To say that this Halloween season will be unlike any other is like saying that Leatherface has a unique take on cosmetics. My wife and I are still taking the pandemic seriously (it’s incredibly stupid that anyone has to say that, wear a damn mask) so trick or treating for the kids is all but cancelled. We’re trying to figure out a new way to celebrate, but we’ll see how that goes. Personally, this year will be very different for me because I’ve got a house full of people who want nothing to do with horror movies (or are too young to see them). So, I’m doing my best to squeeze them in where and when I can, but am also focusing on a lot of comics and books. But, I also decided to decorate the shelf in my office with a small army of fiends in action figure form that date all the way back to my childhood!
Along with Battle Chasers and Danger Girl, the third comic to bow from WildStorm’s Cliffhanger imprint was none other than Crimson, a vampire saga written by Brian Augustyn and drawn by none other than Humberto Ramos. I know Battle Chasers and Danger Girl were the big titles coming out of Cliffhanger, but Crimson was the one I glommed onto. I read the first few issues of DG, but couldn’t afford to keep up with that and all my other books, so I dropped it. I believe I read every issue of Crimson, but getting to the end of the fourth volume and the end of the story, I didn’t remember as much.
The basic story is that this teenager Alex is driving through Central Park with his friends when a vampire gang attacks. His friends get killed and Alex gets turned. He becomes a vampire, an ancient being named Ekimus tells him he’s the chosen one and he makes friends with a Mexican vampire named Joe. From there things get even crazier. For a full-on crazy review, hit the jump.
The first trade focuses on Alex adjusting to his new life. He’s got to give up his family and his girlfriend gets caught up in his new life. He gets vengeance on the vampires who turned him. We also meet a young woman named Scarlet who s part of a group called the Red Hoods which hunt down vampires, werewolves, demons and other monsters. We’re also introduced to Senator Van Fleet, another vampire who employs Alex’s dad and a cop who turns out to be the reincarnation of St. George the Dragon Slayer.
The next volumes broaden the spectrum of the story, by introducing all kinds of religious and mythological characters. The Christian idea of God comes into play, there’s angels, werewolves, Templar knights, Eden, the queen of the vampires and dragons.
Looking back, I think Crimson might have been the first limited series I ever read. Everything else I was reading at the time was ongoing superhero stuff. Seeing as how the neverending superhero idea is what I was used to, I don’t think I was prepared for how crazy Crimson got so fast. By the end of the second year, you’ve got all these ideas about Alex being the chosen one, defending the trod-upon demons and monsters of the world and fighting against the Church’s assassins. Soon enough, you’ve got dragons overrunning New York City and Lisseth, mother of all vampires, trying to destroy all living things so that neither heaven nor hell will have anything to rule over.
I’m a bit conflicted on how to review this series. I really liked reading it, but there’s a lot of nostalgia behind it. The dialogue slips way into Silver Age “let’s explain EVERYTHING we’re doing and recap EVERYTHING that came before in the book” which can come off as tired and stale. It’s annoying, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. There’s also echoes of Buffy, but the two things were kind of happening at the same time. There aren’t even that many crossovers or references to Buffy (you do get X-Files, Friends and NYPD Blue references though in the issues), but it’s hard to think of any late-90s vampire without thinking of Buffy. Consider this Buffy if it was starring a teenage vampire and done by the BBC with a lot more religion involved.
Also, the originality of this book depends on what you’ve read coming in. See, for me, this was the first piece of fiction that addressed the Knights Templar, the idea of multiple chosen ones living at the same time (I got really sick of the chosen one concept eventually) and especially the idea that agents of the Church were actually persecuting innocent demons who weren’t hurting anyone. To me, at the time, these were all very novel concepts. Now, I feel like I’ve seen all of them thanks to watching hundreds of freaking horror movies and reading my fair share of limited series comics.
Having read all of this one a relatively brief sitting, I will definitely say that I enjoyed Crimson as a whole. While Augustyn’s writing got tedious at times, Ramos’ art stayed amazing throughout the entire series. And think about this, not only do you get to see regular doses of vampire, but also werewolf, dragons, angels, demons and even an alien or two (in crowd shots). I haven’t read a ton of Ramos’ comics, but I freaking loved what he did on these books (though I wish the borders would have been a little interesting than just solid colors, but whatever). For horror fans, the way the blood is penciled, inked and colored is proabably the best I’ve ever seen in any comic book. I have no idea how easy it is to get these trades. I got them on Sequential Swap, though there was nothing easy about that. Plus, just check out the cool designs for the trades. Even though I usually like some kind of uniformity in my trade designs, I like how amazingly different these covers were designed. You’ll just have to wait for someone else to scan the backs or buy your own to see how the themes were continued on the back.
So, if you’re looking for a vampire story without sparkles or too much relationship drama, then you should do what you can to dig up Crimson issues or trades. Danger Girl kind of trailed off and I don’t think Battle Chasers ever ended, so I think Crimson is your best bet when it comes from the world of Cliffhanger, though I would love to read some of Chris Bachalo’s Steampunk. I even followed him on to Out There, but I have no idea if that book ever ended because I was in college at the time and reading my books in awkward bursts. Give it a shot if you’re game, if nothing else, the art is of the highest quality throughout!