The Annotated Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse #1

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

As some of you may already know and be dreading like an oncoming storm, this month saw the release of The Laughing Corpse #1, marking the start of Marvel’s adaptation of the second of Laurenn J. Framingham’s 846 allegedly erotic urban fantasy novels. Thus, with our mandate to educate and inform the comics-reading public, it is once again time for the ISB Research Department to dust off its spectacles and devote itself to exploring, studying, and annotating the series’ latest offering, no matter how much I really don’t want to do it.

With that in mind, grab a copy of your own and follow along!

 


 

0.0: Like many of Marvel’s comics, Laughing Corpse #1 shipped with a “Monkey Variant” to capitalize on the sadly nonexistent fame of Marvel Apes:

 

 

Now, while this is appropriate since the apes in question are actually also vampires–yes, really–this cover, like the zombie variant for The First Death #2, sort of misses the point, which is to show the character’s ape equivalent. This means that nobody at Marvel thought that Gorillanita Blake was a good idea, and further shows that they seriously need to call me.

 

1.1: Unless I miss my guess, the house that Anita goes to at the beginning of the story is actually the Banks residence from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air:

 

 

From a literary standpoint, this could be indicative of a number of things, from Framingham advising us to relax and stay in one spot to fully take in the story, signifying that Anita’s life is going to go through a great upheaval, or even pointing us to the unspoken fears of her mother that are about to be realized. For a more thorough examination, consult my book, Summertime In Dublin: Modernist Literature From James Joyce to Jazzy Jeff.

 

1.4: As with all scholars who devote their study to a particular subject, I have to be careful not to filter the work through my own perception too much. Still…

 

 

…sometimes I can’t help but think she’s talking straight to me.

 

2.4: While it’s easy to sympathize with the spike-heel wearing Anita in this panel…

 

 

…I feel I should point out that while she is correct, a lady gets a lot of things. She gets:

-A 20 karat ring
-The alimony, too.
-To look good in the nude.

Comfortable shoes aside, there is one place that they’ve been whipped: between the nose and upper lip.

 

3.4: I know that this isn’t how this scene actually goes, but it’s all I could see when I read it:

 

 

4.6:

 

 

Okay, I’ll stop there. Otherwise, I’ll be doing this all night and we’ll never get anywhere.

 

5.3: This scene introduces us to Bunny Lebowski Cicely, Harold Gaynor’s leggy blonde ingenue that makes me hope he’s got an assistant somewhere who looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman to complete the trifecta:

 

 

Here’s an interesting thing about comics: They’re a primarily visual medium, which means that while it might be tempting to leave in the descriptions of the novel, you don’t have to tell us that she’s a tall leggy blonde in a minidress because there’s a picture of her right next to the caption.

 

6.3: All right Mr. Gaynor, for twenty-five points and the lead, complete this lyric from Toto’s 1978 debut album: “You supply the night…

 

 

Oooh, I’m sorry. We were looking for “I’ll Supply the Love.” The white goat, I believe, is from a Danzig song.

 

9.2: When I was in the ninth grade, everyone in my class had to take a mandatory course that included three weeks of sex ed. Considering that I went to school in the heart of South Carolina, the course was actually pretty progressive, and climaxed–as it were–in a pretty memorable moment when our teacher explained that one size of condom was all you really needed by getting one out, rolling it up her arm to the elbow, and then flexing her fingers.

I mention this because it looked exactly like this:

 

 

15.7: I’ve been a little mystified by Anita’s choice of slang in the past, but in this panel, she refers to herself as “heap big vampire slayer,” which… man, I don’t even know where to begin with that. I mean, yeah, she’s saying it sarcastically, but why the F-Troop Indian dialogue? And why does it look like she’s made herself up as Chauncey Throttlebottom III in this panel?

 

 

Some mysteries, even I cannot answer.

 

18.1: Okay, so here’s the plot so far as I have it.

 

 

In addition to being asked by David Huddleston to resurrect a zombie through the time-honored tradition of human sacrifice, she’s been called in by the cops to a grisly murder scene involving some badly chewed-up and rent-asunder remains and a missing little kid.

Now, despite the temptation of reading sentences like this, I’ve done my best to keep my reactions to the series “pure” by avoiding the Wikipedia entries for the books and discussing them beyond their supposed general decline, so believe me when I say that I’m completely uninformed about how this book works out.

That said, I’m betting the little kid is totally the parent-eating monster.

Don’t tell me if I’m right or wrong, it’ll be a nice surprise to find out for myself. Of course, “nice” is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.

The Annotated Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #11 and 12

With last month’s release of #12, the Marvel adaptation of Guilty Pleasures drew to a close, finally ending the easy target for outright disdain source of the ISB’s most prestigious academic pursuit, but it looks like it’s coming to an end.

