Potential alternate subtitles for Dark Fang, Vol 1: Earth Calling:
- It’s Vampires and the Environment
- It’s Very Adulty
- Here’s a vampire story line I haven’t seen before!
And, let me tell you, I’ve read a lot of them. Dark Fang, vol. 1: Earth Calling is less sparkly virginal abstinent vampires and more Anne Rice Interview/Tarantino From Dawn to Dusk vampires: which is to say that it’s adulty. Right out of the box. Very, very, very adulty. I didn’t take to the first issue right away for the same reason that I don’t usually take to Tarantino movies: It starts with overwhelming violence, blood, and gratuitous sexual themes. It’s weak and herky-jerky on the plot and character development.
If libraries purchase this, it will likely be in print. However, I read a digital review copy, and would like to note that reading a comic online is sensorially a different experience than print. The artist can play with the page organization, spill the action over the gutters, and use the frames (or no frames) to direct the eye in many unorthodox ways. Miles Guntner (Image Comic’s BPRD) and Kelsey Shannon are inventive in this all the way through, but in a few places it serves to muddle the action, making me wish I had a clearer view of what was actually happening. Shannon’s colors and art are just as bright and crisp as his other titles (Grizzly Shark, DC’s Hero, The Jungle).
The fairly self-centered lady vampire that we’re introduced to in the first issue (whose name we have to wait until issue five to learn) fairly sparkles in her Cinderella-like Portuguese man-of-war dress. She’s living under the sea with a great white shark bestie when an unknown darkness descends into the deep, killing everything she cares about. She is determined to do what she has to do stop the pollution of her ocean.
The story starts coming together in issue #2—the gratuitous sexual and violent depictions are dialed back, and the originality of the plot and the pacing improves. Use of perspective also improves, melding the closeups and offsetting the action to denote movement in several areas at once. Then, it’s right back to the explicitly drawn, one dimensional non-player characters with impossible anatomy who are stereotypical villains: foul-mouthed, obscenely rich, and crude and predictable. Lady vampire, who possesses incredible Jedi mental powers, discovers they are in some way responsible for the pollution of “her” oceans, and takes them down, one by one. The first kill involves a pool full of Jello, a prostitute, and a CEO who likes porn. Despite the sparkles, this is definitely not Twilight. It’s like if Aquaman had to live on blood and started a XXX chat parlor.
This title collects issue #1 through #5, and each issue has a different feel. With each successive issue, the color palette changes, the pacing and story becomes tighter, and the lady vampire matures and starts to think of others and how her rash actions have affected them. Even how we learn her name, Valla, shows how she’s matured. When her decades-long headless loyal servant Toby gives up his “life” for her, her care for him is obvious. He asks for one final thing: her name. What started as a hackneyed, tired trope of a story evolves into an original vampire mash-up indictment of American culture. The scene where Samael smashes Mr. Maddox’s cell phone evokes an almost anime, Akira-type feel—not only in the action, but also in the good-is-evil, evil-is-good questions it raises. I was reminded of another similar comic, Hickman and Dragotta’s East of West. On some pages, in-jeopardy Valla cracks with Spider-Man like humor. Her nemesis Samael, though, is as one-dimensional and predictable as a Bond villain.
I think the story could have been written more tightly and less explicitly from the first issue. The power and originality of the characters could have been expressed without using language like “dick bite”, “time is my bitch”, and “skank;” not to mention all the sexual positions depicted. It’s like a teenager wrote the script, or that the authors want to prove there’s a not limit on fan service. I wish the whole title was written as snappily as the part with the three Brides sister’s skulls. That part shows me what Guntner is capable of, if he could just manage more consistency.
In researching this title, I found that future issues of this title were cancelled by Image in June 2018, so I would not consider this a priority purchase. It might be appropriate for a public library’s adult comics and graphic novels section, but the fact that it was cancelled, combined with the content red flags of nudity, gratuitous bloody violence, and foul language makes it not recommended for purchase.
Dark Fang, Vol. 1: Earth Calling
by Miles Guntner
Art by Kelsey Shannon
Image Comics, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: M for Mature