Tag Archives: Marvel

Not Those Guardians, Not That War

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken!  Dean Compton is back with you here to delve into some more 90’s goodness.  I am excited that spring is finally sprung, baseball is in full swing, and that some small indie film called Avengers: Infinity War has dropped.  You probably haven’t heard of it because it’s so obscure and there’s been almost no build-up.

OR IT’S THE BIGGEST FILM MARVEL HAS BROUGHT US YET! WHICHEVER!

We’re all very excited.  Those of us who braved the speculation crashes of the 90’s have been waiting for this movie for around twenty-five years.  If you had told me then that one day there’d be a movie based on Thanos’s exploits with the Infinity Gems, I would have thought you were Mephisto, prince of lies.  Or at least Zarathos or maybe one of those weird demons from Hellblazer or something.  Alas, here we are, though, on the precipice of what is hopefully a monumental moment for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

‘Round these parts we are more interested in the then, than the now, and one of the things that really interested me as I first started my deep dive into comic books some 27 years ago (it’s mega unfair that it has been that long) was the entire Infinity Gauntlet saga.  My first big exposure to superheroes outside of cartoons was the Impel Marvel Trading Cards, series 2 in particular, and the Infinity Gauntlet card captured my attention.  There was Thanos, basking in all the glory that comes with omnipotence.  I didn’t know what had happened, and sadly, I was too late to keep up with the original saga month to month.  Lucky me, though, as The Infinity War was about to break out!

One of the things that attracted me to Infinity War was the epic gatefold covers, many of which depicted the mightiest heroes in the Marvel Universe in a tumultuous struggle with sharp-toothed doppelgangers that looked like they had stepped out of a mirror universe from Tales from the Darkside or something.  What appealed to me even more was that the saga was so large that it burst out of the mini-series like the insides of a tomato hitting the ground, spilling out into almost every other Marvel title!  Most of you will brush this off as a lame sales grab, and, well, it was definitely a sales grab, but it was a sales grab in the best way!

Did you want to see more of Wonder Man’s inner struggle during the Infinity War? How would Sue Richards deal with the seeming death of her husband? Perhaps you wanted to see what happened to Sleepwalker during this struggle?  (Based on sales, you probably didn’t.)  The crossovers meant you could, and they meant that you could try out other titles you hadn’t really given a shot to before.  I know we’re all tired of them now, but this was still a new concept to me then.  Sort of how when I was 16 I was like, “GODDAMN, I CAN’T WAIT TO DRIVE!” but fuck, now I’d almost rather do anything else besides drive, like, y’know, writing crappy articles like this.

One team that I hadn’t gotten a handle on from the Marvel Cards I had seen was the Guardians of the Galaxy.  I don’t recall seeing any of the GOTG (yes, I’m lazy – this article is free, y’all) in the Marvel Universe Series 2 set (cue up dude in the comments proving me wrong), so when I saw the Infinity War crossover issues, I was intrigued.  Who were these guys?  They’re from the future?  Why does that Rambo-looking dude have Captain America’s shield?  (For those of you coming in here who aren’t big pads, big guns, no feet 90’s comic book fans, the GOTG were originally a super-team from a possible Marvel Universe future that eventually diverged.  You’ll see no Star-Lord, Gamora, or Rocket Raccoon here.  Get ready for Major Victory, Nikki, Charlie-27, Starhawk, and more!)

I had already picked up a GOTG issue where they fought a street gang of folks based on The Punisher (which is just as awesome as it sounds), but these issues got me very interested.  An added bonus is this is one of my first experiences with The Inhumans, one of the most underrated superhero groups of all time!

 

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I can’t be the only person who’s a sucker for superhero comics featuring sidebars of the faces of the characters located therein!

The issue takes off with Major Victory, the leader of the GOTG, berating the rest of the team for heading into the past on a mission of pure genocide against the Badoon.  The Badoon are the raison detre for the GOTG, as their attack on our solar system basically wiped out humanity, so the original GOTG united against them and their tyranny!  Somewhere along the way, though, Starhawk convinced them to go back in time and destroy the Badoon before they can destroy humanity.  Major Victory, being the guy with Cap’s shield, doesn’t think too much of this plan, but before he can thoroughly chew the team out, their newest member, Talon, stumbles in.  I’d say he seems sick as a dog, but he’s sort of a cat, so that seems wrong.

