DARK FANG is the best vampire fiction I have read in a long time. I know in a genre packed with some questionable entries, that’s not saying much — but trust me on this. Since vampires have been in fiction for a while, there’s always the outstanding question of how to make a story original. In my opinion at least, DARK FANG manages to pull this off.

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DARK FANG, written by Miles Gunter and artistically rendered by Kelsey Shannon, stars Valla, a century-old vampire. In her mortal life, she was a fisherwoman. The night she became a vampire, she found out why her maker took her. He needed a slave to clean up the bloody messes he and his three brides made in their castle. Valla, frustrated and angered, frees herself. Covered in their blood, she enters the ocean. There, not needing to breathe and not needing to run from humans, she lives in peace.

That peace ends, however, when oil rains down upon the ocean, killing her companions and forcing her to abandon the sea. She walks out onto a beach, dazed and impressed by modern technology. She gains money through her wiles but notices that the tip of one of her fangs is black. Humans are her food source, and their drilling of oil has been poisoning them — and now her. So, to keep herself and humans alive, she resolves to single-handedly destroy the petroleum and fossil fuels industries.

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Valla gets answers about her dark fang in DARK FANG #2. Image courtesy of Image Comics.

How she goes about doing this constitutes the first five issues, collected in VOLUME 1. Issue #6 releases in July, so now is a perfect time to start DARK FANG.

Introducing Valla: A Classic Vampire in a Fresh Concept

In the movie, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, Armand shares one of my favorite lines with Louis. “They had forgotten the first lesson,” he says, “that we are to be powerful, beautiful, and without regret.” Despite her years underwater, Valla herself never forgot her vampiric charge, and much of the story shows her being powerful, beautiful, and without regret.

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First, there are her powers, many of which I remember from vampire lore growing up. There are numerous instances in DARK FANG where we see Valla shape-shift into various animals, including a bat. Used far more often, however, is her mind control. Her ghoul — a creature given a taste of her blood to be her servant — Toby, introduces her to the Internet. From there, she’s able to mesmerize countless watchers of her chat room into giving her money. In time, her financial power matches her supernatural power.

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Valla gains money, thanks to Toby, the Internet, and her vampiric gifts. From DARK FANG #1, courtesy of Image Comics.

Next, of course, is her beauty. Kelsey Shannon does not hold back in depicting the physical allure often associated with vampires. Valla is depicted as a voluptuous, blond-haired woman with dazzling blue eyes. Yet at no point does it feel like this depiction is for the male gaze — moreover, it’s simply another asset Valla uses to achieve her environmental mission in the world.

And that brings the debate to the third point: no regret. Valla uses all that she has — money, beauty, and power — to do whatever she can to achieve her goals. This naturally involves some morally questionable activities. But Valla has a mission, and it’s not just so she doesn’t run out of food. She wants to save human society by weaning it off of fuel that poisons the planet.

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The Plot Emphasizes Valla’s Humanity — Despite Her Knowing She’s a Monster

Throughout DARK FANG, Valla seduces, murders, and exsanguinates quite a number of people. Yet at no point does she seem evil for doing this. Instead, Gunter writes a complex, nuanced character that Shannon brings to life in a convincing way.

On Gunter’s part, DARK FANG presents the most human vampire I’ve ever known. In just the first five issues, we see Valla go through the full range of human emotions. She gets angry at monsters — human and supernatural — who exploit others for money or whimsy. We see her afraid, whether from visions of planetary destruction or hunters bent on ending her life. Valla forms friendships that feel genuine, making her tears all the more believable when those friends die.

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Valla wakes up from a vision of the future of humanity reliant on fossil fuels in DARK FANG #3. Image courtesy of Image Comics.

The reason that Valla is able to explore so many emotions is because of the choices she makes in the plot. Nothing that happens in DARK FANG feels forced on Valla — rather, she’s empowered to decide her own fate. And any consequences she faces from taking on the fossil fuel industry feel earned.

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Within the framework of an excellent script, Shannon shows proficiency in her own visual storytelling. In the emotions I listed above, there is never anything in the text that says “Valla felt [blank].” These emotions come from Shannon’s art. It’s in Valla’s wide-eyed gaze when she’s afraid. It’s in her full-body cackling when she succeeds on a mission. And it’s in the gentle smiles she gives Toby and others for whom she cares. Combined with vibrant colors and good panel layout, DARK FANG is as much a joy to watch as it is to read.

But the Full Cast of Characters Keeps The Tone Light

Whether friend or foe, it’s really the characters of DARK FANG that help flesh out Valla as a character and make the story “click.” In her adventures, Valla encounters sharks, Internet nerds, muscle-bound tycoons, senators, the U.S. President, and even a half-angel Luddite. What’s cool is that without wasting any time, Gunter succeeds in giving each character some dimension. This give Valla real challenges — or allies — on her journey.

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Valla (the bear) meets her match with Samael, a technology-renouncing half-angel, in DARK FANG #4. Image courtesy of Image Comics.

When it comes to those who help her on her way, two characters come to mind. The first is Valla’s shark. Though depicted in only 11 panels in Issue #1, I really felt for that shark. She — as Valla points out — is an excellent companion for an undead creature who must also keep moving and keep hunting to live. And then there’s Toby, Valla’s servant. Although a little starry-eyed and comically decapitated, he’s the perfect foil to Valla’s elegance. Yet rather than being a cartoon, he has tech savvy and knowledge of current events, two things that Valla lacks.

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And then there are the villains — oil tycoons and their corrupt politicians for most of the arc. These men are lovably skeezy in the most ridiculous, over-the-top ways, and it’s fantastic. Gunter could have made DARK FANG a brooding, serious drama, but the fact that a chiseled oil heir fills a pool with Jell-O to entertain his latest female guest is hilarious. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Valla’s ultimate antagonist — the half-angel of Issues #4 and #5. He is in a class of his own but is delightful in his own way.

Final thoughts on DARK FANG VOLUME 1: EARTH CALLING

I have attempted to go through this review of the series by saying as little as possible about the plot as I can. That’s because not only do I endorse DARK FANG as a comic worth reading, but you should experience the story for yourself. There are a number of dramatic moments in the story, and I can’t wait to see how the next arc tops this one!

In the end, DARK FANG is a testament to poignant entertainment. At times it’s silly — and when it’s silly, it’s ham — but there is a seriousness at times also. Valla is a fighter, a risk-taker — powerful, beautiful, and without regret. And because of this lifestyle, she and those she cares about — the planet and her companions — get hurt. Inherent in her character is a loneliness and a sense of self-loathing for what she is. And yet, despite the difficulties she encounters, Valla keeps going and does not stop fighting.

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Even in Samael’s clutches, Valla remains defiant. From DARK FANG #5, image courtesy of Image Comics.

DARK FANG gives me everything I never knew I wanted in vampire fiction. I can’t recommend the series enough, so give it a try by picking up VOLUME 1: EARTH CALLING.

DARK FANG VOLUME 1: EARTH CALLING by Miles Gunter (Writer), Kelsey Shannon (Artist/Covers), Taylor Esposito (Letterer), Carey Hall (Production), Melissa Gifford (Copy Edits)
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
DARK FANG VOLUME 1: EARTH CALLING collects the first five issues of DARK FANG, the first arc in what I hope will be many more. The protagonist, century-old vampire Valla, is fun to watch as she dismantles the fossil fuel industry that is polluting the planet. With strong art and a strong script presenting many quirky villains (and side kicks), there’s plenty of room for this series to grow. It’s a strong start, so don’t miss out on this series!
100 %
BEAUTIFUL & WITHOUT REGRET

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