Oh! A guest star already!
Something that struck me about this comic: does anybody reading it actually find it romantic? Because I think it could be a really good story if given time, pages, and scope. The first issue was done well in setting up the story. But the second issue just beats you over the head and about the face with the fact that these two vampires truly love each other. Dropping comic book page counts down to twenty is really hurting the ability of a story to grow organically. And something else that exacerbates the page count problem is the reliance on page width panels and too many splash pages. A slow moving story is fine if there is a story to tell. And I think this is the perfect book for something like that. It's doing a fairly decent job but it isn't romantic at all. It's telling me it's romantic. But it isn't. The first issue can set that up but don't rely on the reader's memory to keep the romantic momentum going.
So the first issue was done well. The second issue was just a retelling of the first issue with a little more antagonism between the main couple. And the third issue was all about introducing Andrew's sidekicks. The third issue felt a bit like the author saying, "Oh, yeah, readers familiar with Andrew will remember he had these sidekicks so lets just get them introduced and out of the way as quickly as possible." Lucky for him, he's got the Vampnotizing to move that along. And now, Issue Four with John Constantine! Because that's what this book needs! A story that focuses on an outside character. I wager Constantine will reveal some profound things to Andrew in the course of this issue!
I'll break this story down across pages and see how it moves and what the reader is getting for his $3.
Page one, five page-width panels. This amount is above average. But the way the characters are placed and the way each speaks, these could have been half-page panels and added a sixth into batch. You get wasted space in the panels mostly for the sake of the picture looking like a movie screen. It doesn't bother me since many of them look good this way and it opens a scene up. But they don't have to be standard like they've become. Mix it up a bit, bitches!
On page one, the new group is getting ready for bed at a motel along the road to Gotham. The conversation establishes that Andrew doesn't eat people and shows that Tig has been told this but she still seems skeptical. Andrew is going out to eat while they sleep.
Page Two and Three, title page (In Between Days) with four tiny panels and a double page splash. No reason this needs to be two pages. The majority of the scene is Andrew as a giant bat with the moon behind him. It sets a sombre tone and shows he can become a bat. It works but it wastes one full page of story. It's these needless double splash pages that really irk me. I guess I'm just a cheap bastard who wants more story for my dollars (I wanted to just say 'dollas' but it looks too much like a typo against the rest of my text and tone.)
Page Four, five page-width panels. Andrew encounters a man digging through medical waste. I could argue that it could have fit a couple side by side panels in here but I think it works fine as it is. The comic doesn't have to be crowded either.
Page Five, five page-width panels. Andrew talks with the manpire as they drink thrown out sacks of blood. They discuss the hunger and the pull of the power inside of them. Another page that works.
Page Six, five page-width panels. Andrew shows the guy how to become a Werewolf. It works. The five page-width panel pages seem to work just as well as say a six panel page with the panels side by side. Although Giffen at his best would just do the Brady Bunch nine box style! But nobody is expecting that throughout a full comic. Not if they want to see anything but speech bubbles and talking heads.
Page Seven, four page-width panels (more or less). Steve the Manpire turns into a werewolf. Andrew says, "You have the willpower to do that. You have the willpower to do anything. ... We're not animals and we don't have to act like them." I'm actually surprised they didn't go full page with the guy's transformation! The creative team is showing some restraint here!
Page Eight, five page-width panels. Steve the Manpirewolf goes on a mini-rampage now filled with the power lust. Way to go, Andrew Bennett! You basically just gave a howitzer to a ten year old.
Page Nine, five page-width panels. Scene shifts to Constantine in an American bar trying to smoke a cigarette.
Page Ten, four page-width panels. Constantine steps outside to smoke and notices vampire mist in the air. Then Steve as a man pushes past him into the bar.
Page Eleven, four page-width panels. Constantine smoking his cigarette as the reader sees Steve turns into Stevewolf through the window of the bar. Someone blasts him with a shotgun and all hell is breaking loose before Constantine notices.
Page Twelve and Thirteen. Double page splash page. Three small panels across bottom. Oh, the crew was using restraint because this scene of Steve transformed needed two full pages for maximum effect! It doesn't. But it's typical. Constantine walks in and casually lets Steve know that Steve is in for a major ass kicking.
Page Fourteen, six page-width panels. Constantine turns Stevewolf back into Steve and then picks up the shotgun.
Page Fifteen, four page-width panels. Constantine is about to blow Steve's head off when Andrew unmists and says that he can't let Constantine do that.
Page Sixteen, five page-width panels. Constantine is shocked at Andrew's power (since the little bit of sun Constantine made that took out Steve seems to have no effect on Andrew) and Andrew mists up John's nose and knocks him out. Steve is thankful.
Page Seventeen, five page-height panels. Andrew apologizes for showing Steve his power.
Page Eighteen, three page-height panels and a tiny box. Steve begs for mercy saying he has a wife and daughter out there. He wants Andrew to tell them he was a good man and to give them a coin or something. I might be able to tell what Steve was holding if the comic had any color at all. Then Andrew cuts Tig's dad's head off.
Page Nineteen, six page-width panels. Constantine lights up another cigarette and sizes Andrew up. Andrew warns John that a vampire war is coming and these vampires won't be stopped as easily as Steve was stopped. Then John mutters what we've all been thinking ever since Lestat moved to New Orleans.
Although I'll take Lestat over Edward 365 and 1/4 days of the year.
Page Twenty, basically five page-width panels. Andrew looks at the object given to him by Steve. It's a locket. He opens it up and it's a picture of a baby girl and the inscription, 'My Beloved Tig'. So, yeah, that might be a problem later. Because Andrew probably won't tell her but he'll keep the locket only to be found by Tig at some later date so that Tig can turn on Andrew and blame him for everything that ever went wrong in her life ever! You know, because Andrew is basically Tig's father now.
This comic had steady pacing and used most of its 20 pages well. Andrew's bat transformation and Steve's wolf transformation didn't need to be two full pages each. But the story that needed to be told was told so if the creative team has a few extra pages to fill, I guess it doesn't hurt. But two two page splash pages is just a bit ridiculous. Seriously! It's not like Jim Lee is doing the art on this book!
Overall, I, Vampire, is shaping up to be a decent book heavy on cliche and already been done story elements. But that's just the type of story that can shine if Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer) and Andrea Sorrentino (artist) can manage a new spin somewhere along the way. If this book can bring the emotion without constantly telling the reader how to feel, it'll be a great book. I'm a bit like Tig on this one though: skeptical.