This crossover, ‘Rise of the Vampires,’ was really the tale of two books at very different points in their arc: “I, Vampire” has been a critical success, with beautiful art, complex characters and some interesting guest stars. “Justice League Dark,” despite coming from the more celebrated author, has been a bit of a slow go thus far, with its faux-Vertigo team not really finding its voice just yet. So, the 4 part crossover hopefully gave “I, Vampire” some new readers coming over from the “Dark” side, and maybe some of the “Vamp” magic will rub off on “Dark,” with new writer Jeff Lemire joining up next month.
But is ‘Rise of the Vampires’ worth your time? Hit the jump to find out, but be warned, as there are spoilers in the review.
“Justice League Dark” #8
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Daniel Sampere
The crossover with I, VAMPIRE heats up as Zatanna and Shade stand alone against an army of single-minded vampires, with their most powerful teammates out of the action! Plus: Constantine and Deadman have gone to the ends of the earth and beyond in search of the only two powers who can put a stop to the bloody rise of Cain — but what they bring back will change the face of sorcery forever! To be concluded in this month’s I, VAMPIRE #8!
“I, Vampire” #8
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Andrea Sorreninto
As the Justice League Dark team faces the end of all magic — and perhaps life itself — only one man can challenge the dark force known as Cain: Andrew Bennett. He’s back from the dead, but whose side is he on? Regardless of the answer, nothing will be the same for either series when “Rise of the Vampires” is over!
This crossover has the stink of desperation all over it. This feels like a cheap way to get “I, Vampire” some more readers, and for a big event to transition the team from Milligan’s run to Lemire’s. However, with just a few small exceptions, this four issue crossover works, and manages to accomplish some larger world building with the “Dark” corner of the DCnU as well.
Let’s start with “Justice League Dark” – this issue continues the series’ run of having extremely detailed, almost painted-looking, art. Guest artist Daniel Sampere (who’s work I really enjoyed at the tail end of James Robinson’s “Justice League of America” run) does a nice job of keeping the feel that Mikel Janin has established throughout the book, which is one of beauty among chaos. Sampere also does a good job of incorporating the “I, Vampire” characters into his style without trying too hard to give them the grittier, more gothic look they have in their own book.
This crossover is somewhat of a backdoor pilot for Andrew Bennett joining “Justice League Dark” when Lemire takes over the writing duties. In fact, much of the “JLD” action here seems to be setting the team up for what’s next for them, which appears to be a team under the leadership of John Constantine, not Madade Xanadu. This issue also ends (at least for now) the short return of Shade, the Changing Man to the DCnU. For a character that people have an affinity for, Shade did next to nothing in this series and is already being shown the door. I’m sure he’ll be back at some point, but he was dismissed a little unceremoniously and is the first of the Vertigo players to not work in the integrated universe.
Lemire has promised to integrate this more with the other titles called “Justice League,” and that could be a positive thing. From a branding perspective, I know why this is a Justice League title, but there has been little evidence of why the book should be called this from a storytelling perspective. But the book also hasn’t been the Shadowpact-like team many thought it would be, so it has fallen into a sort of no man’s land of too superheroic for a magic book, and too magical for a superhero book. I don’t know that Lemire will be able to fix this problem, but I have high hopes.Continued below
For their part, the entire “JLD” is pretty useless in this crossover; they basically act as the frontline of defense against Cain (brother of Abel from the book of Genesis, and the original vampire here) and do little else. Constantine and Deadman are quasi-successful in their mission to bring Bennett back from the dead, but only because Xanadu throws a “Hail Mary” pass that actually works, but in doing so, changes the course of Bennett’s character dramatically.
That is perhaps my favorite part of the crossover as a whole: this actually changes both books going forward in substantial ways. The “JLD” is gaining a few members and dropping a few after the events of ‘Rise of the Vampires,’ and “I, Vampire” will be a fundamentally different book going forward, now that Bennett is, apparently, embracing his vampirism in a way he wasn’t earlier. He appears to be reclaiming his role as the “king” of the vampires (in doing so becoming as powerful as Cain), but is planning on using his army in a different way.
This is a really great change for the book – although, to be fair, the book could’ve continued on its current path for another year or so and I don’t think anyone would have minded. Fialkov is doing a great job writing complex characters with mixed motivations, while keeping the action exciting. It is one of the best paced books on the market, and has carved out a nice niche for itself.
Andrea Sorrentino’s art continues to distinguish itself as one of the more stylized but consistent in the realm of monthly comics. His characters’ facial expressions are just as impressive as his vampires turning to dust, and that is saying something, as his gothic style fits the more horrific elements just about as well as you could hope.
The crossover leaves both books in more interesting places than they were a few months ago, and with renewed senses of purpose. “I, Vampire” has been the better book thus far, and so its issues within ‘Rise of the Vampires’ worked better, but “JLD” has kept a steady, if unspectacular, course since the beginning to, and its first arc wrapped up in a relatively satisfying way. I will still be buying both books next month, and I encourage you to as well.
Final Verdict: (‘Rise of the Vampires’ as a whole) 7.8 – Buy