‘BPRD: Vampire’ #1 Is A Beautiful Start, But Thin
On sale this week is B.P.R.D.: Vampire #1, a direct follow-up to B.P.R.D.: 1948, written (with an assist by Mike Mignola) and drawn by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, colored by Dave Stewart, and lettered by Clem Robins. "Is it pretty?" you ask, curious. "Obviously," spits Chris Sims. He's right, though, curmudgeon that he is. This is a remarkably pretty book, which should come as no surprise to people who are familiar with Bá and Moon's work on books like Daytripper or Casanova, their super-spy series with Matt Fraction. B.P.R.D.: Vampire #1 is full of extremely pretty moments, but it doesn't quite work for me as an introductory issue.Vampire #1 is largely a setup issue. We're introduced to the cast, both villains and heroes, given a bit of motivation for everyone, and then sent on our way. It's moody and dark, but feels thin. If I weren't already on the hook for the B.P.R.D. franchise, I'd be left a little perplexed. The vast majority of the dialogue feels like exposition, which makes me feel like this issue is building toward something else rather than being that something else from jump. Which is great for a first chapter of a complete work, but less great for the first issue of a miniseries.
While Vampire lacks a story that makes me eager to go out and grab up every issue I can find and wait impatiently for the ones I can't, it makes up for that lack on the art side of things. It's hard to argue against Moon, Bá, and Stewart as an art team. The cover by Moon alone is pretty great, once you take a closer look. The vampire women only being visible in the blood, the way the blood emanates from the man's feet, and just the fact that he's literally stepping into darkness is great and evocative.
Basically, Vampire is filled with remarkable images. The opening is text-less and feels like a slo-mo pan over a number of dead bodies floating in a river. You see close-ups of their wounds and dresses, but their faces are obscured. The river itself is black stained red by unseen violence. A streak of red through a forest. A monster with a bloody mouth. A man descending down a stairway into the darkness.
My favorite touch comes early on. A character, her dress stained red and her skin deathly pale, drops her hand into the river. The blood on her hands trails off-panel. It's a small moment, but it leapt out at me. I'm used to seeing people attempting to wash blood (and therefore their guilt) away in rivers, lakes, sinks, and rainstorms -- I've read a lot of crime fiction -- but this feels significantly different from those scenes, despite being the same in terms of basic mechanics.
Where the other scenes were defined by their guilt, this one feels like something else. It's so casual and off-hand that it almost feels like appreciation. The woman just wants to see what the blood looks like in the river and dips her fingertips. There's no grief, no stress, nothing but callous curiosity. It's a great way to set the stage for the rest of the book and establish a certain mood overall. Bá, Moon, and Stewart absolutely stick the landing there. I feel like I mention this every time I review a book he colored, but Dave Stewart's approach to blood? It's unbeatable.
B.P.R.D.: Vampire #1 feels like the first chapter of a book, rather than a satisfying chunk in and of itself. I'm very, very familiar with BPRD as a franchise, and the prior work of the creative team, so I'm willing to trust Moon and Bá to deliver something killer over the course of the next four issues. But as a first issue, something intended to set the stage for what's coming and what came before... this is for the lifers, the folks who love the art team, and anyone who doesn't mind checking out something that's beautiful and spooky, but thin.