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Starhawk is giving Talon a death stare here; what’s he so mad at our cat pal about?

Talon collapses as the team tries to take him to sick bay, but as he does, he tells them to get him to the moon.  Specifically, he wants to go to Attilan, which is the secret city that is home to none other than the Inhumans and their royal family!

The GOTG speed off in that direction, but they have no way of knowing that one of the first blows of The Infinity War has been stuck.  The headquarters of The Fantastic Four (notably good pals of The Inhumans and in particular the royal family), Four Freedoms Plaza, has been blown up by unknown forces, and the fate of the FF and many other superheroes there is unknown!  So to say the least, it really isn’t the best time for a group of superhumans that The Inhumans have no idea exists to teleport into Attilan.  I know this is gonna shock you, but that’s exactly what the GOTG do!  Of course, The Innumans act calmly when Major Victory tries to explain their presence.

 

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Just kidding, y’all; these heroes are gonna fight!  MAKE MINE MARVEL!

The Inhumans and the GOTG punch on each other a bit while telling each other their names, which is legit my favorite kind of fight.  Major Victory is aware the fight is usless, though, and he unleashes a mighty psychokinetic blast that somehow convinces Black Bolt that the GOTG are the good guys.

 

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If the Care Bears were a part of the Marvel Universe, this is totally what their stare would be.

The Inhumans take Talon to the Randac Medcal Center, which, honestly, is what all medical centers should be called henceforth.  As he gets the care he needs, the other Inhumans explain to the GOTG about the explosion at Four Freedoms Plaza, and how they don’t have any idea what may have caused this tragedy.

The two superhero squads (See what I did there?  Now that theme is stuck in your head.)  don’t have a lot of time to discuss the explosion because just as the conversation starts, an array of doppelgangers of both the Inhumans and the Guardians rudely interrupts them.

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Regardless of who they are doppelgangers of, Doppelgangers are always rude.

These doppelgangers from the Infinity War are great.  The razor teeth look genuinely creeped me out back in the day, and to be honest, that look is still sort of unnerving now.  The Infinity War doppelgangers look like the people that are just like us that live on the other side of mirrors.  You can say they’re fake, but let’s be honest — deep down, we all believe in that world on the other side of the mirror, and it sprang to life in the Marvel Universe during the Infinity War.

The good news for the Inhumans and the Guardians is that these doppelgangers go down easy for now.  After Talon reveals a big secret about the future of the Inhumans to the Royal Family, the Guardians split for Avengers Mansion on Earth.  Major Victory has no recollection of these events, and if something has happened to The Avengers, then the Guardians are going to get to the bottom of it!

While the Guardians are teleporting down from Attilan, Doctor Octopus has assembled a ragtag group of villains together in the wake of the explosion at Four Freedoms Plaza.  Doc Ock has information that not only did Four Freedoms Plaza explode, but that nearly every superhero in the city was inside the building when it blew up!  He suggests the group (consisting of Doc Ock, Powderkeg, Jackhammer, Oddball, Titania, the Abosrbing Man, and Yellowjacket [Rita Demara]) attack and loot Avengers Mansion while the heroes are away.  Of course, he is just using these folks, and the good bad doctor plans to abscond with all of the advanced Avengers technology himself!

As this meeting is happening, the Guardians arrive at Avengers mansion, only to be met by the fiercest resistance possible from a slightly out of shape butler and his vacuum cleaner!

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This Jarvis is so much better than movie Jarvis. Fight Me.
Jarvis opens up to the Guardians that the explosion at Four Freedoms Plaza didn’t kill the assembled superheroes and that a task force of heroes has left Earth via mystic means.  Other heroes remain behind for now.  Charlie-27 suggests that the Guardians head that way, when a member of Avengers Mansion security bursts in to alert the Guardians and Jarvis about Doc Ock’s villain team just outside the mansion!  The Avengers security team beefs up with some weaponry while the Guardians of the Galaxy face off with what Jarvis is calling another incarnation of the Masters of Evil!  Talon points out this is a dumb name, but he’s a cat dude named after a bird’s foot, so I dunno that he is in a position to hurl that sort of insult.  Then again, Absorbing Man just calls his group that on the next page, so I guess it’s all fair game.

