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?
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!
And indeed he does. Several, in fact, as evidenced by this comprehensive list:
- Corey Hart
- Pinky Tuscadero
- The Bisquick Bandit
- El Duderino
- The Nudge
- Ol’ Tom Halloway
- Wesley Crushing
- Teddy Suxpin
- Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans
And of course,
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?
Yeah, me either. Good call, Scissorpants.