Blade #1–6 by Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin
A confession: apart from his appearances in Captain Britain and MI:13, I’ve never read a Blade comic, or even a comic book with Blade in it. Like most other people, I’m more familiar with Eric ‘Blade’ Brooks via the films (first one good, second one better, third one awful). Therefore, Guggenheim has a tough job on his hands: make the reader care about Blade; keep an ongoing series something people have to read, and make it really good (because a new series starring a character who isn’t a fan favourite or spun out of a major crossover is dead cert at the moment, isn’t it?).
To stack the odds in his favour, he’s been gifted with a top-class artist: Howard Chaykin, although I can’t believe the man who created American Flagg! is bringing his snazzy pencils to the vampire end of the Marvel universe. But, damn, if he doesn’t make it look good – the dynamics, the design element, the sheer coolness, it’s some great-looking comics. There’s a two-page spread at the end of the first issue (after a full page of Blade falling through glass into a helicarrier full of SHIELD agents turned into vampires) which is is two long panels on either side of six wide panels in the middle with the action occurring perfectly down them that is a fabulous piece of design. It’s also bizarre to see Chaykin drawing Dr Doom (or Morbius the living vampire, for that matter); it was bizarre enough seeing him pencilling Wolverine [LINK] – which Guggenheim was also writing: has he got something on Chaykin to work with him? Whatever reason exists to bring back the sharp and superior artwork of Chaykin back on a regular basis, I’m glad to see it again.
In addition to the great visuals, Guggenheim has done a good job with the story. He uses the same trick he employed with his Wolverine story: a current storyline with flashbacks to Blade’s early days to fill in the blanks and provide us with more history for the character. As far as I’m concerned, Blade is a blank slate, so Guggenheim can do what he wants (although the ‘Soho, England’ part seemed a little odd). He also opts for the one- and two-issue stories, not getting bogged down with arcs for the trade (although it means the end of this trade finishes in the middle of a story).
The first issue has a Spider-Man cameo as a brief vampire (apparently, the radioactive blood will kill the vampire enzymes – bit of a cheat for a guest star on the front cover), Dracula, the aforementioned SHIELD helicarrier full of former SHIELD agents trying to kill Blade; it’s action packed, to say the least. The second issue has the appearance from Doom (and his mother in the past, in a rather odd story for what I think of as a Blade story), followed by an issue that examines how Blade survives in the modern world when he is arrested for murdering a vampire (there is no body and CCTV can’t pick him up, but it allows for nice details to be related). The fourth story is a bit silly: Blade fights a demon who can shift souls, who starts off in a department store Santa. The next story sees Wolverine guest star: surprise, surprise, Blade and Wolverine met each other a long time ago; the final issue is about Blade’s history, but it goes a bit off the rails when Blade chews off his own left hand in order to escape a very strange trap. This seems rather mad and a desperate cry for attention: look at this, fanboys – Blade’s bit off his hand! (Did we learn nothing from Aquaman and the harpoon?)
I do feel for Guggenheim: he’s put a lot of effort into this series, coming up with a different approach to Blade, working to make him an interesting character who can work on his own but also in the Marvel universe. The dialogue is sharp, he found a good voice for Blade, the plots are well constructed and he has a strong idea of what he wants to do with in a situation which he must have known was going to be a loser (the series was cancelled after 12 issues). He may not have lasted long but he did some good work, and I’d read the second trade if I can get my hands on it, especially knowing that Chaykin draws the whole thing. Damn, I love his art …