• Kiss Vampirella

    Kiss Vampirella
    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: June 7th, 2017.
    Written by: Christopher Sebella
    Illustrated by: Annapaola Martello
    Purchase From Amazon

    The first issue of this new crossover series is set in 1974. Vampirella’s travels have brought her to Los Angeles where Kiss, hot on the heels of this first record release, are taking a quick break from their current tour to record their second album. Before we get to that though, we see a young couple commit suicide, or so it seems, as they admit to using one another and then drive their sports car off a cliff.

    Cut to a bar on Sunset Boulevard two days later. In the back room of a club, a dark haired woman beats the snot out of a man who was getting rough with a young woman he’s clearly been stalking. The young woman regains consciousness just as the raven haired tough gal finishes mopping the floor with this douchebag. Turns out this tough gal is Vampirella and she’s in Witchkraft! The younger girl is a little star struck once she realizes this. Vampirella gets her into the show and tells the bartender to put whatever she wants on her tab. This new recruit has only been in L.A. a few weeks, fresh off the bus from Idaho.

    Shortly after, Witchkraft – Vampi’s all-female rock band - takes the stage. As she plays, she reflects on her past – a space alien now in L.A., figuring out how to kick ass on stage and off stage by rocking out at night and dealing with ridding the world of evil in her spare time. After the show Vampi brings her new friend, Lily is her name, to meet the rest of the band. Once the band is done loading up, Vampirella takes Lily for something to eat. Here she tells her the truth about her background, why she’s on Earth to defeat evil and how she wants Lily to help her. Their first mission? Follow a suit that Vampirella recognizes and suspects as a conduit of sorts for evil!

    On the other side of town, the four members of Kiss are driving around in their limo on their way to the studio to start work on recording Hotter Than Hell. They hit the studio but they’re not feeling it, so Gene asks the driver to take them to some rock n roll. He and the rest want something dangerous. The driver obliges. While they’re out having fun, some mysterious figures dressed in black steal a guitar noting that ‘the heralds have arrived from the east’ and how ‘their blood shall grease the gears of the apocalypse!’

    At the club, the guys in Kiss talk to a sound guy named Jerry who once worked for them about the pathetic state of rock in L.A. – clubs are closing, bands are breaking up and people are just disappearing. They split the club and run into a guy named Frankie that they recognize, but he’s in rough shape, rambling on about devils and some such… and the end of the world.

    The second issue picks up, not so surprisingly, where the first one left off. Vampirella and her new pal Lily explore a creepy back room and, in doing so, uncover a black mass of sorts. Vampi tells Lily to run. Lily does as she’s told, while our heroine indulges in mortal combat with the cultists who mutter things like ‘blood for the machine’ while trying to stab her to death. It doesn’t work. Despite the fact that she’s basically skewered, she takes them all on… except for one who splits. Vampi leaves the building and is picked up in a car by Lily and after chasing him down realize that…. well, this guy isn’t human. Not even close.

    Cut to the four guys in KISS (for the purposes of this review it’s Gene, Peter, Paul and Ace) and Paul’s understandably upset about having just seen some guy leap twenty stories down, presumably to his death. But he’s clearly not dead – so they’re confused, and Hell-bent on sorting this out! They have their driver follow the mysterious van that the guy who should be dead but isn’t hoped into. They give chase, tossing a bottle at the van while dodging arrows from the cross-bolt fired by some bad guy in the van. As they close in on the van, they see the inhuman monster that Vampirella is squaring off against, a beast that their driver recognizes as a ‘hellbreach demon.’ Apparently they’re more common than you’d think. This driver, Ulysses, knows more than he’s been letting on, he’s clearly quite in tune with Los Angeles’ occult roots.

    Vampirella pulls out the sword that was thrust through her and puts it to good use while the guys from KISS take their instruments out of the trunk of their limo and prepare to fight the cult members that were holed up in the back of that van all this time. Vampi and Lily? They take shelter at The Chantry, where Lily meets the rest of her band and realizes who/what they really are. And KISS? To get the inspiration they need for their recording session, they head out into the night to find some real rock n roll…

    When issue three beings, Vampi and the rest of her band, Witchkraft, are on stage. She thinks back about her early days on Earth and how she hooked up with these three women, trying to stay in synch with her bandmates and not get distracted by the four guys with painted faces in the crowd at the front of the stage. The guys in KISS? They’re impressed, they hang around after the show to buy the girls some drinks. And that’s exactly what they do. Witchkraft and KISS hang out, talk about the local scene, how it’s dying off… almost as if someone were killing it off. When the drinks are done, KISS invites them to the studio to jam.