I’ve prepared my research, locked up the vice cabinet and for one last time, I’m ready to delve into the mysteries of Laurenn J. Framingham’s vampirotica masterwork. And it occurs to me that in the two years since the Research Department first began exploring the intricacies of the Anita Blake comics, I’ve outlasted a writer, an artist, and a publisher, so I guess the only question left is whether I can outlast Framingham herself.

I guess we’ll find out together.

Grab your own copy and follow along!

 


 

 

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #11

 

1.1: Those of you who haven’t dulled your memories with the sweet release of Lady Booze might recall that when we last left Our Alleged Heroine and her Kid Sidekick Eddie, seen here about to go back-to-back like Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw in the video for “High Enough”…

 

 

…they were in the throes of Mortal Peril. Unfortunately, given that we’ve got twenty-one pages left in this issue alone, I’m forced to assume that they make it out alive.

 

1.6: According to her narration, Anita is currently being menaced by a bunch of ghouls. Judging by this panel, however…

 

 

…I think she’s actually in danger of being mutilated by the Werewolves of London. And their hair is perfect.

 

2.5: You know, for a guy who’s supposed to be a badass vampire-slaying assassin known only as “Death,” Edward sure is quick to settle on suicide as the solution to being bothered by creatures that are usually scared off by a stern warning. I mean, he doesn’t even want to kill himself in the most badass way possible or anything.

 

3.5:

 

 

In this panel, it’s revealed that Anita can’t figure out that setting a rickety wooden shed full of gasoline on fire would make it burn quickly. Just to clarify here, she is our protagonist.

 

6.2:

 

 

Hmm. Say, Dr. Banner, you want to handle this one?

 

 

Bruce Banner, everybody. Let’s give him a hand.

 

6.6: In this scene, we find that Anita’s made arrangements to meet with the Wererat King at Denny’s at 1:30 AM. Now, I’ve been to Denny’s at 1:30, and while I can confirm that it’s exactly the kind of place where one would expect to encounter eldritch horrors, they tend to be limited to local White Wolf Games enthusiasts.

 

8.4: Is this the King of the Wererats, or Saved By the Bell super-hunk Mario “A.C. Slater” Lopez?

 

U-DECIDE!

 

11.3: You know, it seems like there was something really distinctive about the Wererat King, but I just can’t remember what it–

 

 

Oh, right! He’s a Nevernude. Either that, or he’s planning to distract Enos while Anita and Edward attack Nikolaos by jumping over the creek in the General Lee.

Huh. That would actually be pretty awesome.

 

16.1-16.6: I realize that while I try to keep an academically neutral tone, my annotations for this series can often come off as negative or even scornful at times. So in the interest of fairness, I’d just like the point out that this

 

 

…is actually a pretty good page, and with the smirking vampire ending up in a huge Evil Dead-ish bloodspray, it makes a good sight gag and a decent action sequence.

Also, this marks the first time in the series thus far that Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter has actually killed a vampire. And it only took eleven and a half issues.

 

18.4: Oh man, this is fantastic.

 

 

Nikolaos the 12 year-old girl vampire master? Tired. Nikolaos the 12 year-old girl vampire master who rolls around in a hot pink 80s-style party dress with a ginormous bow in her hair and holy crap are those legwarmers?! That‘s a villain I want to read about.

Man, between this and that last panel, maybe things are starting to turn up for this series after all!

 

21.1: Hey everybody, it’s Phil–wait just a Goddamn minute! Didn’t he die last issue?! I mean, I realize that this is a story about zombies and vampires, but since it’s also a murder mystery, I assumed character death would have some sort of meaning that wouldn’t be played for maudlin sympathy. Surely I’m mistaken, let me just check my notes here…

Finally, there’s something in this story that elicits an emotional reaction, although I’m not sure “relief” is what Framingham was going for. In any case, given the fact that we’ve a) seen a body, and b) heard Anita say that he’s is dead four times in the span of two pages, I have nothing but confidence that Phillip has shuffled loose this mortal coil and certainly won’t be showing up again in the next issue.

I mean, that would just be sloppy.

Son of a… Man. This can’t possibly get any worse.

 

21.4:

 

 

What.

 

21.5:

 

 

Oh no. No no no no no.

Look, I’ve read a lot of bad comics in my time. I mean, I’ve got a full run of Tarot, so I think it’s safe to say that my tolerance is pretty high, but there is no way in Hell I’m going to read a comic where there’s a plot point involving a vampire in the body of a twelve year-old girl having sex with the rotting corpse of a male stripper, and fuck you for making me type that.

