Comics: Vampirella: The Dynamite Years Omnibus Volume 4 - Reviewed

In this omnibus, Dynamite collects 3 mini-series and  a one-shot story from everyone’s favorite scantily clad vampire girl, Vampirella- or Vampi, for short.  These stories were originally printed in 2015 except for the one-shot, which was printed in 1997.  This collection is not for someone who would want an introduction to the character, and I would suggest that comic book readers probably start at least with the Volume 1 of this collection to get more of an idea of this long-lasting and storied character, if they are unfamiliar.

The first story, Scarlet Legion, written by Joe Harris, is about a group of religious fanatics, some Lovecraftian cultists, and a dopey hacker who are all after Vampirella. She is the key to awakening CHAOS, a secret God.  

This comic has a lot of groups of people standing around talking.  The dialogue is hard to follow, and the art, by Jose Malaga doesn’t help illustrate the plot well enough to hold my interest.  The covers by Billy Tucci are cute and sexy pinups, but the Vampi portrayed within the book has none of the sass in personality nor appearance within in the book.

A scene that sticks out as being especially annoying is the scene where the main characters go to an underground sex club.  The interior of the club is shown, and it is people in non-detailed masks standing around fully clothed in a brightly lit room. The characters behave scandalized over some tame stuff.

You might be asking, “What does this actually have to do with an alien vampire girl?” Nothing, really.  There was not enough vampirism or blood. It is mentioned a couple of times that she craves blood, but this story did not have to have Vampirella in it. It could have been anyone.

The title of the next tale, Vampirella vs. Dracula, also written by Joe Harris, gave me high hopes.  After reading the first story, I craved something fun, and a little campier.  I was disappointed because this seemed to be almost the same exact story as the previous yet framed in the legend of Dracula.
Jack Halloran is swept from place to place, time to time, only he’s really Jonathan Harker.  The Order of the Wolf controls the narrative of Dracula, but in real life, making the same souls repeat versions of the story over and over again.  Somehow, Vampi is the key to ending this, and they seek her so that she may take Dracula’s place.  Meanwhile, Jack is running around, confused as to who he is, Jack or Jon, and who his fiancĂ© is, Mia or Mina, and what time he belongs in.

Each page throws the reader into another era-either in present day New York, some wild west time and place, or 1462 Transylvania.  Though I didn’t find the art by Ivan Rodriguez to be in my own taste, it at least made sense, and though the plot itself was confusing, I was never confused about action, or where they were supposed to be.  Again, like in the previous story in the underground sex club, the opportunity for some over the top art was lost. The covers are exceptional- as is most art by the incomparable Joseph Michael Linser.  His character design is always flawless, with flowing hair, muscular curvaceous women, and intricate and fascinating backgrounds, full of cool looking skulls.
The singular one-shot of the collection, The New European, written by Alan Moore was originally printed in Vampirella/Dracula: The Centennial 1997, and perplexingly does NOT include the titular character of this omnibus. Not only that, but the tale seems phoned in by otherwise masterful Alan Moore.

The cover drawn by Gary Frank is a beautiful pinup with the ominous glowing eyed silhouette of what one may assume is Dracula in the background, but again, don’t judge a comic book by its pretty cover!  Like with the previous story (which obviously draws inspiration from this tale) somehow the Dracula story is bleeding into a present-day real-life man named Jack Halloran and his fiancĂ© Mia. Moore’s story is a cynical read of how jaded he thought Generation-X and the 1990s had become.  The sentiment comes across as corny over twenty years later.  

In the fourth and final mini-series in this omnibus, The Red Room, written by Dan Brereton, is finally, a story that stars Vampirella. They saved the best for last. While hunting a vampire, Vampirella finds herself in an Arkansas town, teamed up with ex-sheriff Shooter Burr as they uncover The Red Room, an underground fight club where men fight monsters, and the losers are fed to nasty wyrm creatures held at a nearby farm. Together, they try to save a local cheerleader from being seduced by the evil there.

Jean Diaz’s artwork, including a panel where Vampirella rips another vampire’s arms off, succeeds in showing an adequate amount of graphic violence one would expect in a comic like this. This series is a quick and fun read. The covers, also by Dan Brereton, feature his unique art style that is both creepily unsettling but sexy at the same time. 

The omnibus also includes a cover gallery with all original and variant covers, with all the artists mentioned, plus more.  All in all, the highlights of this book are the cover and the final mini-series.  This book is for the Vampirella mega-fans, and the completionists. For someone who is curious about the character Vampirella, I would suggest checking out the newly published collections from Vampi’s time with Warren Publishing in the '70s. 

--Mara Powell