DC vs. Vampires #9
Road trip! Our heroes split up and spread out across the globe to prepare for the final strikes against the vampire kingdom! Will Green Arrow's mission force him to battle one of his oldest friends? What horrors await the Birds of Prey inside the ruins of Gotham? And does Black Manta's secret mean a watery grave for Supergirl?
The assembling of panels on the page can create wildly different reading experiences for a comic. A nine-panel grid, like those of Watchmen or a Tom King series, flows in a separate way to say a Nick Derrington double-page splash. Each sequential layout carries out its rhythm, working in a specific fashion to convey an emotion that mirrors the plot or clashes against it. A great sequential artist can take every element of panel composition to sell the story and emotion, from the arrangement of panels to their shape and even the style of the border. An artist like Otto Schmidt is a master at this inventive use of paneling, thanks in part to his heavy focus on kineticism in static images.
DC vs. Vampires #9 – written by James Tynion IV and Matthew Rosenberg, with art and colors by Otto Schmidt, and lettering from Tom Napolitano – sets the story into its final act, with the three teams outlined in the last issue attacking various vampire strongholds across the world. Batgirl, Harley Quinn, and Black Canary are trying to find a way into Gotham while Supergirl, Steel, Black Manta, and Jayna sail for Australia. Elsewhere, Green Arrow begins his suicide mission to take out the Smallville blood farm. The issue bounces between the three groups, revealing more characters that’ve fallen under the thrall of vampires. It also takes the time to check in on some additional heroes that haven’t appeared in the series.
Tynion and Rosenberg’s script moves at a breakneck pace, having laid a solid track in the previous issues to deliver an action-packed story. There are moments where the book seems like it’ll slow down, but the writers immediately subvert that, delivering a surprise attack or action sequence that keeps the plot moving. That pace doesn’t mean the book suffers, and in fact, makes the quieter moments hit harder. The standout moment of this issue is not a fight scene or Green Arrow’s stealth sequence but is the Black Manta unmasking. The reveal uses continuity to set a foundation of who could be under the helmet, and then jags, subverting those expectations to give this pulpy book a sting of pathos.
That pathos that the writers imbue into the script extends beyond bigger characters like Aquaman or other Justice Leaguers, as the book works to incorporate various characters from the deepest vault of DC’s roster. The book is one that just keeps on giving in terms of d-list DC characters that get their moment to shine. The Beast and Loose Cannon get solid spotlights, functioning like the mini-bosses before the heavy hitters of Aquaman and Hawkman appear. It’s a great use for these lesser-known characters and shows both writers’ penchants for the obscure. (Tynion and Rosenberg also get their chance to drop the obligatory Grifter cameo for the main title, a hallmark of both writers’ Bat-adjacent titles.)
Schmidt’s art continues to be excellent in this issue, but the standout element is his use of panel compositions and borders. The most memorable example of this is when Green Arrow faces down a horde of vampires at the Smallville blood farm. Schmidt breaks up the panels with scratchy green borders, mimicking the way Green Arrow’s speeding projectiles are rendered. Green Arrow has a quiver’s worth of arrows planted at his feet, and he fires them off at a rapid pace. The then incorporation of those speeding arrows in-between the panels functions as an effective way to bolster the action sequence without having to add extra panels showing Green Arrow firing over and over.
A similar use of stand-out borders occurs in the other big action sequence of the issue, where Supergirl and the boat crew battle Aquaman and his royal guard. Schmidt, instead of using blurring arrows, breaks up the panels with ocean blue borders, resembling manipulated water to highlight the action. In both instances, the coloring of the issue plays off the borders, both the blue and green working to contrast the deep reds that Schmidt employs as the background of the panels. This palette was established once the sun was blotted out in previous issues and has a choke hold on the page, ever present in all three storylines, working perfectly with the vampire premise.
As the series flies into its third act, DC vs. Vampires #9 reminds why this is one of the most fun titles DC is putting on stands. With a keen eye for characters and pulp and Schmidt’s frantic art style, the book keeps the story moving while delivering some stunning uses of composition to enhance the pace and action sequences. Schmidt knows how to punctuate his art with a lush color palette that sells the world the remaining characters are trapped in, and how the respective colors of various plotlines can be used to break up the oppressive reds. This title is a great read that deserves to be picked up by anyone interested in an expansive DC Universe. It’s also a great read for anyone wanting some of the best action-oriented art in recent history.
DC vs. Vampires #9: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Ship
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 8/108/10