That’s it. I’m done. You win, Fram–

22.7:

 

 

No. I didn’t come this far just to quit at the finish line. I ain’t done yet, you hear me? One more round.

 


 

 

 

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #12

 

1.3: Okay. Okay. Keep it together, Sims. Just twenty-two more pages to get through. Seriously, though…

 

 

…that bow is incredible.

 

2.2: Here at the Research Department, Nikolaos has been a pretty prominent source of… Well, let’s just call it “consternation” and move on. With this panel, though, we believe that at least one question about her origins has been answered:

 

 

Nikolaos… is actually Miss Frost.

 

4.6: And now, Burchard has a Katana.

 

 

Admittedly, Guilty Pleasures the novel was originally published in 1993, a dizzy, pre-Matrix time in which the katana as your super-cool ultimate weapon hadn’t been run into the ground by anybody except Akira Kurosawa, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Highlander: The Series, but man. I don’t even have a joke for how cliché that is. It’d be like making fun of a Roger Corman movie.

 

6.1: You know, it occurs to me that ever since Ron Lim came on the book as the new penciler and slimmed Anita’s thighs down to a closer approximation of a human being that all that extra weight seems to have migrated… up.

 

 

10.1: Another interesting art fact: Rather than an actual person, Zachary’s appearance in this panel is modeled after the “Screaming Egon” action figure from the Ghostbusters cartoon line:

 

 

13.1: And now, a brief lesson in comedic theory. This is funny:

 

 

15.2: This is not.

 

 

17.2: In any sensible comic book, the scene above would’ve been our last-panel freeze-frame cut-to-credits finish, but, well, this is Anita Blake, and nothing’s ever that easy here. So instead, it’s time once again to prepare for trouble

 

 

and make it double.

Yes, it’s Jean-Claude, who insists on being a main character in this trainwreck despite the fact that he hasn’t shown up in like eight issues. In any case, the next few pages are devoted solely to the fact that he is allegedly very handsome, and while I didn’t even think it was possible, I care less now than I did when I started.

And I don’t have to, because…

 

22.6

 

 

YO LAURELL.

I DIDN’T HEAR NO BELL.

The Annotated Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #9 and 10

Before we get started with tonight’s scholarly examination of the comic book works of Laurenn J. Framingham, the ISB Research Department would like to address a concern regarding our methodology.

Yes, it has been about three months since our last analysis of Marvel’s “popular” series about the adventures of the most ineffectual heroine since Jane Austen’s Emma and her running crew of vampire strippers, which puts us a solid three issues behind. But rest assured, there’s a reason for this.

Really, it all boils down to the fact that they’re fucking awful it takes a certain mindset to search these works for any deeper meaning. Specifically, it requires the Arashikage Mindset, as described by Storm Shadow in GI Joe #103, which–in addition to the assorted benefits of becoming a lethal killing machine–allows the user to “find untapped reserves of strength in the deepest throes of despair.”

As you might imagine, that comes in pretty handy when you’re reading Anita Blake.

Thus, the Research Department stands ready, and tonight, we’re catching up by giving you a double-shot of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures for mockery and scorn thoughtful analysis in order to make up for lost time! Grab your own copy and follow along!

 


 

 

Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #9

 

1.5: In this panel, Anita and her pal Ronnie [sigh] Sims–who has apparently taken my Top Gun comparison to heart and now sports a pair of mirrored Aviator shades–engage in a bit of what I think is supposed to be playful banter:

 

 

To the untrained writer reader, it might appear that these are jokes, but on closer examination, they’re not. This is actually a definition, and the fact that Anita offers it so readily when prompted may be a reference to her status as the oldest 3rd Grade Spelling Bee Champion in St. Louis history.

 

2.4: Unless I miss my guess, the young man filling in as a temp for the Church of Eternal Life is actually James Rolfe, the Internet’s Angry Video Game Nerd:

 

 

As bizarre as it seems to have him show up in the pages of Anita Blake his presence here serves to remind the reader that as bad as this thing gets, it’s probably still better than playing Night Trap on the Sega CD.

 

7.1: I hate to nitpick here (NOTE: This is a lie), but…

 

 

…I was unaware that “Teddy” was a shortened form of “Edward,” instead thinking that it was short for, you know, “Theodore.” As it turns out, though, Framingham is… not incorrect, in this specific instance.

I would like to point out, however, that the Billy Graham of vampirism is actually Billy Graham.

 

7.2: This page marks the first appearance of Malcolm, who–in a blatant ripoff of The Chronicles of Solomon Stone‘s Zombie Pope–is the vampire leader of the Church of Eternal Life.

