MORBIUS THE LIVING VAMPIRE #8
Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Richard Elson, Antonio Fabela
Release Date: August 21st, 2013
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Most superheroes have never even heard of Brownsville, let alone ventured there to take down its serial criminals; in fact, even the police and the people who live there seem complacent to let it fester with crime and poverty. And while its newest resident Michael Morbius came into town with precisely the same mindset, he soon acquired a sense of responsibility for the dilapidated neighborhood and his plucky self-titled sidekick and fellow vagabond, Becky.
Keatinge has paced the title well, building Morbius up from self-induced isolation to becoming a semi-respectable hero. This transformation is put to the test in issue #8, when Brownsville becomes threatened by more than just drug-peddling goth kids. Keatinge makes good use of dialogue between Morbius and Becky at the beginning of the issue to rehash Morbius’s failings, better setting the stage for the final step toward the Living Vampire becoming a hero. He draws in the title’s female cast for further stage building, but also to display their strengths, aware as ever that Morbius is not the only character of interest in the book. He even draws in iconic characters from Morbius’ past as both a gag and a solution. Using both humor and suspense to keep the pages turning throughout the issue, Keatinge abruptly smacks on an end with a cliffhanger that steals the rug out from under the reader and hits them in the back of the head with it.
Keatinge’s desired pacing is well-supported by Elson’s eye for what moves well on the page. Calmer scenes are presented in simple square and rectangular panels, letting dialogue command most of the reader’s attention, while action and suspense are framed with slanted angles that cut across the page and drag the reader’s eyes along for the ride. Elson uses a combination of close-ups and emphasis lines in the background to make portions of the action feel just as desperate and scrabbling as they are, and increases his inking for grimaced expressions to give them an extra visual draw. This is only briefly alienating during the first fight, in which Elson chose not to line Morbius’ female opponent’s expressions as densely even in her scowling moments, while Morbius’s face became hyper-detailed.
Likewise, Fabela’s colors are great, including his clunky shadowing style which mostly seems only to flatter Elson’s art rather than steal attention from his lines. Unfortunately, it occasionally overreaches where Elson didn’t provide lining as a model of where to shadow, but Fabela knows how to add drama, giving whorls of mist and electricity glow, plunging shadow across Morbius’s pain-wracked face, and giving a dank tunnel background just the right hues of brown and green to set the background’s dank mood despite the more humorous exchange of dialogue.
It’s a solid installment, building on last issue’s suspense and taking it several notches higher, for what will hopefully be an explosive end to Morbius’s hobo-to-hero transformation next issue, or, perhaps, an intentionally humorous pop. And with the title’s untimely end coming in October being heralded as the “death of Michael Morbius,” one wonders if whatever result comes about next issue will be bittersweet or just the beginning of the end.