All-Out War #4 continues the vampire saga with whatever bloody glory it can muster. The war finally kicks it up a notch as Constantine’s “Suicide Squad” approach their quarry at the Blood Farm. Unfortunately, they need all the luck they can to survive the malicious Baron Cinder and his vampire knights.
After last issue’s distraction, Midnighter takes up a leadership role in grabbing the Weather Wizard. Rosenberg and Paknadel devise a boss rush of knight themed vampire characters to fight as an obstacle. The most interesting antagonists in the fray are the vampire versions of Vic Sage/The Question and Prometheus. For those unaware, Wildstorm’s Midnighter dresses like Batman, remains advanced like Deathstroke, but adapts to combat like Taskmaster. The direct parallels of aptitude and tech between Prometheus, The Question, and Midnighter leads to the nerdiest bloodbath ever written. In particular, the way Midnighter’s programing reacts to agents of chaos like Vic or savants like Prometheus is a unique take but hard sell.
Speaking of blood, this issue has the most overwhelming use of red so far. Previous issues strike a balance of the monochromatic color scheme, and use the reddish portions to highlight or accentuate characters and panels. Nicole Righi tints the backgrounds, bleeds, and explosive effects in bloody hues. Qualano renders out extreme lightning, wind, motion, and lighting effects under Righi’s consistent scarlet glow. Each page becomes a visually arresting byproduct of the brutal color profile. When all the elements combine, the artwork is violent, cinematic, and give it a larger than life tone.
Although Midnighter leads the team, this is mostly a Mary Marvel story. The team considers Mary as their biggest gun they have left. When Baron Cinder’s knights attack, it isn’t long before Mary has to live up to the expectations made of her. Throughout the series Mary is typically a fearless combatant, but now we understand she has been secretly hiding her PTSD. While functioning as a way to characterize Mary, it does bother me that nearly every team member is so close to “Section 8.” Azrael’s long running subplot about his own PTSD should be enough.
While I dig the choice of Baron Cinder’s lieutenants, I do feel like The Question feels forced in. Even characters like Shazam are unsatisfyingly included. Moreover, Cinder virtually works as an overseer to a vampire plantation, and his knights are his “slave patrol unit.” The match-ups make for stunning battles, but only push us closer to the same “all-is-lost” moment we’ve seen the entire series till now. Despite Batwoman and Starfire being the distraction, other plot convivences coalesce into a twist Rosenberg should have kept. This is to say that as the team whittles down, we haven’t had a single satisfying result of the conflict. But hey, that’s war right?
Black Lightning in Kill The Messenger
Kill the Messenger heavily features cool blue in contrast to the main story. As I understood it, the monochromatic use of red helped highlight key elements, and set the vibe of All-Out War. This back-up seems to only use blue to differentiate itself and tie to 1/3 of Black Lightning’s color scheme. The story itself is simple, Black Lightning has hidden himself away while holding onto hope that his family is safe somewhere. When former Outsider and resident DC vampire Looker comes a looking, the story pivots into a desperate last stand. On the positive side, Jeff’s worry for his family touches on his parental fears and hopes. Also, Acky Bright’s character designs remind me of the pleasingly rounded look of Lilo & Stitch. On the negative side, the entire vampire portion didn’t make much sense or connect at all to Jeff’s story.
- You have been waiting week after week to see the war in All-Out War.
- Forced to keep up with DC Vs. Vampires and it’s spin-offs.
- Looking for more Mary Marvel and Midnighter centric stories.
DC Vs. Vampires is more often not, hit or miss. Issue #4 is a hit, but not by much. The highlights include the artwork, the use of certain characters, and overall tone. The plot is still doing a handstand on the side of the Hoover dam, and has the structure of a standard zombie flick, but like a man doing a handstand on the side of the Hoover dam: it’s hanging in there. In the penultimate issue, the suicide mission against “Baron Cinder” will need to push things to a satisfying climax.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.