 

 

Also, given that his description in the panel above pretty much says “in a thousand years, he’ll be as powerful as as a twelve year old girl,” he’s the least threatening character in the book, barely edging out Anita herself.

 

9.1:

 

 

You’re tellin’ me.

 

11.4: Judging by her right-angled eyebrows and trapezoidal mouth, I get the idea that Anita’s supposed to be saying something in this panel.

 

 

And yet, she’s not. This, however, is easily remedied through my continuing efforts to improve the series:

 

 

Stay fly, Anita. Stay fly.

 

12.3: Not that I’m complaining here, but really…

 

 

…what’s the point of rocking the one-shoulder tiger-print strong-man outfit if you’re just going to roll around with a pair of striped boxer shorts underneath? It’s not exactly in keeping with the Tarzan motif, now is it? I guess he’s just trying to maintain a little Muscle Mystery under there.

 

13.5: Hey everybody! It’s Phillip!

 

 

Phillip, as you may recall, is the stripper and mesh t-shirt enthusiast that Anita went to a party with like four issues ago. He’s being tortured, Anita feels bad about that, and while I can’t really think of a reason why, I think we’re supposed to as well.

Incidentally, he’s referred to as her “lover” several times over the next few pages, and that gets a lot better if you read that dialogue in the voice of Will Ferrell’s exhibitionist professor from Saturday Night Live. Come to think of it, that’s true for all the dialogue in this book.

 

21.4: So, to review. We have Burchard, who is a grown man clocking in at 603 years old, and Nikolaos, who is a thousand year-old vampire and also a twelve year old girl.

 

 

… Hold the fucking phone one second. I’ll be right back.

 

 

Okay, that’s better. One down, one to go.

 


 

 

Anita Bake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #10

 

1.3: BEHOLD! Another example of Nikolaos’s vast mental powers!

 

 

Putting aside the fact that I don’t recall anyone asking, I have a question here. Is this line actually in the novel, or was it just put in the comic to explain why A Vampire Named Slickback and The Guy Who Looks Just Like Jean-Claude But Is Apparently Not Jean-Claude appeared in the last panel of #9, but in none of the panels surrounding it? I’d read it myself to find out, but… Well, I’ve got enough problems.

 

2.1: Ever since that last issue, I’ve been looking for an appropriate visual metaphor for what it’s like to read this series. I haven’t found it, but this one comes pretty close:

 

 

I believe it was George Orwell who said “If you want a picture of the future of vampire erotica, imagine Anita Blake stabbing you in the testicles–forever.”

 

7.2: Hey everybody! Phillip’s dead!

 

 

Finally, there’s something in this story that elicits an emotional reaction, although I’m not sure “relief” is what Framingham was going for. In any case, given the fact that we’ve a) seen a body, and b) heard Anita say that he’s is dead four times in the span of two pages, I have nothing but confidence that Phillip has shuffled loose this mortal coil and certainly won’t be showing up again in the next issue.

I mean, that would just be sloppy.

 

8.5: In addition to being the first time in the comic that someone’s shoved a piece against Anita from behind…

 

 

…this panel marks the return of Edward (aka Teddy, aka Death, aka Scissorpants), the character who actually does things while Anita lays around taking naps and moping about the 40% drop in sales that the mesh t-shirt industry will have to suffer through now that Phillip’s dead.

 

10.1 – 11.4: In this sequence, Edward cleans Anita’s vampire bite by using Holy Water and a Cross. It’s not made clear in the script, but one can assume that he could have also used the Knife, the Axe or–if he had enough hearts–the Stopwatch.

 

16.1: Uhh…

 

 

16.2: Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me.

 

 

Hang on a second. Be right back.

 

 

Hokay. That’sh better.

19.1: So anyway, Anita an’ thish guy are goin’ to the cemetery or somethin’. I like that guy. Stupid book oughtta be about him… least he wearsh a Goddamn shirt…

 

21.1: Hey, did you guys know this thing was a murder mystery? Yeah, I’d forgotten too. Anyway, as it turns out, the vampire murderer is…

 

 

Zachary?!

Wait, hold the fuckin’ line here, the vampire murderer around which the entire plot is based is Zack Morris, who showed up for like five minutes in number seven?! That’s the killer?!

Son of a bitch. That’s it, I’m done here.

The Annotated Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #8

Sharp-eyed ISB readers may have noticed that it’s been a while since we’ve been down this particular lonesome road, but the fact of the matter is that after the nervous breakdown that capped off our our last attempt at casting the light of scholarship onto Laurenn J. Framingham’s landmark Marvel Comics urban fantasy series, the Research Department needed a little extra time to recover.

 

A little extra time and a little gin. And video games. Lots of video games.