 

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It’s a rule in the Marvel Universe that anyone who has Cap’s shield is automatically in charge of the situation.

The Guardians spring into action with only Charlie-27 really having a lot of problems. Since he had to take care of the Masters’ most powerful member, I suppose we have to cut him a bit of slack.  Nikki has no issues with Yellowjacket, and she notes that Yellowjacket’s heart didn’t really seem to be in the fight.  There’s a lot of struggle elsewhere, and while the fracas is going on, Doc Ock sneaks off to engage in a contingency plan.  Starhawk, meanwhile, is being confronted by his doppelganger, and in what’s only a minor league asshole move for the guy if you have read a lot of GOTG, is looking forward to being absorbed by his doppelganger until he realizes that by doing so his own free will would be subverted.

 

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Starhawk is supposed to have new omniscience as “the one who knows” but he seems to be the only one during the entire Infinity War crossover who doesn’t know that getting absorbed by the doppelgangers is a really bad idea.

The Guardians take out the Masters of Evil, although they need the help of Yellowjacket’s face turn to get the job done.  Nikki and Yellowjacket take off during the battle for the inside of Avengers Mansion, and when the other Guardians finally catch up to them, they’ve been overcome by Doc Ock and a few members of the Masters of Evil we hadn’t seen yet!

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More intimidating fat dude: Kingpin or Doc Ock?

With that it’s on to Guardians of the Galaxy #29 to wrap up the Guardians involvement in the Infinity War, and this time the war comes home!  And by the war coming home, I mean a bunch of doppelgangers of both the Guardians and the Masters of Evil are gonna be such a big deal in the last part of this story that they are the only fucking thing on the cover.

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The one on the bottom left looks like a Morbius doppelganger.  RISE OF THE MIDNIGHT SONS CROSSOVER, Y’ALL!

Also, while we are looking at this cover, how could you even tell which one of those Shockers is the doppelganger?  Both have weird looking eyes, and neither have those sharp ass teeth that should have clued Starhawk in that merging with the doppelgangers is a bad idea.

Another bad idea would be to turn your back on any member of the GOTG, even one who you had previously thought defeated.  Doc Ock has no knowledge of the Guardians, so he and the other Masters of Evil are surprised when Nikki and Yellowjacket come back from their unconscious state and turn the tables on the Masters of Evil!

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Make your own “they shocked the Shocker” jokes here.

Both teams soon have bigger problems on their hands, and I mean this literally as Gargantua’s doppelganger teleports onto the scene.  Other doppelgangers of both the Guardians and the Masters of Evil start arriving left and right, leaving Doc Ock and Major Victory no choice but to have their teams join forces to attempt to repel these ungodly abominations, although Gargantua needs no encouragement to take the fight right to the razor toothed mirror men!

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Fucking Ouch

The fight seems endless, as more and more doppelgangers pour out of portals, threatening to overwhelm hero and villain alike.  Due to the actions of Galactus in another comic book, the doppelgangers all disappear like a bad memory.  Really, though, shouldn’t that be a good memory?  We forget the good stuff all the time, while we continue to torture ourselves with the bad memories late at night when we should be sleeping.  All apologies for that; it’s a tad morose to be in an article highlighted by an evil giant punching through the chest of his more evil doppelganger.  I won’t let it happen again, folks

Anyhow, with the day saved, Doc Ock is of the mindset that the Masters of Evil should take out the Guardians and resume with their plan to take over Avengers Mansion.  The Masters of Evil treat Doc Ock the way you treat your pal who just doesn’t know when the party’s over and turn on him faster than a new superhero universe popped up in the early 90’s!

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Never mind that Shocker joke you made earlier; dude himself had it covered the whole goddamn time.

All’s well that ends well, and if the bad guys are gonna chase themselves off, I reckon it doesn’t get much better than that.  Yellowjacket also stays behind, and soon she’ll head back to the future with the Guardians and even join the team!  Before she gets to bask in the glory of being in Marvel’s premiere 31st century super hero squad, there’s just one more task to complete.  Jarvis takes his duties seriously, and he insists that the Guardians of the Galaxy become the Custodians of the Castle as Jarvis walks right up to them and demands they take part in repairs and cleanup!

