Vassalord Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Danielle Van Gorder
Review Date: Monday, September 08, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Charley is a self-loathing Catholic cyborg vampire who has it in for his boss. Johnny is a wealthy vampire playboy with a taste for violence. They fight crime! No, really - they fight crime.

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Nanae Chrono
Translated by:Alexis Kirsch
Adapted by:Jennifer Keating

What They Say
Charley, a cyborg vampire who does the Vatican's dirty work, is in the thrall of the local vampire playboy Johnny Rayflo. As the two of them fight crime - and each other - hilarity, violence and sacrilege ensue! But can Charley resist his own desperate cravings for blood? Find out as the devilish duo go up against a childlike vampire princess, a mysterious branch of the Unitarian Church... and each other.

The Review
Packaging:

The cover on this is dramatic and eyecatching - primarily a flat black, with a narrow band of art on the page showing an apparently naked Johnny on his chest, bleeding from his neck.  The series title is in a white font that looks like it was painted on.  It's beautiful, and that alone would have had me picking this one up off the shelf.  Inside, there's one color page included with a shot of Johnny in period clothes, although it looks fuzzy, almost like it was blown up from a smaller image.  The print quality is excellent, with sharp, crisp lines, deep blacks, and good screentone reproduction. 

Art:

The art here is sharp, dramatic, and full of motion.  The character designs are outstanding and varied, and really show off an incredible range of expressions.  Page layouts are somewhat basic, but there's still a nice sense of flow to the story that drives things along.  The panel layouts more than make up for that as well, and the action scenes are very well executed.  All in all, a slick looking book.

Text/SFX:

Some of the sound effects are translated on the page, others appear to have been replaced with the English equivalent, and still others are left completely untranslated.  Tokyopop's seemingly haphazard treatment of sound effects remains disappointing.  The adaptation was very good overall, with only a few rough points, and several lines that fit incredibly well. 

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Charley, affectionately nicknamed "Cherry" by Johnny, is a rather unusual vampire.  He's a cyborg vampire hunter for one, who kills his own kind for the Vatican.  He also refuses to drink blood from humans - or from anyone other than Johnny.  To say that the two have a complex relationship would be an understatement, especially since Johnny is supposed to be Charley's master.

When another vampire in thrall to the Vatican rats Charley out and then kills the nun controlling her, Charley has to fight both her and Johnny - as it turns out, she's Johnny's master, and despite her innocent features, is anything but.  When Charley has to face both her and Johnny himself, more than one of the trio may wind up dead.

Not even a party at a church is safe from the forces of evil.  Johnny and Charley are immediately pegged by the local cops as suspicious when the priest is attacked in a rather dramatic fashion during the sermon, but truth may be stranger than fiction in this situation.  Drawn into an investigation by a cute, glasses-wearing nun, the vampiric pair may be facing far more than they bargained for.

Comments:

This book was absurd, over-the-top, utterly unbelievable, and full of deus ex machina moments that make the one in the Superman movie look like an ordinary plot twist.  It starts out with Charley first attacking Johnny and apparently making every attempt to kill him (or at the very least inflict severe property damage), and then drinking his blood in an unapologetic pseudo-sexual scene.  Really, these two take the whole love-hate relationship to new over-the-top highs.  Add in the religious and crimefighting angles, and Charley's go-go-gadget cyborg gear, and you have something that somehow manages to come together to be more than the sum of its parts.

Vampire stories, on the whole, tend to be less than spectacular.  It's just too easy to fall into cliche traps and wind up with something trite.  Vassalord takes your standard vampire premise, makes it even more outrageous, and then manages to take the cliches and wield them like literary broadswords.  It's not good, exactly - it certainly has nothing even remotely resembling literary merit - but the strength of the characters and the humor make this a book that's easy to enjoy.  If you like your vampires dark and brooding and draped in black, this probably isn't the book for you.  But, if you're in the mood for a little mystery, a little humor, and a lot of violence, this might just be the thing.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1-4278-0614-7
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Vassalord