Comics, Critique, Feminism, Gender, Sexism

Review: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood – When It All Goes Wrong Again

Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #2 SoS-Vampi-JB-002-Cov-A-Tan

Nancy Collins (scripter), Dave Acosta (penciller), Valentina Pinto (colorist), Erica Schultz (letterer)
Cover by  Billy Tan (art) and Vinicius Andrade (colors)
Dynamite
June 10, 2015

(Note: This review contains spoilers. We reviewed Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #2 with an advanced review copy from Dynamite.)

Kate: I confessed to Birdi that when I was thinking about this issue and my problems with it, the song “When It All Goes Wrong Again” by Everclear came to mind, and she immediately agreed that it was appropriate, so we have officially dubbed this issue (and our review) “When It All Goes Wrong Again.”

So, let’s start out by talking about all the things that have gone wrong with Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #2!

Birdi: First of all, I am as pleased as a pig in mud with our title. Pour one out for Everclear.

Kate: So, Swords of Sorrow #2 was released last week. Did you see there was more Vampirella in that? It was interesting to see the way the two series (Swords of Sorrows and Swords of Sorrows: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood) are syncing, chronologically.

Birdi: Yeah, and I appreciate that since she was pretty much absent from Swords of Sorrows #1. The way they included her felt thoughtful with regard to SoS: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #2. The time travel felt like a good way to mark Vampirella’s presence in SoS #2.

Kate: Yeah, it’s a good comparison, I think, to look at how she’s being written in both, one by Gail Simone and then by Collins.

Birdi: In just the small glimpse we get in SoS # 2, it seems Vampi is far more complex and interesting than in either Vampirella & Jennifer Blood  #1 or #2. Maybe I’m being unnecessarily critical?

Kate: No, I’m totally with you.

Birdi: I think it’s just so heavy on the  internal monologue, and I totally get that internal monologue is a trope in pulp and noir, but it seems to rely so heavily on the trope that neither the story nor the women are able to or allowed to fully develop or interact with their surroundings (namely one another) in meaningful ways.

Kate: Do you think that’s what she’s going for? Neo-noir? But done badly?

Birdi: I do, it definitely reads that way.

Kate: Hmmm.

Birdi: It’s just done so awful. I keep wondering what is the intention behind the writer’s choices. What’s the purpose? How do certain decisions play into character and plot development? I find myself with more questions than answers. Neo-noir makes sense, and if done well could lead to some really interesting storylines. It just feels like she’s trying to break some rules before she is fully aware of the rules of the genre.

Kate: Well, it feels to me like someone said, “Hey, you should do it as noir!” but the writer has no idea what “noir” means outside of old episodes of Columbo. She also seems to have no idea what camp means, in my opinion, so that’s two genres she’s writing that she has no idea what they are.

Birdi: I mean, at the very least she could have wiki-ed camp and noir. There is an entire internet to scour for research!

Kate: Right?

Birdi: At the very least she could have watched Clue. Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn give great camp. But then again I pray at the altar of Sir Curry and Madam Kahn. May the heaving breaths be always on my neck and my double negatives always lead to positive proofs, now ends our prayer.

Kate: l love that movie.

Birdi: As do I. What did you think of Jennifer Blood’s physical interpretation of Vampirella? There are a few panels where Jennifer Blood is rehashing her interactions with Vampirella and Vampi has Tawny Kitaen level hair and a glimmer of insanity in her eyes. Very “Here I go again on my own.”

Kate: While usually I enjoy those “seeing a character through another character’s eyes” moves, I wasn’t sure what to make of this one.

Birdi: I agree. It felt like Acosta was trying to make a joke about physical interpretations of the kooky deranged female character, but it just came off as  trite and offensive. I’m so bored with the hysterical woman archetype. Camp is an excellent genre to play with that archetype, and yet again it’s just stale. I’ve got months old matzo bread in my pantry less stale than Vampirella and Jennifer Blood #2.

Kate: Yeah, maybe he was trying to draw her as she was drawn in her original incarnation, as like an homage? But since it’s just a single panel, drawn from a strange angle and not actually from Jennifer Blood’s POV, it’s not successful.

Birdi: Are you holding out any hope for the remaining comics?

Kate: Nope. I have zero faith Collins can redeem these characters and make them worthwhile.

Birdi: I have to believe that she’s going to redeem them. I have to, otherwise it’s far too upsetting.

Because I feel like I have to say something positive about Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #2, the cover was pretty dope. The weeping bleeding cherubs offered some foreshadowing that I honestly did not expect. Overall, I don’t want to blame the whole shebang on Collins. It is, in my opinion abysmal writing but we have to remember she is working with characters who have historically been  portrayed in more vapid and conventional forms. But then again, I suppose that is the case with the majority of characters in the Swords of Sorrow series which is why the camp element should work. For me, our critique that Collins doesn’t get camp continuously holds true, but my optimism holds fast, maybe she’ll prove us wrong in Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #3. Maybe it’s all been a grand trick. For the time being I find myself wondering, “wow did this comic get the stamp of approval?” How in the world did the editors look over this and say you know what, that’s really solid let’s roll with it?

Kate: For me…the problem is that I don’t know who Vampirella is. I have a pretty good idea about who Jennifer Blood is, and I mentioned in our previous review that I find her uninteresting and badly written in this incarnation, but as for Vampirella, I have no idea. She seems to at first be a “reluctant monster”—one of those characters who is required to do things that human beings are morally opposed to doing simply for survival—but then she frames Jennifer Blood and poses as a sex worker to kill a random guy because she’s feeling peckish? I don’t know how to reconcile the two.

Birdi: I agree with you, Vampirella framing Jennifer Blood doesn’t seem to come from a place of survival, but then again, we don’t get the scenario from her perspective at all, the framing could potentially be born out of a need to escape or survive. I’m really curious to see where they are going with Vampirella. I expected her arch to align more with her history; she’s an alien from a Vampire planet and comes to earth as her race is dying out, the blood river has dried and clotted up. I really thought the Swords Of Sorrow series would focus more on her transition from conventionally evil to good which I really think would be more exciting and interesting. Did you feel like the framing of Jennifer Blood was hasty? It felt rushed and not well thought nor executed out to me.

Kate: It felt very strange, and an unnecessary move to create more antagonism between Jennifer and Vampirella when they already dislike each other. Especially since Vampirella, who could kill anyone anywhere (as shown just a few pages later), just so happens to choose to kill the same Hispanic gang family that Jennifer Blood just so happens to be going after? If it’s by design, I don’t understand it, and if it’s coincidence, it just seems odd.


Overall, we were left wanting more out of SoS: Vampirella and Jennifer Blood. We want more breadth and depth with the characters, more thoughtful representations, and you know some fist pumping feminism. Basically, Birdi and Kate are hungry for something we can sink our teeth into. See what we did there?

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