This weekend ‘Underworld: Rise of The Lycans’ comes out. If you are like me, the idea of vampires involved in massive sword slashing battles sets off sparks in your imagination, but based on the quality of the first two ‘Underworld’ films, ‘Lycans’ will most likely leave you wishing you had never sunk your teeth into the movie, in the first place. There is an alternative, however, if you are looking for a nice mesh of sword fighting and gruesome vampire action- William Harms’ IMPALER, from Top Cow Productions, Inc.
Top Cow might sound familiar, since they produce two of the biggest non Marvel or DC books on the stands- WITCHBLADE and THE DARKNESS. IMPALER is similar to those two titles, since it features a beautiful, very modern art style and is also filled with graphic violence and language, not featured in the mainstream funny books. IMPALER takes place in a world all of it own, where New York City consists of a massive crater, and ruins covered in snow, caused by a nuclear winter.
Millions of vampires had overrun the city, and the military was hoping to prevent the spreading vampire plague by nuking Manhattan. The military’s plan failed. Now, the plague is spreading and only one man has the power to wipe out the vamps once and for all. Is there an ironic twist ? You bet. The Savior/Main Vampire Slayer also happens to be the one historical figure we always associate with vampirism - Vlad, The Impaler.
This version of Vlad isn’t like Moribus or Blade, characters who have the vampiric thirst, yet fight against the undead. No, this version of Vlad has a rather unique origin. Over 400 years ago, when Vlad was still mortal, he and the men under his command encountered the Vampire Horde for the first time. After all his men were slaughtered, Vlad sought out a priest to grant him the power to fight off the supernatural threat. The priest performed “..one of the old rites, one that summoned forth an angel and destroyed it” allowing Vlad to absorb the angel’s essence.
Anyone familiar with supernatural comic book characters can tell you that this version of Vlad’s origin is not nearly as convoluted or cheesy as the origin for other vampire slayers. All of this backstory was explained in detail throughout the first issue, along with some foreshadowing as to what the main theme of the book will be.
In the first few pages, Vlad rescues Vic, one of the Impaler’s modern day companions. Over and over again, as Vic succumbs to the despair that has gripped his world, he berates Vlad for using others as cannon fodder. He tells Vlad “You look at me and see a piece of meat that you can toss to the monster, to keep it distracted. People have worth, value. Their lives mean something.” It looks like the backbone of this series will be about a desperate 400 year old warlord learning about the value of human life.
Though that might sound preachy, IMPALER is anything but. There is just too much going on in the first issue, from U.S. troops trying to find the missing Secretary of Defense in an airport that has been overrun by vampires, to Vlad and Vic trying to find safety in a decimated Manhattan, for this book to be preachy.
Like I said before, IMPALER features some rather stunning artwork, by artist Matt Timson. Glowing eyes never looked so damn creepy, whether they belong to members of the Vampire Horde, or to Vlad himself. The design of the vampires is very sleek. They have bleached pale bodies, minus any hair and are entwined within black tendrils, ala Venom. This makes them similar in appearance to the Walkers from the comic masterpiece, MIDNIGHT NATION, but by no means are they a cheap imitation.
The first volume of IMPALER was nominated for an International Horror Guild Award. It doesn’t take much guessing to figure out why. So, if you are in the mood for a story that takes place in fully fleshed out world filled with vampires, you can skip out on paying $11 for ‘Rise of the Lycans’. Instead plop down $2.99, and you pick up IMPALER at your local comic book store.