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Did the Fantastic Four really start like what?  A janitorial crew?  I don’t recall that, but with all the retcons they’ve had, who fucking knows?

Jarvis getting the Guardians to clean up Avengers Mansion might be the greatest moment in the history of the Marvel Universe.  Fight me if you disagree.  Or better yet, fight my evil doppelganger.  The one with the teeth.

Hope everyone enjoyed this look back at Infinity War!  It’s definitely a fun part of the larger crossover, although it could have used a bit of Thanos or Warlock to really spruce things up and make it feel more like a part of the larger crossover.  It would have been nice, but it wasn’t really needed.  Other than that minor oversight, this is a great example of how a larger crossover should spill into a book.  No one who just read this felt ripped off because some of the events wrap up elsewhere.  If you were a regular reader of Guardians of the Galaxy, it developed characters further (some of which aren’t mentioned in this write-up.  Go read the book, people!)  These three issues also did a great job displaying the Guardians to a non-regular reader.  All in all, for all the flak that 90’s crossovers get (some of which is deserved), this shows you how that 90’s mega-epic could work in a spin-off crossover if done right!

Everyone, enjoy the movie.  It’s amazing that we’re gonna get to see this, right?  Just try and remember being a teenager in 1992, eyes wide open over Thanos’s shenanigans in the Marvel Universe then, and try and think about that young person would feel if they knew what they were gonna see.  We’ve got our tickets for Saturday!  I can’t wait!

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SBTU Presents: The 1991 Marvel Holiday Special!

 

 

 

Hello Legions of the Unspoken!  We’re proud to once again be a part of the Super Blog Team Up, this time taking a look at Christmas stories!  Dean and Emily set down and had a nice long chat about the 1991 Marvel Holiday Special!  Take a listen, and then take a gander at what the other SBTU folks have cooked up for you during this special time of year!

 

 

Check Out the Other Players in the Super-Blog Team Up!

Super-Hero Satellite-4th Annual Holiday Special

Chris is on Infinite Earths-Christmas with the Super-Heroes

Between the Pages-The Ghost of Supergirl Past

The Retroist-Christmas Knight

The Crapbox Son of Cthulhu-Impact Winter Special

Blade: Hunting Solo by Emily Scott

Greetings, Legions! As you may have noticed in the past, the Halloween season is one of our favorite times of year, for many reasons, but especially because it gives us an excuse to delve into some of the more horror-based titles of The Un-spook-en Dead-cade. (If there’s a better way to scare people than with bad puns, I don’t know what it is.) Just before Halloween, Dean Compton (this site’s proprietor) and I will be bringing you another edition of The Spoken Decade, where we’ll take a look at The Rise of the Midnight Sons. Right now I’ll be digging into one of the Midnight Sons better known members, your favorite dhampir and mine, Blade!

Blade, created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, first appeared in 1973 in Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula. (I read some of The Tomb of Dracula, and when I first saw Marv Wolfman’s name, I thought they had given themselves spooky names, like the crew of The Simpsons on Treehouse of Horror episodes.) The character popped up in a number of other titles throughout the subsequent years, including Vampire Tales, Nightstalkers, and the aforementioned Midnight Sons, before getting his first solo title, Blade: The Vampire-Hunter, in 1994. The series ran for 10 issues, which were penciled by Doug Wheatley, and the first eight of which were written by Ian Edginton. (I tried to make up spooky versions of their names without success. Suggestions welcome.)

The series wastes no time not only in letting the reader know who the Big Bad is going to be but also in going straight for the Biggest Bad:

blade-big-one
I am so used to associating the Wesley Snipes’ movie with this character that my first thought about this cover was, “Damn, he’s so fancy.”

One of the best parts of any vampire property is seeing which parts of vampire mythology they use or discard, embrace or mock, and this title also wastes no time showing us what it looks like when Blade takes down a bloodsucker. I have mostly come across vampires either bursting into flames when destroyed or getting dusted like on Buffy, so I must say this is, hands down, the coolest visual representation of a vampire eating it that I have ever seen:

blade-dusting
It’s like his soul is a Lisa Frank cheetah.

