Throughout comic history, Blade toes the line between his heroic and monstrous urges more so than most anti-heroes. While the half-vampire helps humanity defeat vampires, it’s always important to remember that at the end of the day, he’s still an apex predator. This fact becomes more apparent in the recent Darkhold event. To fight the ancient and evil god Chthon, Blade has to read from the pages of the titular book to have a chance. Written by Daniel Kibblesmith and with artwork by Federico Sabbatini, Darkhold: Blade #1 presents a nightmare scenario, where the hero becomes the hunter in a world where vampires rule.
Following the unleashing of the blood god, La Magra, the “V-wave” turned billions of humans and superhumans into vampires. While those turned during daylight burned, other former superhumans found themselves depowered. With no gods, technology, or hope left, the world is split into predator and prey. While surviving humans search for a potential cure, it is in this world that Blade hunts like a boogeyman stalking the streets. While it may seem that the hunter is doing what he does best, it becomes evident that he’s not the hero he used to be.
Over the length of this self-contained issue, Daniel Kibblesmith offers an entertaining and safe story. Having events set in motion by Deacon Frost and La Magra is a nice nod to the beloved live-action Blade movie. Through dialogue, the plot gives glimpses of a far more interesting story happening in the background — such as Krakoa’s fall and Dracula’s European kingdom. It might have been better to set the story in one of these places. That being said, centering the story around Amadeus Cho, working with a rag-tag group of surviving Avengers to find a cure to the vampire curse overall works as a concept. Blade becomes a monstrous figure in the background with his motives and unpredictability stirring fear and anxiety for both the heroes and villains of the story.
Federico Sabbatini’s stylized art and dynamic paneling match the tone of the story perfectly. This theatrical approach becomes more apparent during the fast-paced action sequences, which are less like horror and more anime-inspired. Every time Blade appears on the page, Sabbatini’s art brilliantly emphasizes his speed and ruthless power. Ric Renzi’s color palette of darker shades and a strong focus on purples, dark blues, and blacks also fit Blade’s aesthetic — allowing the reader to feel like this is a world overtaken by darkness. Finally, VC’s Clayton Cowles’ lettering makes every bit of dialogue and action count, with eye-popping sound effects that you can practically feel.
With four more issues remaining in Marvel’s “Darkhold” event, the potential to tell more compelling, horror-centric one-shots remains. However, Darkhold: Blade #1 opts to do things far too by the book. It focuses its narrative more on the action than on horror, feeling like an otherworldly What If situation. Fortunately, when you mix vampires, bloody action, and Blade, you’re guaranteed a good time. Darkhold: Blade #1 is a light read for readers knowledgeable on the Marvel universe, but the one-shot itself fails to reach its true potential.
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