Monday, January 19, 2009

Vampirella 58

A holiday themed issue of Vampirella, featuring a very good cover by Enrich. Seven stories here, a rarity for an issue from this era of Warren.

First is Vampirella in "Lenore" by Jose Gonzalez (art) and Roger McKenzie (story). Vampirella, Pendragon and Adam arrive at a castle where a crazy old man is storing the corpse of his dead wife Lenore in a tank. The old man had gone crazy after Lenore passed away many years ago. Since then he has performed experiments, allowing him to remain alive, and also enabling his ape pet, Rocco to talk. Rocco ends up freeing Vampirella and Pendragon, but the old man transfers Adam's youth to himself. When Vampi arrives they get into a struggle and the man ends up dying after he falls into the tank with his dead wife. When he dies, his youth returns back to Adam. Rocco bids farewell to Vampi and co, choosing to go down with the castle when it collapses.

Next is this issue's first Christmas themed story, "A Matchstick Angel" by Ramon Torrents (art) and Budd Lewis (story). This story features a sick rich little boy whose set to die right around Christmas time. His only friend is a poor girl, Taddie Openshoes. When Death comes to claim him on Christmas Eve, Taddie convinces him to take her instead, and he recovers.

My number one Warren story of all time is third, "Yellow Heat" by Russ Heath (art) and Bruce Jones (story). Heath's art is some of the best to ever appear in a Warren story. This story takes place in Africa before World War I and surrounds Uthu, a young warrior in an African tribe. When a beautiful woman from an opposing tribe is captured, Uthu desires her for himself and challenges the chief when he claims her. In order to obtain her, the chief orders Uthu to accomplish a warrior's quest where he singlehandedly must kill a full grown lion with only a spear within 3 days. A near impossible task, things get even tougher for Uthu when a lion ambushes him unprepared. He gets very lucky however when a large snake attacks the lion, killing it. Uthu kills the snake and drags the lion back to his tribe, victorious. He enters the hut where the captured woman is waiting for him... and thats as far as I'm going to go. This story is memorable largely for having one of the biggest shock endings in Warren history and I'm not going to spoil it for my readers. Let me just say that the final panel is extremely horrific and startling, but ultimately makes sense within the confines of the story once you read it again. Just a fantastic, fantastic story that on its own makes this issue worth having.

Another Christmas themed story is next, "The Christmas Flower" by Jose Ortiz (art) and Budd Lewis (story). This story takes place in a poor black neighborhood where a young boy finds a flower growing out of the pavement. He views this as a miracle, but some gang members step on it soon afterwards. With the help of some women passing by, he is able to prop it up, and keep it alive. A huge crowd soon gathers around it. Later, the gang member who stepped on it swerves away from it while on a motorcycle and ends up killing himself when he hits a car.

Fifth is "The Wambaugh" by Auraleon (art) and Bruce Jones (story). A Hollywood star who just got his big break meets in the wintery Canadian wilderness with a producer friend and his wife. While there they read a story about the Wambaugh, a beast that appears in Canada taking the form of corpses that searches for a mate. The producer's wife convinces the star to kill her husband since he is finished in Hollywood. The star is too nervous to do so, so she does it herself away from him. She soon starts freaking out about seeing the Wambaugh however and when they see the corpse of her husband, the star has a heart attack and dies. It ends up all being a trick to kill him so the producer can get his role instead. But in actuality the Wambaugh has taken the producer's form and claims the wife for himself. Not a bad story, but some odd narrative lapses at time that make it seem as if captions on certain panels were left off completely.

Sixth is "Little Monster" by Carmine Infantino & Dick Giordano (art) and Roger McKenzie (story). This story features an old bus driver, Leroy, who views children as monsters. He remembers a teacher he had when he was a child who shared this opinion, who died when the 'little monsters' called her to fall out of a window. Eventually he ends up getting into an accident when his bus hits a moving train. All the kids live, but he dies.

Last is "The Sleeping Beauty" by Esteban Maroto (art) and Maroto & Bill Dubay (story). Some extremely good, exotic art by Maroto here, which appears sideways. As told in the captions, years before a prince married a beautiful peasent girl, Aurora. After their marriage she revealed to him that she had made a deal with a demon in order to be able to marry him, where she gave up both her soul and their first born son. When the son is born, the father fights off the demon. The demon instead curses the prince, taking his castle and wife, making him a peasant. The artwork shows the present day, as the son, now all grown up heads through the demon possessed castle, encountering a winged maiden, dragons and finally the demon itself, which appears as a nine headed serpent. Successfully making it past them, he comes across his mother, who remains as youthful and beautiful as she was when he was born. But upon kissing her it is revealed that she too has become a demon and kills him. A similar narrative style here to stories that Dubay wrote in 1984/1994, where the captions tell a story which isn't really seen in the artwork at all.

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