This image is the first part of a vision being had by one John Carik, former professor and current psych hospital patient covered in scarred sigils and marks known to the doctors as Bible John. He sees the fight to defeat Varnae, First Lord of the Vampires, which took the lives of Blade’s Nightstalker companions, Hannibal King and Frank Drake. John also sees Blade struggling under the weight of his survivors guilt, but what he sees next causes him to break out of the hospital to warn Blade — the return of….DRACULA! (I hope I’m not the only one who reads that name in their head in the bad Transylvanian accent every time. Also, never look up what real Transylvanian accents sound like because it is woefully and disappointingly NOTHING like what Count Chocula sounds like.)

After the deaths of his colleagues, Blade tries to make a new start in his old New York stomping grounds. We learn through some incredibly expository dialogue that Blade is hoping to make his new life a fairly normal one and that he is earning his keep by renovating the house his landlady, Julia Suarez, received from her ex-husband in the divorce settlement. Blade tells Julia he has no interest in talking to a reporter who calls asking about the Nightstalkers, or anyone else for that matter. He also decides to go by the name Hannibal Francis Blade to honor his fallen brothers.

This “normal” life lasts for about ten minutes till Bible John catches up to Blade, tells him he can’t deny his heritage, which he knows a surprising amount about, and gives him the not-as-cool-looking-as-it-sounds Witch Compass. The compass will point to negative energy, and Blade must not be as ready as he pretends for a quiet existence because all it takes for him to bust out the blades again is a twitch of the compass’s needle and the fact that Bible John DID know a thing or two about him.

blade-water
Blade hates evil AND hydration.

The compass leads Blade to the lair of Aaron Thorne, the new leader of Lord Varnae’s secret cult, the Bad Seed. Thorne is hatching a plan to essentially enslave the entire country with a drug that has been mixed with his thralls’ blood. Once loyal to him, everyone will therefore also be loyal to Varnae, whom the Bad Seed intend to bring back to un-life. Blade is not the only one who might interfere with their plans, though, a fact Thorne discovers with his Necrotech program. (I’m just going to let him tell you about Necrotech, since there is no way I can improve on this explanation.

blade-gobblygook
This is some of my favorite techobabble since “Reserve the polarity of the neutron flow.”

Blade, of course, does indeed interfere, and takes on Thorne, who wastes no time in telling Blade that he thinks he’s useless. Thorne gains the upper hand and mocks Blade with the idea that his anger and obsession have made him inhuman. And because the 90’s were a beautiful and strange time when a vampire comic could also have a touch of the TGIF sitcom, that accusation strikes a chord with Blade when he remembers what his landlady told him earlier: “It’s only human to grieve and be angry, but don’t let it eat you up.” Those simple words allow Blade to give focus to his anger and relieve Thorne of some of his own Lisa Frank cheetah spirit energy. In the process, Blade delivers some words that would stick with me if he were my sitcom friend (and are also good advice to anyone taking on a vampire): “A nice fat ego makes an easy target.”

Thorne’s minions do much of Blade’s work for him in destroying the drug blood farm (three words that feel weird to type in that order) when they shoot barrels full of chemicals they were explicitly told not to shoot. Blade accepts that he is still in this fight, but this time with a renewed perspective and on his own terms. Thorne is somewhat less pleased with the outcome of the fight and swears revenge on Blade. The reporter looking for Blade earlier goes looking for information on the Nightstalkers but finds more than she bargained for. In fact, she finds…DRACULA!

blade-dracula
I’m just going to type it like that every time I have to type the name of…DRACULA!

Thorne puts out the word that he is looking for Blade, who is fulfilling his domestic duties to Julia. Some bats show up on the search, and Blade is suddenly concerned about the fact that Thorne might have survived the explosion after all. He also laments that he may have doomed them both by not bringing his knives into the house as a concession to trying to live a normal life. (I’m not sure I understand his logic here, since it seems like the useful concession would be, you know, keeping the knives and NOT hunting vampires. Then people would just assume he is a mall ninja.) There is no reason to fear, though, as Julia saves the day again, this time with her mop instead of her wisdom. Bible John has the terrific timing to show up just then and warn Blade about his vision, and the two agree that together they will stop…DRACULA! before he can manifest.

