Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

Blade #1
posted October 3, 2006

Creators: Marc Guggenheim, Howard Chaykin, Edgar Delgado
Publishing Information: Marvel Comics, 32 pages, September 2006, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

imageDoing Blade in comic book form provides sort of an novel twist on the usual Marvel Comics adaptation problems. Most of the characters brought to screen thus far had a richer narrative history than the scriptwriters were able to stuff into the film versions. Any impact the films had on their comics counterparts came down to tweaks in character direction and emphasis, almost like getting notes from taking the show on the road. The film version of Blade was a bit more of a radical divergence from the standard Marvel character-with-straightforward-thematic-undertones celluloid project. Its demented, cheesy action scenes felt goosed up for an action film; the set-up and backstory seemed like they were there just to show how the vampire turned vampire hunter was a terrible vehicle for set-ups and backstories. The fact that Blade went to one place and had everything facilitated for him through one guy was hilariously pat in its paper-thin utility -- finally, an action hero whose entire life we can experience in the four and a half minutes he's not killing things! As the TV show people no doubt found out, the character as re-imagined by the movies wasn't a fertile ground in which to plant much in the way of depth, the kinds of things you usually use to make a character the center of a longer story.

The usual ways of solving the paper-thin protagonist problem are 1) change the character, 2) give those kinds of plot elements and depth to a supporting cast few fans will like and that will have a hard time interacting with the lead, and 3) give up and make the comic as loony as the movie and those few comics appearances where Blade sort of works, and worry about exhausting the reader later. Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin's Blade #1 embraces the third option, than backs away, kicks it in the stomach, and cuts off its head. In the first issue alone, we get two plotlines, and while we see Blade go from baby to young vampire-killer-in-training in one of them, the other one, the present-day one, roars ahead like a naked drunk in a stolen corvette. In its half of the comic we get Blade disabling a Spider-Man turned vampire, killing a bunch of vampire kids off-panel, then taking out an entire SHIELD helicarrier of vampires in a fight we barely get to see. Plus Dracula (?!) shows up for a page and some evil authority figures stand around plotting for a quick scene at the end. That's like 500 1978 Marvel comics' worth of plot.

Guggenheim fades into near-invisibility for his first issue efforts: his Blade is a bit talky, but not alarmingly so if you've ever read a Marvel book. It's maintaining this pace over several issues and doing something with the energy built up hill-rolling-down-a-hill style that will be where Guggenheim stands or falls. The art is easier to grasp in these first pages. Seeing Howard Chaykin provide the art for Blade #1 is sort of like watching Christopher Plummer do an action film. With his great voice and presence Plummer can do them, just like Chaykin is good at providing stylish panels and handsome character designs and communicating in solid fashion where we are. And yet, neither man is gifted at action for the sake of action. The fight scenes feel overly staged and almost non-tactile; there's no grind to Blade, no impact. In fact, Chaykin's strengths might have had a better showcase in an old-fashioned tale of vampire seduction and unknowing mortals in danger, with all the old-timey clothes and sexuality boiling to the surface. But that wouldn't have been Blade.