But tonight, it’s back in action! After all, with the next issue of Guilty Pleasures–the series that consistently lives up to half of its name–hitting shelves tomorrow, the last thing we want is to fall behind in our attempts to classify and explain the adventures of everyone’s fifth-favorite Vampire Hunter.

And really, we at the Research Department are nothing if not timely.

Grab a copy of your own and follow along!

 


 

1.1: It might not be readily apparent from this panel…

 

 

…wherein Anita picks up where the last issue left off by continuing her psychic duel with Draco Malfoy’s twin sister, but this issue marks the debut of new series penciller Ron Lim, which presents the Research Department with something of a problem. See, Lim’s a veteran of the Golden Age of Marvel Comics–the eighties*–and as such, he brings a basic level of craftsmanship to the art even when he’s doing his thigh-swelling best to ape Brett Booth, and that’s going to make making fun of the art a lot harder.

Er, wait. Not making fun. Academic criticism, I mean.

Probably best to just move on.

 

1.5: Considering that there’s no amount of wind in the world that would explain the behavior of Nikolaos’s hair on this page…

 

 

…and assuming that she is, in fact, a vampire and not some deadly hybrid known only as The Medusapire, one has to seek another explanation.

The most logical theory? In a reference that will only be understood by me and the six other people who played it, Nikolaos is sporting a coif along the lines of Colonel Scott O’Conner, hero of 1990’s Kabuki Quantum Fighter for the NES. This would also explain why she crouches down and presses A three times to swap chips for health on page ten.

 

2.4:

 

 

That’s what she said.

 

3.1: Ever since the Research Department pointed out that Nikolaos–the evil sinister vampire overlord who is actually a little girl–was something of a cliché ever since it was done by Bring It On‘s Kirsten Dunst back in 1994, we’ve been waiting for something that would set her apart as a true force of evil. And now we have it, because in this panel…

 

 

NIKOLAOS SWEEPS THE LEG.

 

Clearly, the combination of vampiric abilities and John Kreese’s Cobra Kai style karate is a threat to the entirety of the Greater St. Louis area.

 

3.2: It’s not specifically indicated in the comic itself, but if you imagine that “AIEE! RUN! PERVERTS!” is being screamed by a looming, off-panel Sinistar, this issue gets a whole lot better.

 

5.7: So apparently, this is what passes for tough-guy banter in the world of Anita Blake:

 

 

I mean, come on, Framingham! Everybody knows Fangface was a werewolf, not a vampire!

 

8.4: In this panel, Anita and Phillip share what I think is supposed to be a tender moment…

 

 

…but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen this image before. Oh, of course!

 

 

In reconstructing the classic cover to H2O, Hall & Oates’ 1982 masterpiece, Lim has reminded us that Anita’s world is one where Private Eyes go One On One with literal Maneaters.

Gino the Manager.

 

10.1: Finally, the scene we’ve all been waiting for: Full Frontal.

 

 

Let’s face it, folks: It had to happen sometime, and we might as well just go ahead and get it out of the way here. What’s interesting to me, though, is that Jess Ruffner decided to adapt the shower scene rather than one of the sixteen bikini car washes that crop up, seemingly at random, over the course of the first book.

 

11.1: Despite the fact that it’s a dream sequence and, as such, doesn’t really count, this sequence marks the return of James from Team Rocket Jean-Claude, who is allegedly one of our main characters, despite the fact that he hasn’t appeared in like a year and a half. Also…

 

 

…I totally thought Anita was saying “vampires don’t eat soul food,” which, with the exception of Blacula, is also true.

 

12.1: After two and a half issues of Anita & Co. tromping around in the woods for reasons that remain a mystery even to the Research Department, we’ve finally got a reminder that this book takes place in an actual city–Specifically, as I’ve mentioned before, St. Louis, Missouri.

Speaking of, when Mark Twain, author of what is arguably the greatest American novel, was asked about the proper pronunciation of his home state, he famously remarked that people from Missouri called it “Missour-uh,” non-natives callled it “Missou-ree,” and those who were born there and had no opportunity to leave referred to it as “Misery.”

Slightly less well-known, however, was an additional caveat: “And if you should find yourself reading cheap vampire-themed pseudo-erotica set in the state, then… Jesus, man. Jesus.”

 

12.3: The fact that Theresa leaves the party and changes out of her gothy fetish dress and into a snappy business suit before she’s decapitated is certainly an important clue to the series’ alleged mystery.

 

15.2: As a testament to her fame, a list sent to the Research Department by an alert reader lists Laurenn J. Framingham as one of the “CUTEST Paranormal Authors.” Specifically, she’s listed with the note “looks like she could be one of her characters.”

