Vampirella Valentine’s Special
Ergün Gündüz (cover artist)
“Happy Valentine’s Day”
Ceci de la Cruz (colorist), Taylor Esposito (letterer), Matt Idelson (editor), Maria Sanapo (artist), Leah Williams (writer)
Bon Alimagmo (editor), Michael Golden (writer and artist)
February 13, 2019
Holiday specials are not only fun, but also great opportunities to get to know a character outside of the trappings of their regular series. Leah Williams and Maria Sanapo’s story in Vampirella Valentine’s Special goes above and beyond my expectations, telling a story that surprised me in how touching it turned out to be.
“Happy Valentine’s Day” opens with Vampirella following a phone call to the doorstep of someone who may be responsible for the death of thirteen children. Vampirella’s steps along the cobblestone paths give Williams time to impart some of the history of New Orleans and the supernatural mysteries that surround a place that is known as “the city of the dead,” despite the vibrant displays of life that occur during Mardi Gras.
The blood red behind the narrative boxes, Williams’ history lesson, and Sanapo’s depiction of bleak streets, gusting winds, and Vampirella’s acceptance of the morbid task ahead create the kind of chilling atmosphere expected of a Halloween Special. But this story takes place on February 13th, the final day of the Mardi Gras festivities, which are a wonderful feasting opportunity for the monsters that lurk in New Orleans.
Vampirella discovers that the monster responsible for the missing children is a lamia, but more importantly, she discovers who it was that actually summoned her to town and why. Val Boudreaux, sporting a strong drawl, tight jeans, and an over indulgence in the the word “cher,” immediately calls up Gambit comparisons, right down to his last name. But this ragin’ Cajun is hiding something far darker and more dangerous than a deck of cards. For the time being, he wants Vampi’s help to clean the city of all the creatures go bump in the night. This cleansing also includes a history and ghost story lesson on the Casket Girls, as well as some of the other supernatural beings said to haunt the area.
The second story, “Matinee,” is a reprint of a story by Michael Golden that was published in the Vampirella Summer Special #1 in 2005. Two young teenagers take an unwilling younger sister to the matinee to see a horror movie where vampires prey upon movie theatre patrons. On top of the fact that Mira knows that their mom will be very mad at them for going to a creepy theatre when they aren’t supposed to, Mira also has to deal with the combined horror of what is on the screen and what’s going on behind her when Vampirella shows up to deal with the secret this particular theatre is hiding.
During the story, the boys give their expert commentary about why the movie is in black and white—to make it pretentious and scarier—which is reflected in the fact that the story itself is drawn in a grainy black and white to emulate the film depicted on screen. As seems to be the practice for Dynamite’s holiday specials, the second story is a more humorous look at Vampirella’s character. This short story leans into her playful nature, but also leans into the horror thanks to the creepy concept and the gloriously gory imagery.
Both stories in this Vampirella Valentine’s Special gave me the perfect balance of tongue-in-cheek humour, bloody action, and character introspection that I had wanted in the disappointing Halloween special. This is the kind of Vampirella storytelling I want so much more of.