(alt: Openlibrary)

My rating: 3 stars for the experience, 4 stars for potential

Okay, I’ll lay it out there: I’ve never played a game of Vampire: The Masquerade. I never even got very far in that podcast they have because… well, the whole thing admits of little irony, so any unscripted character illustration gets real cringey real fast.

And yet!

And yet I own a sourcebook and have read through it more than once and I follow V:TM social media accounts and the whole thing just feels like it ought to be Goth!Game of Thrones for my exact type of nerd.

So I’ve been keeping an eye open for media set in the world. When I saw an issue of this at Phoenix Comics, my esteemed local store, I knew I had to get volume 1.

How does it deliver?

Well, on the Sandmanesque moral quandarizing it’s exactly as you’d expect, and the political machinations central to the comic were just what I wanted them to be! The characters were interesting enough, in a fairly Sandmanny way, and I’m looking forward to the continuation. Four stars for continued potential.

There is hilariously clunky exposition at the beginning. So clunky. I do not for a second believe it couldn’t have been done better.

The art style suffers a lot from muddy digital coloring. It really looks like it was designed to look good on a screen, and like they were shooting for “dark”. Most of the pages don’t exploit a range of values well, which is made painfully obvious by the glowing blimp-like dialog balloons, stark white against the mud. If you can squint through the dark tones, you can see that the inking has a lot of character and good texture to it, which makes the coloring more annoying.

While it’s less obvious in this regard, it reminds me of Stagtown. That webtoon is being done by M. Alice LeGrow, the stunningly talented author-artist of Bizenghast. Even in the less-detailed style appropriate for a webtoon, you can tell the black and white art is the heart and soul of the thing… but because full color art is expected, there’s some awful light coloring that only detracts from her inking.

Here, too, I think the art would have been far more effective in a pared-down palette. Black and red and tones of each perhaps? Or with some other accent color that could change from page to page? I’m sure this is ultimately the fault of consumer expectations, but it irritates me that the pressures lead to this.

If I’m understanding the credits correctly, I prefer Devmalya Pramanik’s work to Nathan Gooden’s, but not to a huge extent.

I hope they incorporate more localism of the Twin Cities, even though I’m sure I won’t catch it. That’s always seemed really fun to me about this IP, that it overlays the lore on the real world1.

While I’m not saying it strikes me as a creative masterpiece at this point, I liked this a lot, and I will be picking up the next volume.

  1. I am therefore heartbroken over the quite-unclear development status of Bloodlines 2, which was to be set in my city