Friday, 24 January 2014

Morbius, The Living Vampire: The Man Called Morbius Review (Joe Keatinge, Rich Elson)

Spider-Man vampire villain Michael Morbius escapes the Raft, Spidey’s version of Arkham Asylum, and decides to lay low in a small town called Brownsville - there he becomes the downtrodden’s champion against the street gangs that rule the place. 

A Morbius mini-series seems like a really weird choice to be a part of the first wave of Marvel NOW! launches (they went with Morbius over Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Silver Surfer and a dozen others?!) but it’s surprisingly ok, for at least half of it. Too many Marvel NOW! titles have as its premise, the end of the world, with the stakes being the death and extinction of everything and everyone, blah blah snore. In Morbius, he’s basically a bum, living on the streets and eating garbage, and the entire premise is this homeless vampire has to save this miserable little town from a guy who looks like a Road Warrior extra. I appreciate those surprisingly low stakes and prefer them over yet another tedious end of the world storyline (Jonathan Hickman, I’m looking at you!). 

I also like that Morbius isn’t even that good of a hero – besides the unheroic act of killing people, he’s also really vulnerable to bullets. The number of times he gets shot in the chest and has to spend several pages recovering was comical to me. The action scenes played out like this: Morbius sees injustice. Morbius fights injustice. Injustice shoots him in the chest. Injustice escapes. Morbius lies in the dirt in pain. This happened a few times and made me chuckle at its repetition. Spidey ain’t got nothing on poor ol’ Morbius, lying there with adamantium bullets in his chest – he’s not mumbling some crap about “that old Peter Parker luck”! 

He’s also something of a tragic figure – he was trying to cure his childhood disease when the cure he created turned him into a vampire, forcing him to kill to survive. He doesn’t want to kill, he doesn’t want to be a vampire, but he’s trying to do some good in his situation nevertheless. It’s that classic Bruce Banner setup (and if we’re totally honest, DC’s Kurt Langstrom/Manbat) which I like as it makes him a more complex and interesting character. 

Things take a turn for the worse in the second half. It’s like the Marvel editors saw the low sales for Morbius and decided Joe Keatinge’s take on a homeless vampire in a Podunk town wasn’t going to fly anymore so they decided to make the series a generic Marvel comic. Superior Spider-Man is shoved in for no reason, there’s a plot about some devastating weapon AIM have stolen, and I totally lost interest in the book. At least it was doing something different in the first half, even if it was kinda weird and un-Marvel-like – the second half is just cookie-cutter Marvel comics. 

Morbius the Living Vampire isn’t a must-read but among the good and bad of the Marvel NOW! books, it’s definitely somewhere in the middle. It’s an interesting anomaly with some good moments, showcasing a character who rarely gets a turn in the spotlight (which wouldn’t turn him into dust, by the way!). Don’t expect much with it and it’ll surprise you.

Morbius: The Living Vampire - The Man Called Morbius

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