On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED note, here’s one of her characters:

 

 

And with that, it’s probably best to call it a night.

The Annotated Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #7

While 2007 was really the year that my series of annotations for the Anita Blake comics really rose to prominence in the world of academia, it’s worth noting that we here at the ISB Research Department ended the year on a bit of a down note.

Yes, as some of you might recall, last November saw me receiving an autographed copy of the first Anita Blake hardcover from an anonymous benefactor. Normally, this would’ve brightened my day right up, but this one was bittersweet, as it came with the knowledge that Darla Cook, personal assistant to Laurenn J. Framingham herself, had never heard of of me.

You can imagine the heartbreak.

But no matter! We don’t do this sort of thing for the recognition, and with my New Year’s Resolution to rededicate the ISB to the barely disguised mockery and scorn scholarly analysis that you’ve all come to expect, now’s the time to jump right back in and slug it out with Marvel’s recent Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #7.

Grab your own copy and follow along!

 


 

1.3: Hey everybody, it’s Phillip!

 

 

Phillip, for those of you who made the wise decision to block out all memories involving mesh t-shirts in the nine months since the last issue, is the vampire-loving male stripper that Anita pressgangs into taking her to oh my God his ears are massive.

Sorry, but… Just look at those things! They’re like Hobbit ears! They’re like an industrial funnel attached itself to a prepubescent John Oates! It’s like… Oh man…

You don’t think he can hear me, do you?

 

2.1 – 2.3: No, you’re not caught in some sort of time-loop where events repeat themselves ad nauseum, no matter how much it might like it. As depicted in the panel above, this actually marks the second sequence in the series so far where Anita is forced to make out with some dude in order to save her own life and feels conflicted because they’re just so hunky! So, you know, yet another example of the strong female character that is Anita Blake.

 

2.3: If I had to describe this series in exactly one word, I think I’d go with…

 

 

Whoops, wrong picture! Oh well, probably just best to move on.

 

3.3: In this panel, Anita tells Phillip that he looks “like an ad for Rent-A-Gigolo.” Putting aside the fact athat Phillip actually looks like an ad for a Dadaist production of Dumbo, “Rent-A-Gigolo” is a pretty redundant term, as male prostitutes are, by definition, rented.

 

3.7: Hey Brett Booth! Is there any way you could make the breasts in this comic less attractive?

 

 

Oh, ritual scarification! Good one!

 

4.1: You know, I’ve seen the Anita Blake series described as “erotic horror,” and while the alleged eroticism continues to elude me, after seeing a woman who resembles a zaftig David Bowie circa 1973 descending on a man like a lion bringing down a gazelle on the Serengetti…

 

 

… I can definitely grasp the horror part.

 

4.7: Hey Anita, could you describe what it was like being the subject of these in-depth examinations here on the ISB?

 

 

Yeah, well. It hasn’t exactly been a picnic on this end, either.

 

5.6: Now, I’m no carpenter here or anything, but is this supposed to be a gate?

 

 

Really? What’s it supposed to keep out, rectangles? Sheesh.

Also, on an unrelated note, “You said chickens weren’t enough, so we got you a goat” was the exact same sentence my dad said right before my mom filed for divorce.

 

5.1: So, everybody remembers Theresa, right? No? Well, that might be because she last appeared in the first issue of Anita Blake, which came out something like six million years ago. Anyway, here she is again, all tarted up for some Zombifying:

 

 

And really: I don’t care how much you paid for it at the RenFaire, when even Anita Blake’s rolling her eyes at your outfit, you’re probably overdoing it just a shade.

 

7.3: And it is at this point that the issue goes completely off the rails. Okay, look: I realize that I normally try to keep up the apperance of scholarship with these things, and that that is, in essence, the entire joke, but this thing is awful. Just awful, and it all starts right here with what is unquestionably the most boring voodoo ritual since I drunk-dialed Miss Cleo. It makes Weekend at Bernie’s 2 look like Sugar Hill.

There are scenes where Anita and her new friend Zack Morris literally walk around in a circle, and while they tersely claim they’re doing magic, they’re really just slowing things down to a pace so glacial that it would defy any attempt at making fun of it, sending a lesser man scrambling for the mind-erasing comfort of the bottle. You win this round, Hamilton.
Incidentally, said ritual also involves Zack leaving a big bloody handprint on Anita’s rack, marking the second time this issue that she’s been groped in the line of duty.

 

10.1: Readers might be used to seeing that Anita has hips that are roughly the width of a Volswagen Minibus, but it isn’t apparent until this scene that Zack has legs that ought to allow him to do a standing thirty-foot high jump:

 

 

Also of note: What is apparently a second, Dali-esque set of pectoral muscles that are oozing down his ribcage, and seriously, is there nowhere in St. Louis where a man can buy a shirt?

