Halloween seems to bring out the better aspects of the less desirable things… the campy, the hokey, the “so bad it’s good,” they just seem to thrive in the atmosphere of this frightfully fun holiday. Take, for instance, the derelict four-color relic where pulled for this week’s Lost in the Longbox feature: Superman & Batman VS Vampires & Werewolves.
I’m guessing most of you over looked this title when it came out in late 2008 and probably weren’t aware of its existence. Those of you who do know of it are probably wondering why bother covering it. It isn’t a “hidden gem” by any means… hell, it’s just plain bad by most standards, but I suppose everything has its time and place. Especially this time of year, during Halloween, the misguided flaws in this 6-issue series can be overlooked as simple, campy fun.
The story is about a mad scientist named Herbert Combs (a direct nod to Dr. Herbert West and the actor that played him, Jeffrey Combs, from the Re-Animator series) who, through some type of magic and The Book of the Dead, has brought a werewolf and a vampire through a portal. Combs then makes the two legendary monsters infect two Russian test subjects, a mob-laced night club owner Marius Dimeter (vampire) and a cop named Janko (werewolf).
Despite their transformation, Dimeter and Janko retain all of they’re mental faculties, but Combs soon synthesizes their blood to create even more (now mindless) feral creatures, driven only by hunger. Diameter and Janko, working together to try and become human again, then fall into the company of Batman and Superman. Green Arrow and The Demon also play a role in this superhero outing, though they’re inclusion is downplayed presumably to boost sales for Batman and Superman fans.
Anyway, our heroes then go after Combs in hopes of finding a way to reverse this whole situation. Batman is the first to catch up to him, but almost as soon as does a Lovecraftian-styled creature emerges out of Combs. Batman gives chase to pursue it. Dimeter is eventually able to distract the creature with an incantation long enough for Batman to put it down. However, whatever gateway Combs opened for that one creature, it was big enough for something on a much larger scale. Superman battles and defeats the larger creature… only for all hell to break loose in Gotham. All those mindless synthesized vampires and werewolves I mentioned before start to run amok.
During the end of the fray Combs is finally caught and placed in Arkham. The Demon has the magic and know how to perform a ritual that will send all the evil that’s making people into vampires and werewolves back to its own realm of existence. Everyone keeps the creatures at bay while The Demon does his work and all the innocent people are reverted back to normal, minus Dimeter and Janko.
Kevin VanHook’s writing doesn’t flow very smoothly at all, primarily because there’s too much story here for only 6 issues and some of the subplots suffer for it. Arrow, who I’ve barely mentioned, just disappears from the story with no reason. I love classic horror, Lovecraftian lore and the DC universe cast of heroes… they just seem to amount to one giant mess when all mixed together. The artwork is beautiful though! Tom Mandrake’s dark style fits the tone and atmosphere VanHook is trying to create remarkably well with the more violent, bloody scenes reminiscent of still from an Italian horror film.
Like I said, this series won’t win you over on its own merits—I only suggest you get it to humor your horror / comic fandom urges—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun read. Just be sure to choose the proper time of year to actually enjoy it.