Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Requiem: Vampire Knight Volume Two

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Requiem: Vampire Knight Volume Two (Heavy Metal, 2010)

Heavy Metal has released the second in their series of dirt-cheap, frill-free collections of Requiem: Vampire Knight for the American market. This completely insane series, created by Pat Mills and Oliver Ledroit for a French publisher, Nickel, is one of the most gleefully demented and brain-bludgeoningly bizarre series I've ever read, completely entertaining from start to finish, and very poorly served by the slapdash way that Heavy Metal has chosen to package it.

Requiem is the story of Heinrich and Rebecca, lovers who betrayed each other in World War Two and have met again in Hell for a second chance. Unfortunately, he's now a vampire and she's now a ghoul and Hell is a planet where time runs backwards and pirate queens in flying ships wage war on cybernetic werewolves and soldiers in Dracula's army carry weapons that fire bolts and go "TEPESS!" when they're used. About every fifth page, a new plate gets spun and somehow Mills makes this colossal, unwieldy and thunderously odd series work. The whole story is a great exercise in making readers say "You have got to be kidding" aloud as often as possible.

Requiem is published in France as an annual 48-page story, with nine of the planned dozen issues out so far. Heavy Metal has collected the first six in two volumes, the second of which came out earlier this year. These books were designed to get the job done as cheaply as possible. There are no wasted pages among the 144 between the covers; copyright information is on the inside front and everything else is comic. You're telling me they couldn't afford a single extra signature? Anything to space this out, give some creator credits, background information, even just basic front- and endpapers? It's not like anybody's ever going to mistake Requiem for high art, but that doesn't mean that Heavy Metal needs to release it in a package so amateurish and sloppy. Recommended for older readers despite itself, basically.

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