“Shot to the crotch, and you’re to blame, Darlin’ you give pulp comics a bad name”: A Review of Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood

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Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #3                            SoS-Vampi-JB-003-Cov-TAN-2e4ab

Nancy Collins (scripter), Dave Acosta (penciller), Valentina Pinto (colorist), Erica Schultz (letterer)
Cover by  Billy Tan (art) and Vinicius Andrade (colors)
Dynamite
July 15, 2015

(Note: This review contains spoilers. We reviewed Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #3 with an advanced review copy from Dynamite.)

Kate: This issue is so bad.

Birdi: I think this one might be the worst yet. At least Collins is consistent on that front.

Kate: Totally. I think it partly feels that way because we’re mostly in Jennifer Blood’s POV, and her internal monologue is written in a shitty noir-style that isn’t really noir style. We’ve mentioned this before—that Collins seems to have this idea of pulpy noir that doesn’t really feel like pulp or noir. Also, and this is just my personal preference as someone who does not enjoy violence and gore and gratuitous bloodshed, it feels much more violent than the previous two to me. Like more deaths, more blood, etc. It’s like Quentin Tarantino bad.

Birdi: So, I’m absolutely into horror in all its incarnations, save for haunted houses.  I’m kind of a gore lover. I love over-the-top gore. I find it cheesy and glorious. I have no qualms with a blood-drenched panel as long as it’s done well and for the sake of the story. Overall, the violence just reads as trite. It seems the thought was, “oh, we have a character with blood as part of her name, and oh, we have a vampire character, let’s be as literal as possible on the gore front, but for no reason, and let’s make sure to really stall the story. That’s what readers want, right?” Collins, you’ve got some explaining to do.

Page from Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #3, art by Dave Acosta, script by Nancy Collins

Vampirella bites and slits the throat of a bad guy from Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #3, art by Dave Acosta, script by Nancy Collins

Kate: Pacing was a major issue for me as well, outside of the bad internal monologue and nonsensical graphic violence. This is book three, and unlike our other pair ups, our gals are only just now actually talking to each other.

Birdi: I find myself wondering the same thing. It’s time to stop having Jennifer Blood and Vampirella go after one another for unclear reasons that in no way moves the story along. At this point we need to move past pitting Vampirella and Jennifer Blood against each other and have them team up. They’re going to have to fight the forces of evil one way or another so let’s work towards that storyline. There’s only one more issue, and it seems there is so much work to be accomplished.

Kate: Which I will say they sort of almost did in this issue. They just did it badly. They teamed up when Chastity I guess wanted them to kill each other, but that’s mostly due to Vampirella helping and not letting the gang kill JB? Like it was her call. JB would’ve killed her before talking to her if the gang hadn’t interrupted.

Birdi: I know historically Jennifer Blood is a rather rash character; she’s rather reactionary. It just reads as though random aspects of her previous character development have been amped up in a way that hinders the story as well as the connection we’re supposed to believe is being created between the two. Why does Jennifer Blood have to be pigeonholed?

Birdi: Anytime I read Jennifer Blood’s internal dialogue, I have an image of Arrested Development’s Gob yelling “Come on!” Especially when she’s calling Vampirella by the wrong names. Calling Vampirella by the wrong names repeatedly could be funny and rather witty, but she just comes up with boring, easy, less than funny names for her. Toddlers have better name calling game than what Jennifer Blood is spewing out.

Kate: I’ve never seen Arrested Development, but I feel the same in terms of like, wow, you’re not witty at all.

Birdi: Arrested Development is hilarious; it’s one of my favorite shows. I mean she could have at least called Vampirella Lestat or the hemo-gobbler or pulse chaser. Hemo-gobbler is gold, I’m going to trademark that one.

Kate: So are we supposed to believe that it was Chastity dressed up as Vampirella, dressed up as Jennifer Blood, who killed that gang member in order to goad JB into going after Vampirella?