Little do they know that he is already back, having turned the reporter into his thrall and using her to lure in her friend, a fellow reporter at the world’s sleaziest newspaper. Seriously, this place doesn’t really seem to be essential or even particularly important to the plot (at least for this story arc), but this is a 90’s comic site after all, and this newsroom is the 90’s-ist. I would love to watch the 90’s HBO sitcom based on this newspaper. It could come on after Arliss.

blade-sleaze-times

blade-press
I kept coming up with cheesy names like The New York Slimes, but it would just be called Press and not get picked up for a second season.

Anyway, vampires.

So Blade and Bible John follow the compass to the Body Hammer, but once they arrive, they realize they are too late to stop…DRACULA! He has already enthralled what seems to be the entire club, and they must fight their way through them all before getting to the big boss himself. Once again Blade gets mocked by a vampire for hunting vampires, a task they understandably don’t see the value of, despite the number of vampire asses it seems Blade has kicked. Blade tells…DRACULA! that he can’t kill him if he wants to know where his wife and son are, but…DRACULA! just finds that claim amusing, reasoning that he can turn Blade and have the information from him willingly.

This is as good a time as any to heap some praise on the artists of this book, who manage to create something that reminds me, in a good way, of things I already like but still has its own aesthetic. The fight scenes all have dynamism to them that I don’t always notice or appreciate in other comics, so in addition to looking beautiful, it was easier for someone like me, who doesn’t necessarily have the visual vocabulary that comes with a lifetime of reading comics, to follow what was actually going on. I have already mentioned penciler Doug Wheatley, but I want to make sure to mention colorist Tom Zuiko and inker Chris Ivy as well for helping to put together a comic I just really enjoyed looking at.

blade-fight
Dracula would make one hell of a wide receiver.

…DRACULA! goes for the bite and attempts to turn Blade, apparently having forgotten that he is a dhampir and can’t be turned. This lapse in memory confuses Blade, who wonders if something didn’t go according to plan when…DRACULA! was brought back. Since Blade is immune to the bite of a vampire, Bible John is next on the menu, but the sigils he has carved into his flesh protect him and burn…DRACULA! Meanwhile, Blade has received assistance from a strange source, Thorne’s crony Angel. Since Blade’s…blade was broken in the fight, Angel bestows a knife on him, and for a moment, it seems Blade is much invigorated and….DRACULA! more susceptible to harm. Thorne watches the wings, hoping his two enemies take each other out.

Blade quickly realizes he has been had and that the knife has put him under Thorne’s influence. He refuses to participate in the charade any longer and throws the knife at Thorne. The two vampires finally get around to paying attention to each other, and the bloodsucker brawl begins!

blade-christopher-lee
I like to entertain the idea that Dracula has a home theater in his castle and strong opinions about different actors’ portrayals of him.

I suppose since I included two pages of a newspaper office, I should probably include at least that many of two vampires fighting each other.

blade-brawl-i

blade-brawl-ii
I suppose this is more exciting.

While Thorne and…DRACULA! duke it out, Blade and Bible come up with a plan involving one of my least favorite vampire weaknesses, running water, but use it in a way I enjoy. Blade fights his way past Angel to the sprinkler release valve and douses the lot of them. Thorne thinks it’s some trick of…DRACULA!’s right up to the point that the water starts to burn him, and…DRACULA! mocks Thorne for not knowing his own weaknesses while he mildly smolders. Thorne calls for Angel to carry him away, foiled for the time being. Calling it a skirmish rather than a true battle…DRACULA! does his usual parlor trick of turning into mist once a fight has reached a standstill, and Blade tells him that he’ll be ready for him, any time, anywhere.

This first story arc does a pretty great of setting up a title, giving us plenty of potential for future conflict, interesting antagonists, and a solid supporting cast, including a super hardcore landlady. If all of those elements weren’t enough to keep me reading, this trip-tastic cover to Issue #4 might just do the trick.

blade-groovy
Dude got ripped in the psych ward.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Blade:  The Vampire-Hunter! Join us next week for Rise of the Midnight Sons, and I scare up and down– er, swear…that I will do my best to keep the Halloween puns to a minimum.