Vampire: The Masquerade (or V:tM) is probably the most successful role-playing game in history, apart from Dungeons and Dragons. The first game made for what became known as the World of Darkness setting, V:tM cast players in the role of the titular blood-sucking monsters, who spend their nights struggling to survive the Machiavellian political structure maintained by the eldest vampires, control the dark hunger that animates their undead forms, and retain what little humanity they have left. Generally V:tM is not a game of heroes and bold deeds, and that is well reflected by the new tie-in comic book series from Vault Comics.
“Winter’s Teeth” spins two different stories set among the vampires of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The first is centered around Cecily Bain, a freelance troubleshooter who reluctantly works as the muscle of the leaders of the Camarilla—the vampiric society that runs the nightlife of the Twin Cities and enforces the Masquerade that hides the existence of vampires from humans. Pressured to further tie herself to the local Prince, Cecily decides to claim the rare privilege of being allowed a “childe” and adopts Alejandra; a fledgling vampire seemingly abandoned by her creator and, by the laws of the Camarilla, an outlaw with no right to an afterlife. Thus does Cecily introduce “Ali” (and us) to the World of Darkness, even as she begins investigating Ali’s origins and a plot to overthrow the Prince.
The second story, “The Anarch Tales,” centers around a found family of Anarchs; vampires who live outside the structure set up by the Camarilla, but still try to maintain the Masquerade and their humanity. The central character here is Colleen Pendergrass; a thin-blood vampire who can pass for human and survive the touch of the sun but lacks the specialized powers most vampires possess. Colleen’s family takes a courier job that takes them to the Twin Cities, with each chapter revealing the origins of each member of the family and how the curse of vampirism altered them differently.
Fans of urban fantasy will find the stories of Cecily, Ali, Colleen, and company enjoyable, as Tim Seeley, Blake Howard, and Tini Howard do a fantastic job of establishing them as relatable, if not entirely likable, protagonists. What’s even more amazing is how well they establish the Vampire: the Masquerade setting and utilize the terminology of the game mechanics naturally within the context of the story. Newcomers who can’t tell a Brujah from a Gangrel will have no trouble getting into the swing of things, as the central story has Cecily showing Ali the facts of unlife and The Anarch Tales explains the Sabbath (i.e., vampires who embrace their inhumanity and seek to overthrow the Camarilla) as well as the particulars of some of the bigger clans and their powers.
Despite being a solid primer for the game and including some character sheets and other materials for players, Winter’s Teeth is a comic book, first and foremost, and the artwork perfectly suits the setting. Devmalya Pramanik and Nathan Gooden capture the Gothic splendor and horror of vampiric unlife. What truly completes the art, however, is the color art of Addison Duke, who renders most of the comic in a washed-out palette that subtly hints at the faded glory of the older vampire aristocrats and the muted half-life experienced by most young vampires.
Vault Comics rates this series as 15+, but I would suggest that it is more appropriate for adult audiences. As one might expect from a story centered around vampires, this series does not skimp on the bloodshed and there are many disturbing images of people being cut, stabbed, beheaded, set on fire, buried alive, eviscerated, defenestrated, and undergoing nearly any sort of physical punishment you can imagine. There’s not much in the way of sexual content, apart from the Prince of St. Paul (a vampire named Samantha) painting in the nude and even then only her bare backside is shown. While this is tame by the standards of True Blood and other similar shows, the story is mature enough to be best appreciated by adult audiences rather than most older teens.
Vampire The Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth Vol. 01
By Tim Seeley, Blake Howard, Tini Howard
Art by Devmalya Pramanik, Nathan Gooden, Addison Duke
Vault Comics, 2021
Title Details and Representation
Publisher Age Rating: 15+ Only
Series ISBNS and Order
Related media: Game to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: American,