    Since the band’s van is packed, Vampi decides to take her own method of transportation. When she sprouts wings and flies over to meet them, she doesn’t realize she’s spotted by a stranger. With KISS and Witchkraft now at the studio, a vagrant approaches Ace and asks for a pick. He obliges, it’s not a big deal, right? Except that the vagrant then heads over to a guy wielding a giant curved sword… that’s probably not a good sign. Regardless, inside the studio Vampirella is waiting – no one is sure how she got there before everyone else, but they don’t question it. As they jam and get to know each other better they also talk about how all the bands in the area are gone, like they just got up and left. As the guy with the curved sword assembles his troops, KISS tells Vampirella about what happened the day before when they met that guy who was out of it, mumbling about his band and being the last one left.

    And then KISS’ driver show up and tries to kill Vampirella. It all goes south from there…

    Vampirella gets out of bed – she wasn’t sleeping because she doesn’t sleep, too much like being dead we’re told – but she’s got stuff to do, especially since KISS think she’s evil incarnate at this point. She puts on her power suit and heads out to Center Records where KISS are meeting with the record executives who are considerably more evil than Vampi could ever be, in fact, they’re literal demons. They want KISS to ditch the makeup and the noise and play nice, pre-written music on acoustic guitars. KISS are pressured to sign but no way – they’re not going to give up on rock n roll, they’re KISS, damn it!

    A fight breaks out, the Ace and Peter as tossed out the window just as on the street below Vampi tries to get into the building. She sprouts her wings and flies the Cat Man and the Space Ace back up to the floor they were just tossed out of and in through the broken window where she gets into the brawl already taking place between Gene, Paul and the demonic record executives. Vampi leaves one demon left conscious enough to talk – they’re behind it all, spreading their ‘dark gospel’ through music by way of backwards masking and subliminal messages, but rock’s too loud and frantic for it to work as well as it needs to. That’s why they’ve been snagging up Los Angeles’ rock bands and making them disappear. Soft rock and disco are much better vessels and a way more effective way for these guys to destroy the world!

    Some more demons show up, so KISS and Vampi split the scene, unaware that Peter left his sticks in the office. Well aware of how much trouble they’re in, they all head back to Vampi’s house where the rest of her band is waiting for them, Lily too. They talk over breakfast and come up with a plan…

    “They’re trying to kill rock n roll. Make us their puppets. We can stop them. Maybe save the world.”

    The fifth and final chapter in the Kiss/Vampirella crossover begins with Vampirella duking it out with Kiss’ former driver, the leader of a fringe group bent on eliminating the vampire menace. She wins the fight and wins him over – she admits she’s a monster, but convinces him that she’s one of the good ones. There are bad ones yet that need killing, so why not team up to do just that? This fight, of course, is taking place on the roof of the venue that Kiss is currently playing in.

    Vampirella points out that, yeah, the bad guys have shown up. As Paul rants to the crowd about the suits that sign the checks and control the record industry, how they don’t have soul, the five minions approach the stage. They invite the crowd to a different show tomorrow night at the Hollywood Bowl, to witness the future of rock n roll. Free buffet, open bar. The concert goes, the goddamn KISS ARMY, shove out the door. Vampi and her new friend figure something is up while the four members of Kiss use their instruments as weapons against the minions. It doesn’t go well – they literally can’t touch them. Vampirella, however, can and when she shows up she makes short work of them.

    They regroup, the members of Kiss and of Witchkraft, positing that those behind the upcoming Hollywood Bowl show might be planning to use subliminal messaging in their music to control anyone who listens to it. And then Lily comes up with a plan. And that’s a good thing, because when the gang arrives at the concert the DJ is playing a new single that sends the record breaking crowd into a frenzy while the suits backstage toast to the impending destruction of humanity!

    And so it ends, but with a pretty big bang and of course, with the door left open for future team ups. This was a fun read from the start, writer Christopher Sebella clearly having a good time playing with the history of both Kiss and Vampirella. The story proved quick in its pace, featured some interesting and enjoyable supporting characters and felt ‘in keeping’ with the early Kiss ethos. I’ll admit, I didn’t have high hopes for this when it was first announced but the story surprised me – if it wasn’t deep, it was deeper than it needed to be and more importantly, it was really entertaining.

    Annapaola Martello’s artwork was also pretty solid. Nice detail, a good sense of movement, a knack for drawing the Kiss characters right in terms of getting the Hotter Than Hell era look correct (Ace’s doubleneck SG even makes an appearance). Valentina Pinto’s coloring was also strong, giving the art a fresh look that worked pretty well.

    In addition to reprinting the five issues that made up the series, this trade paperback also includes a cover gallery with all of the standard edition and variant covers created for the series.