Birdi: That seems to be the gist of it. Chastity disguised as Vampirella leaving Jennifer Blood’s calling card. It was so rushed, and it came out of left field. What was the motive for this specific series? We’ve been introduced to Chastity in the main SoS  comics, but rather than introduce her in a compelling way that both moves the story along and makes sense, she just appears out of nowhere and without rhyme or reason starts posing as Vampirella. What the junk? Again, the writing is just all over the place. It seems like Collins forgot she was supposed to be connecting this series to the overall SoS series, and in the middle of the issue took a hard left without cause or justification.

Kate: Also makes no sense, yeah, like what would be the point of that plan?

Birdi: At the very least we got to see Vampirella go full on alien vampire mode, which was exciting. I really love how the wingspan spreads out of her fingers, creating an extension of her true form. It really is rather lovely and absolutely terrifying but in a way that excites me.

Screenshot_2015-07-17-12-37-33

Page from Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella & Jennifer Blood #3, art by Dave Acosta, script by Nancy Collins

Kate: Yes! That was cool. But the rest of the story was just like, bad and bloody.

Birdi: I must agree. It was beyond bad. I would rather read bathroom graffiti. I don’t mind the blood since I love horror and pulp, and when they combine it’s such a treat. But in this issue the blood seemed to just be there for no other purpose than the literal, and that’s boring. Collins, tickle my wit! Best, Birdi.

Kate: Or at least don’t be boring!

Birdi: I think we’re hoping for the impossible. I think it’s more likely for me to morph into hemo-gobbler Vampirella than Collins tickle our wit and stop boring us.

Kate: So true. Any other thoughts? We should probably trash the cover.

Birdi: I’m dubbing the cover “Shot to the Crotch.” When I saw the cover all I could think of was Bon Jovi’s “shot to the heart,” but instead of heart, I yelled crotch. As I read this issue, I kept seeing a series of gifs featuring Bon Jovi followed by Gob from Arrested Development followed by Interview with a Vampire.

Kate: I definitely had a visceral disappointment to this cover that I hadn’t with the previous covers, which were just boring, but at least they weren’t pointlessly sexualized.

Birdi: Right?! It’s upsetting. These two are really interesting and fun characters, and the cover just seemed to rely on bodies in a very patriarchal way.

Kate: My only solace is that we can hate it together. Someone else feels the same pain.

Birdi: Preach. We may not have a solid writer, but we have a solid distaste for the writing.

Kate: Trauma shared is trauma halved.

Birdi: Yes, beautifully stated! In case it was not abundantly clear, I’m not a fan of the cover nor any of the issues so far. But as always I remain an optimist and hold out hope. Perhaps the next issue, our final one will make these past three worth the pain.

Kate: I’ve given up hope at this point. Not only am I disappointed by these characters, I’ve been turned off of Collins’ writing for good. If I see her name on something I will pass—and I know I’m not alone in that. In the spirit of feminist solidarity and sisterhood and fairness, there are shitty male comic book writers out there, so I suppose in that sense, we’ve achieved equality–there are finally enough female comic book writers that I can say, this comic book writer is a woman, but she’s awful, and I will feel no guilt to the sister in not supporting her.

Birdi: I raise my fist in solidarity with you, sister.

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6 Comments

  1. Claire Napier on

    “Chastity dressed up as Vampirella, dressed up as Jennifer Blood,”

    That’s complex!!

  2. Dynamite has a problem with its female characters and it’s pretty much company-spanning, save the Bob’s Burgers comics.

    What they did to Cassie the the Army of Darkness vs Hack/Slash crossover was appalling.

    • I honestly haven’t read any of Dynamite’s other series other than the Swords of Sorrow titles we’re covering for this event, which they promoted from the start as being a kind of feminist revival led by Gail Simone and a superteam of women writers, so maybe they’re trying to be better? Based on the reviews of my fellow WWACers on the event and tie-in titles, this one is the worst of the lot.