I gotta admit, when I first saw the title for Image’s newest vampire comic Dark Fang, I pictured a half-dressed, big-tittied vamp babe swinging a hatchet around and lamenting on being deathless or some garbage. Either that, or a comic about a fifteen year old going through some very rough puberty and bad fashion. Luckily, I was only partially right! There’s plenty of blood and some tits in it, but the work moves past the typical vampire tropes and explores a world fraught with social issues, proving that sexy monsters are the least of society’s worries. While perhaps not the first comic to explore worldly issues through the “who’s-the-real-monster” trope a la Swamp Thing, Dark Fang has a little fun with the genre by mixing humor and fast paced illustration while allowing for the reader to self-reflect without feeling too guilty. Unfortunately, releasing the work in today’s climate, in which every time you turn around there’s another natural disaster or social media firestorm, it’s kind of hard to care about what the comic is trying to sell.
The work focuses on the lead, Vanna, a vampire who’s been living in the ocean for over 100 years like some undead mermaid. After spending her time fighting octopuses and getting dressed by jellyfish, she is forced to leave the sea in revenge when an oil spill kills her best friend, a shark. Suddenly, she finds herself in a world very unknown to her. People around her focus more on their phones than each other, and over-indulgence and violence stalk the corners of the cities. Luckily for her, her vampire powers also allowed her to roll natural 20 on charisma and she’s soon making money off the poor saps via cam-work, allowing her to fulfil a long-time dream of owning Dracula’s castle. But little does she know how much the oil spill had affected her body and how little time she really has left. Looks like sunlight isn’t a vampire’s only enemy.
So, while there are definitely a good few laughs, mostly focusing on Vanna as she learns the ins and outs of modern society, Dark Fang is pretty heavy handed with the social issues. Every side character is buried in their phones, men (and some women) roam the internet looking for sex, and everyone is, well, kind of shitty. Money seemingly buys you everything you want; but of course, the lesson that Vanna needs to learn is that it can’t. The comic is billed as an “action-horror middle finger to the politicians and propagandists who choose to deny the reality of climate change,” although to be fair, the first issue doesn’t really cover much climate change (aside from the oil spill which is more of an environmental disaster), but you get it. That’s where it’s going with it. I GET it and that’s the problem. This comic is aimed at people who are in an echo chamber. Of course we think climate change is real, of course oil spills and money cause a lot of problems, we hear it from the same news sources that the writers do. It’s the same thing that we deal with every day and having a comic tell me AGAIN, even with a sexy vampire mermaid, I just don’t care about its message. That’s not to say that these issues aren’t important, they are incredibly important and very much need to be addressed, but with this comic, it’s just the same old ground over and over. Dark Fang assumes that we haven’t addressed the issues, but we have, for decades, and we’re past awareness and now want to move on to action.
Now, with that out of my system, I would still recommend this comic for a variety of reasons. One, if you like social issue awareness in your comic (and there’s nothing wrong if you do), this is a good read. As stated, it does attempt to mix some humor and action while recognizing there are real world problems that affect both the reader and vampire mermaids. If you have a younger reader, maybe a high school age kid who likes sexy horror comics and is out of the loop, definitely give them this work. It’s an easy way to introduce them to environmental issues while giving them a fun read. Two, I love the art. Kelsey Shannon has this amazingly fluid artwork that makes the pages simply fly out of your hands and invokes a fun cartoon feel, while dousing everything in blood! No two characters are alike, and each one is perfectly expressive when needed. Visually, this a very professional work done by a well-versed hand. Three, I kind of like Vanna. I dig her tenacity, the fact that she never compromises who she is in the face of adversity; instead, she’s smart enough to use situations to her advantage, like a proper vampire mermaid. She’s a good catalyst for, I dunno, action on global warming or something. Either way, she’s a good lead and keeps the work from tilting into tropey absurdism.
If Dark Fang is tickling you something weird, the first issue is out now!