‘Rise of the Vampires’: Section One

The event of the season is finally upon us, and there’s nary a mutant in sight as I, Vampire and Justice League Dark enter their crossover ‘Rise of the Vampires’. Part one comes in this week’s Justice League Dark, with part two also available this week in I, Vampire. It’s a rather odd shipping schedule, but it does mean we can launch straight into the story and tear halfway through the crossover in a single week. The story is simple – a vampire King, called Cain, has risen and is creating an army of vampires to attack Gotham City. The cast of the two titles unite, intersect with one another a little, and fight a load of vampires. There’s nothing else to the story, particularly, but it does mean each issue can finally get around to doing something fans have been wanting for months.

Justice League Dark kicks off the crossover, as we finally get to see the team forced into working together. Peter Milligan spent a long time slowly building up the creation of the group, and here they finally jump into action and proactively take on a threat. But Milligan is careful not to sacrifice any character in the process, with Constantine and Deadman seemingly the two big personalities on the team, and most dominant forces. Zatanna has yet to really make anything of herself, while Shade’s involvement seems rather perfunctory now we know that he’ll be leaving after the crossover ends. In fact, the imminent arrival of Jeff Lemire to the book means that the issue has a strange, sad feeling to it. Peter Milligan put effort into forming the tone and team, and only gets this one opportunity to throw them into action before he’s being taken off the book. Everything feels a little predetermined for the title, with Constantine’s overshadowing presence looking to be a sad reflection of how things will turn once Lemire is in charge, and makes the character his centre.

Mikel Janin takes a break from the book for two issues, and artists Admira Wijaya and Daniel Sampere manage to do a decent job emulating the art whilst retaining their own style. The action seems genuinely chaotic and riotous, which aids the story no end. Milligan enjoys himself with the dialogue, doesn’t bother much with the idea of creating a surprising story, but focuses on the characters and set-pieces. And frankly, that works fine. Also, Batgirl shows up, unexpectedly, and Milligan shows an unlikely affinity for the character. Curious.

I, Vampire tells the second part of the story, and is an even stronger title. Joshua Hale Fialkov managed to set up the crossover with a crazy twist in last month’s issue, and spends most of his time here exploring the ramifications of that. New readers may be a little confused by lead character Andrew’s current predicament, but Fialkov switches perspective to look at the villain from the previous arc, whose attempt to take over Gotham has now been overshadowed by the new, more powerful villain’s attempt to take over Gotham. Her irritation is gloriously fun, and Fialkov takes every opportunity to throw in some glib one-liners that distance the series in tone from any other vampire story. The Justice League Dark team show up briefly, but here we’re very much dealing with the story of the characters Fialkov has so carefully built up since the relaunch. It’s tempting to say that readers don’t actually need to pick up both titles in order to understand the crossover, but it’s certainly more entertaining if they do.

Also, Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork is absolutely phenomenal. Dark and gothic but scratchy and contemporary, he manages to capture the tone and style of Fialkov’s story with ease, forming one of the New 52’s most in-sync creative teams. Sorrentino’s art is experimental in layout and style, but almost always works for the better. In one of the most fun touches, Batman’s dark cape means he is barely distinguishable from the marauding mass of vampires, and truly becomes a dark knight. I, Vampire is such an incredibly underrated book at the moment, and we can only hope that this crossover provides the series with the boost in readership that it needs. The creative team have really gone for broke with the book, and the energy both titles throw into the crossover is utterly infectious. We’re only halfway through Rise of the Vampires, but it’s already looking to be a great success.


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