Graphic Novel Review – I, Vampire Vol. 1: Tainted Love by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino

DC Comics has been rebooting all of their old comic titles so that new readers can get into the series they might have missed. It’s an ingenious idea because the amount of plot in a comic series can be difficult to traverse, and it’s often overwhelming to begin right in the middle of important action. I, Vampire is one of those reboots, and this volume collects issues 1-6 of the series, aptly subtitling them Tainted Love. I, Vampire has never been the most important of DC Comics, nor has it had the biggest fanbase, but even so, the reboot helps to get a new generation of readers (some growing up with vampires as a common story trope) into comics again.

The idea of I, Vampire is familiar – there’s an evil vampire named Mary who wants to take over the world, exterminating humanity. There’s also a good vampire named Andrew who wants to save the world and stop Mary’s takeover. It sounds like Blade, it sounds like Buffy with good vampires, and the idea itself is somewhat generic. But I, Vampire is not meant to work on such a base level – Joshua Hale Fialkov writes with a more emotional bent in mind, keeping the relationship between the two feuding vampires at the forefront.

In some ways, the conflict between Andrew and Mary plays out entirely too obviously, a contrite way to make I, Vampire‘s plot seem important. The first issue of this series throws all of this exposition at us right from the start in a melodramatic way, complete with a nighttime discussion about vampires and their role in the world under a starry sky. There’s not much to take from this except for what Fialkov (and Andrew) tell us about what is happening to the world, and there’s little room for exploring more hidden or nuanced themes. It’s told like it is, and we progress from there.

But I, Vampire gets pretty interesting when it combines other characters from the DC universe. John Constantine shows up, albeit only for a couple of panels, and Batman seems to play a bigger role in this whole vampire apocalypse since much of Tainted Love is set in Gotham City. While the plot of I, Vampire is a bit lackluster, using preestablished DC characters to jump in and drive the story is interesting and allows for lots of room within the series. What if Batman becomes a vampire? What if Superman comes to save the day, only to mutate into some crazy strong demon thing? There are many possibilities, and although Tainted Love doesn’t explore any of them yet, it’s something to think about down the road.

There’s a problem with characters in I, Vampire, though – they’re surprisingly one-dimensional. Andrew is driven nearly constantly by his urge to stop Mary; Mary is only interested in killing off humanity and creating a mob of vampires, for reasons that are vague and creatively skirted around throughout Tainted Love. Andrew’s team picks up a young girl who wants to help fight the vampires, but her character’s motivations jump from wanting to kill Andrew to wanting to help him exterminate all vampires, sometimes within the same panel. She contributes almost nothing to the plot, and it wouldn’t be unsurprising if she becomes a victim Andrew must save.

The motivations of Andrew, too, seem strange. Since Andrew can turn into a werewolf, he uses it to show a fellow good-natured vampire that he can be powerful and control his rage at the same time. But if Andrew wanted to make sure that the man never succumbs to his rage, why would he show him how to become a bloodlusting werewolf? It seems like a bad idea and it is one, since the guy (remember, originally happy and peaceful) proceeds to rip apart an entire bar.

I, Vampire begins on a mediocre note with writing, but Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork is rather good. It’s a good mix of dark colors and darker blood, and the violence is drawn with good attention to detail. It compliments the story well with a mature format. This volume also contains the various cover artwork that artist Jenny Frison contributed to the series, but those pieces are not nearly as good as Sorrentino’s; they have a child-like cartoonism to them that doesn’t work for the series.

It’s early in the comic’s series, so it’s difficult to tell how I, Vampire will fare. But it starts with a self-limiting storyline that’s very common for vampire series. Fialkov must find a more original plotline to stand on if the series will make it for longer issues; right now, it’s basically working with a war based on humans vs. vampires, combining superheroes into the mix. The characters are the things that really need work in I, Vampire, though, before the reader wants to return to a comic series with such stale, strangely motivated heroes.

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  • http://www.themoonisadeadworld.net/ Ryne Barber

    Awesome, I’ll keep that in mind! I got this one from DC – hopefully they send me the second volume.

  • Lil Bones

    The second arc is MUCH better than the first, stick with it. And agree completely about Andrea Sorrentino’s art, I love it.. even if it is a LOT like Jae Lee’s.