 

19.3: The sequence that starts on page 17 marks the return of Nikolaos, the vampire capo that, in a mind-shattering twist worthy of the finest episodes of A Pup Named Scooby Doo, turns out to be a little girl, but it’s in this scene where she has her defining moment, delivering what is unquestionably the most pretentious sentence ever written by anyone ever:

 

 

“Call it shadow feeding.” Yeah.

How about we just call it a night instead?

An Unexpected Present

So yesterday, I went out to the mailbox to find a few packages waiting for me.

This isn’t exactly an unusual occurrence, especially at this time of year. After all, I do a lot of shopping online, and sure enough, one of the packages was a copy of Jim Kelly’s Black Belt Jones that I’d ordered as a present for myself. The other one, though, was something of a mystery, mostly because the return address didn’t have a name.

In fact, other than a West Coast address and the “DO NOT BEND” scrawled across the back, there weren’t that many identifying features about it at all. So of course, curiosity piqued, I opened it up.

Inside was this:

 

 

Yep: A copy of Marvel’s first Anita Blake hardcover. A pretty weird thing for me to get in the mail, especially considering that I already own one, thanks to the fact that it had a new story in need of annotation and a pullquote from me on the dust jacket.

So I flipped through it, and that’s when a post-it note stuck to the title page caught my eye:

 

 

Now, I’ve done a lot of freaking out in my time. It’s pretty much what the entire website here is based on, and between Haney, Kanigher and Mantlo, I think I’ve built up a pretty good tolerance for the unexpected twist.

But this?

 

 

Well played, Post-It. Well-played.

The Annotated Anita Blake: The First Death #2

In the four months since the last Anita Blake comic hit the stands, things have been looking pretty grim for the Research Department here at the ISB, and to be honest, I was starting to worry that in Anita’s absence, overwhelming desire to provide you with the best in literary criticism was going to lead to something truly horrible, like, say, The Annotated Witchblade Takeru Manga or–God help us all–The Annotated Ant.

Fortunately for us all, I don’t think that’s going to be necessary.

Yes, Halloween saw the release of the second (and final) issue of The First Death, an original mini-series for comics written by Mr. and Mrs. Laurell K. Hamilton designed to fill in questions that I’m reasonably certain nobody was asking about everyone’s fifth-favorite vampire hunter and her assorted hangers-on.

Of course, such answers are bound to raise new questions. And that’s where I come in with another installment of handy explanations and annotations for this allegedly thrilling installment of the Anita Blake saga!

Grab a copy of your own and follow along!

 


 

0.0: Like all Marvel comics that came out in October, The First Death shipped with a “Marvel Zombies” variant that’s worth noting for a couple of reasons.

First, the variant was pencilled by Ron Lim, the artist replacing Brett Booth on the upcoming second half of Guilty Pleasures. Comics readers will probably remember Lim from both a long run on Silver Surfer and his work on the best Marvel crossover ever, which ensures that his work on the Anita Blake titles will appeal to fans of both vampire-based erotica and the concept of schadenfreude.

Secondly, whereas the rest of the zombie variants depict the lead characters as zombies, this one misses the point pretty broadly by showing your standard-issue Anita Blake (alive, well, and pallid) squaring off against a bunch of zombified Marvel characters, including a Namor that’s apparently been thrown in for good measure. Still, it does make a certain sense: Despite the fact that it took the Marvel Zombies about a half hour to polish off Galactus, one can safely assume that Anita’s thighs alone would keep them going for days.

 

0.1: In a move that’ll pretty much set the tone for the rest of the issue, the recap page has the captions beneath Dolph and Zerbrowski’s pictures switched. So seriously guys, if you can’t keep the characters’ names straight in this thing, I don’t see any reason why I ought to.

Oh well. At least the interiors’ll be a little better, right?

 

1.1-1.3:

 

 

Ah. That’s a “no,” then.

Still, it’s nice of them to clarify that what is commonly referred to as “grey matter” is, in fact, Bazooka Joe Chewing Gum.

 

2.1: And now, your humble annotator attempts to pass off an intense scrutiny of Gunsmith Cats as actual knowledge of firearms:

 

 

Clearly, Anita’s handgun has been modified in order to help her in her never-ending battles with the Undead. To be fair, though, I’m not exactly sure what she’s hoping to accomplish with a gun that can eject shells on both sides.

 

2.4: At first, this panel gives the impression that Anita is either absolutely fascinated by Dolph’s cufflinks or physically incapable of having a conversation while actually looking directly at another person.

