Reading Pile: Unicorn Vampire Hunter #1 & 2
Come to think of it, doesn't it feel weird that we haven't seen unicorns to this effect more often in popular fantasy? Or maybe I just don't have my finger on the pulse of unicorn fiction and it's been flooded with the idea already? Either way, it was a first for me and a fun approach in this well told all-ages adventure.
And I say all-ages, as long as you're ok with some really good unicorn stabbings and a tiny bit of blood with your impalement.
UVH tells the story of Jezebel, a young woman in a traditional fantasy world whose parent sent her off to live with her magical wizard uncle who protects an enchanted marsh. As ya do. Turns out there's vampires everywhere, and while your safe if you stay in the marsh we wouldn't have much of a story if Jezebel wasn't young and impetuous, so she wanders beyond the safe borders. And just like that (and in daylight, but I guess those trees give good shade), Jezebel meets up with some very well dressed vampires who I guess spend most of their time hanging around the marsh.......for reasons.
And I may sound a bit snarky with all of this, but it's all very charming and gets to the point quickly, which I appreciate. Enter the unicorn, who's been protecting the marsh for some time due to his previous relationship with Jezebel's uncle Seamus. We then get a chunk of flashback with some more worldbuilding and plenty of pathos.
I'm getting some Commander Shephard vibes from this unicorn, what pressing social matters does he have to really worry about?
Book one gets everything set-up nice and cleanly, while book two jumps into Seamus and the unicorn rekindling their friendship and in setting up some more conflicts with not only the vampires but a potential core antagonist. Overall there's some deeper world building as they lay out some of the magical depths of this fantasy world.
They do this while also balancing things out with plenty of action. And I have to say I do appreciate that the unicorn is not a one note warrior with his horn, as the vampires quickly learn that fighting a horse is really difficult.
Caleb Palmquist's scripting is concise in its pacing and set-ups, engaging us with pretty well-rounded characters. Jezebel is really the only character that lands a little flat for me, but Seamus and the unicorn are both given interesting back stories and room for their arcs to expand. And as far as threats go, the vampires do have a leader but they're not entirely fleshed out with tons of personality yet. We are only two issues in though, and while I'm not sure how long the series is supposed to run it feels like we have plenty of time for everything to expand. Plus hey, there's an overall 'power of friendship' vibe throughout, and I'm a sucker for that type of storytelling.
Daryl Toh's artwork infuses the story with a lot of personality and charm, his clean lines and heavy shadow work imbuing the book with tons of atmosphere and character. His art really drew me to the project as it reminded me of some of Neil Vokes' horror works while also capturing a generally brighter and more animated tone.
Also, props to whoever designed the logo. I'm also a big sucker for fun and engaging title design work.
I think that UVH will probably read even stronger as a complete collection and will have an easier time finding its all-ages audience in that format, but it's nice to see them put the passion into getting single issues out. The only problem with the single issue format is that they're asking about $9 per issue, which is a little steep for casual shoppers. For example, issue one clocks in at 34 pages of story with 6 pages of bonus content, and the printing is on really nice thick glossy paper so you are getting a decent chunk of value. I received the digital copies with these two issues as well, so there's bonus value for sure. Still, if this story lasts for 5 or 6 issues and they stick with that price point, $50-60 is a bit pricey for a fairly standard length all-ages fantasy comic. Here's to hoping we can get a $25-30 TPB release down the line so that it's a bit easier to stock for comic and book shops.