Dawn / Vampirella #1 (of 6), "Life and Death Rattle"

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Back in the mid-90s, I was picking up Joseph Michael Linsner's Dawn books. I didn't always get the content, but I certainly appreciated the artwork. In years prior, I also snuck peeks at Vampirella (I was too young to be allowed to get caught reading them), also for reasons of artwork as well as the cutting edge mature storylines.

Two great tastes ought to go great together, right?

Let's start with page zero -- the cover. This is classic Linsner. The color tones, the enigmatic smiles, the Lauren Bacall hair flip, the knowing eyes, the clean lines, the unapologetic breast forms. Frame this sucker somewhere, because it's simply gorgeous.

Now, as Bob Seger urges us, turn the page. Inside we find Vampi and Dawn at the end of a mission that finds them preparing to murder an infant found in a crypt, debating on whether it's the right thing to do. How did they get here? And there begins the tale -- of how Vampirella gets tricked and abducted, awakening elsewhere in a room with Dawn already waiting for her. They soon learn that they are expected to duel with each other, with the winner getting the lucky prize of getting to bear the child of the demon in charge of the place.

After borrowing a plot point directly from Scheherazade herself, the ladies find out the true nature of their predicament, setting in motion the events that will, ostensibly, lead toward the near-ending we saw in the book's opening pages.

The unfortunate part is that the dialogue is frequently poor, and you never get a sense of whether Vampirella and Dawn are on the same side. At times they are so simpatico that they're finishing each other's sentences, at others Vampi is following Dawn's orders. They way Dawn speaks is frequently so modern that it's hard to see her as the Earth Mother she was in her original series, and I began wondering if the writer hadn't read Linsner's other works -- until I doubled back and saw the writer was actually Linsner himself. I'd not have guessed that from the interior panels, either as they were more raw than I would have expected. They're still great poses, but they're sometimes more sketchy, less polished, than I've seen Linsner produce in the past.

It's all a bit simplistic, and I'm sure the actual ending is going to be different from the McGuffin we're initially shown (the world of off-panel actions being one of infinite possibilities). If you're jonesing for a long-standing Dawn fix, then you'll want to pick this up. If you're more of a Vampirella fan, she's a bit off-character and shoehorned into the plot for obvious marketability.

3.5 / 5.0