 

 

If you look at it for more than a couple of minutes, though–and let’s be honest here, I’m the only one who’s going to be doing that–you realize that she’s actually staring at us.

 

3.2: Staring… into our very souls

 

 

…Whoa! Sorry. Got caught up in this issue’s breakneck action. Probably best to be moving on.

 

6.5: While checking out a nest of vampires, Anita’s mentor and fellow vampire hunter Manny mentions getting home to see his wife and kids…

 

 

…thus ensuring that he’ll be tortured half to death by the end of the issue. Rejected dialogue for this panel included Manny revealing that he was both “too old for this shit” and “only one day from retirement.”

 

7.4: This one probably speaks for itself.

 

 

I would like to point out, however, that yes, ladies: He’s a two-ballooner.

 

9.3: Despite the evidence offered up by Anita and her sub-Rowsdower compatriots Dolph and Zerbrowski, Hamilton takes this opportunity to remind us that not everyone in the world of the story is amazingly incompetent at their chosen career. Her boss for instance has an amazing gift for public relations, as evidenced by the fact that he managed to spin some “great publicity” from a scene in the last issue where Anita judo-throws a grieving mother, and–HOLY CRAP HE’S A C.H.U.D.!

 

 

10.3: Chronologically speaking, this panel marks the first appearance of alleged “master assassin” Edward, who, unlike Anita’s boss, manages to be reasonably good at his job and appear fully human. He does, however, have a penchant for rolling around St. Louis wearing kneepads with a handgun sticking out of his coat.

Also, it’s worth noting that while he is always depicted as wearing sunglasses–even while riding in a car, at night–they never actually cover his eyes. Seriously, Wellinton Alves. What’s the damn point?

 

12.3 – 13.5: In a scene sure to qualify as a treat for Anita Blake enthusiasts, these pages show her actually engaging in her “day job”–which invariably occurs at night–of raising corpses from the dead as zombies. You might have noticed that there’s no picture accompanying this entry, and that would be because these are unquestionably the most boring two pages featuring a machete that I’ve seen in 19 years reading comics.

 

14.3: Hey Anita! Do your impression of me when I realized I still had twenty-two more pages of this!

 

 

15.4:

 

 

And indeed he does. Several, in fact, as evidenced by this comprehensive list:

  • Corey Hart
  • Punjab
  • Pinky Tuscadero
  • The Bisquick Bandit
  • El Duderino
  • The Nudge
  • Ol’ Tom Halloway
  • Scissorpants
  • Wesley Crushing
  • Teddy Suxpin
  • And of course,

  • Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans

Sadly, Hamilton goes instead with “Death,” the self-conferred nickname Edward shares with about a thousand teenage MySpace users. It’s a real shame, because seriously: The story behind “Scissorpants” is a goldmine.

 

19.2: Here’s an interesting fact for those of you who haven’t completed Kindergarten:

 

 

Chickens do not make the sound “bwak bwak.” In fact, there is nothing in nature that makes the sound “bwak bwak,” except for maybe that adorable duck that sells insurance.

 

20.1: Okay look, I hate to be a stickler for accuracy in a comic about, y’know, vampires, but if I knew I was going to have to chop somebody’s head off, a machete would not be my first choice. Unless, of course, it was this Machete, in which case head-chopping would undoubtedly be the least of it.

Still, you’d think she’d go for an axe or something that would allow the weight of the instrument to do the work quickly, rather than taking four fucking panels to finish it up. It’s called “pacing,” folks, and when even the characters in the book are getting bored, you might need to consider a re-write.

 

23.1 – 26.1: In what has got to be the most boring sequence since… well, since page twelve, I guess, Anita forgets that she’s our de facto protagonist and ends up blundering into a trap in what can only be described as the worst basement rec room in the history of fiction:

 

 

Of course, quicker than you can say “William Moulton Marston,” Anita ends up chained to the wall while Manny gets beaten with a chairl leg, and the secret origin of the cross-shaped burn on her arm is finally revealed: It, uh, gets burned there by some guys who like vampires. Which I’m pretty sure she said back in Guilty Pleasures.

So, That was necessary. I guess.

 

26.4: It’s the fight you’ve all been waiting for!

 

 

Anita Blake vs. Jean Grey circa Uncanny X-Men #134!

 

30.1: Oh come on.

 

 

When the dialogue in question is “From behind, I can pretend that you’re a boy,” is it really necessary to infer the meaning behind it, Anita?

And while we’re at it, is it really all that great for our alleged heroine to survive purely on luck until her far more competent male counterpart shows up to rescue everybody and kill the bad guys? Really?

Really?

 

 

Yeah, me either. Good call, Scissorpants.