Classically Vampirella is scantily clad in her red sling suit, white collar and black thigh-high boots. A dynamic design, for sure, and surely a mainstay of the fetish scene (not that I’d know anything about that, of course) but is it entirely appropriate to translate this into a Cartoon Network-esque escapade for the younger audience? It brings to mind the fan-made satirical Saturday Morning Watchmen trailer that did the rounds a few years ago. That’s not to say this kind of reinterpretation hasn’t worked in the past – the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise is essentially based on this exact same process – but it seems especially gimmicky given that this is simply a one-shot issue.
If this were an ongoing series from Dynamite then I’d be more likely to give credence to it’s existence but as it stands I can’t help but feel that it serves more as a gag for the long-time fans of Vampirella than as a piece of media in it’s own right.
The writing is solid enough, if nothing to rave bout. The plot makes sense and the structure holds together, introducing the key characters in L’il Vampi’s life. Included at the bottom of each page is a three-panel comedic comic strip centering around Pantha, only this time the character is envisioned as Vampirella’s cute little cat companion. They’re fun enough but the inclusion of one on each page ruins the flow of the main story – I’d rather have seen them collected together at the back of the book rather than sharing page-space with the main attraction. Also included are some word puzzles and spot-the-difference games – the sort-of thing you’d expect in a kids magazine. While the idea to include them lends a level of authenticity to the endeavor it also feels somewhat self-indulgent. In all fairness though I did find myself actually solving the spot-the-difference game (always had a soft spot for them!)
Artistically the story-telling is solid. There’s some nice experimentation involving some Mario-inspired action scenes and it all gets a bit meta around the end of the second act. It conjures to mind the great Mini-Marvels artwork by Chris Giarusso that was in almost every Marvel book circa the early 2000s. The colouring is as vibrant as you’d expect and the linework is sharp. Inking is heavy where it needs to be and gives the book a cool cell-shaded cartoon look – exactly what this sort of book should look like.
Naturally Vampirella has received a massive overhaul to her costume in the transition to all-ages material, covering up her modesty to a level that is palatable given the context but it’s the fact that this is necessary that really speaks to the crux of the problem with this book. While it’s clear that all involved have done their best to create a solid kid-friendly comicbook it struggles to get out from under the hyper-sexed blood-soaked shadow of it’s source material, leaving it’s only place as that of a quirky what-if issue for fans of the main series. Perhaps you won’t have as much of a problem with this one-shot as I did and more power to you if you didn’t but unfortunately I can’t find it within me to give this book a higher score than I did.
The writer of this piece was:
David McIntyre (aka Big Dave)
You can also find David on Facebook