Today, we will be taking a look at Vampire Free Style: The Graphic Novel, a collected edition that includes books one through six! Published by Neptune Factory, Vampire Free Style is written, drawn, and colored by creator Jenika Ioffreda. Before we begin, I’d like to be perfectly honest about something. When I received this book for review, I was a little put off at first. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Bram Stoker‘s Dracula many times, and watched plenty of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee Dracula films, so one might say that I am a fan of “old school” vampire stories. I felt that with the publication of Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series of novels and the subsequent film adaptations, the whole vampire thing got way out of control, straying far from its bloody roots. Having said that, as I made my way through Vampire Free Style, I found that it is actually quite inventive in its execution and that even I, a jaded fan of vampire fiction, found things to like about it. So, with that out of the way, let’s sink our teeth into Vampire Free Style!
Vampire Free Style is similar to many other stories of its kind in that it is, at its core, a love story. The plot follows Padroncino, an aspiring witch who is trying to make contact with Elea, his lost love who disappeared mysteriously. Then there’s Edward, a darkly dressed young man who has a strange connection to Elea’s disappearance, although he is not sure how or why. A little (read: adorable) black cat begins following Pardoncino around early on, and after a chance encounter with Edward and his crew of misfits, the cat causes Edward to experience strange hallucinations that give clues to his vague past as well as to Elea’s whereabouts. Eventually, we learn of the existence of the “Umbra Luna,” a magical pendant that is the key to finding Elea, as well as the secret of Edward’s true nature (dun dun dunnnnnn). Admittedly, I found some of the “lovesick-ness” of Pardoncino a bit goofy, but that’s really just a matter of taste and opinion. I think Ioffreda knows who her target audience is, and that’s the bottom line here.
Ioffreda does a nice job of tying all the threads together, and the story never feels disjointed or choppy. There are also some good comedic moments in Vampire Free Style, many of which relate to Padroncino’s “Auntie Margherita.” You never get to see Auntie Margherita’s face, and she is often shown from the knees down, which reminded me of Muppet Babies a bit (+10). There is also a running gag where Auntie Margherita continuously snatches Micia (the aforementioned cat) up off the floor and forces “cute” outfits upon her, which I found especially amusing.
The artwork in Vampire Free Style is very reminiscent of something you might see in manga, complete with comedic, over-the-top reactions and expressions such as the “sweat drop” that many of you might be familiar with. These expressions work especially well during Auntie Margherita’s “torture” of Micia, or while Padroncino clumsily practices witchcraft. While the art style helps to lighten the tone when necessary, it also allows Ioffreda to easily depict her characters in a variety of emotional states; it’s simple and effective, and compliments the story very nicely. I’d also like to add that Ioffreda’s cover artwork is consistently well done for each book, with the second cover being my personal favorite (but, uh…don’t tell anyone I said that, okay? Don’t want to ruin my street cred). Take a look:
What’s the deal with the cats lately? I feel like I’m always writing about cats in some way, shape, or form…I mean, not that I’m complaining… it’s just odd. Yes, hmm… very odd, indeed.
If you’re into vampire-love stories, Vampire Free Style is absolutely for you. It also shows heavy influence from the fantasy genre, what with all the Fairy God-Mothers, invisible castles, and witchcraft, which I personally enjoyed quite a bit. It’s got the manga thing going for it as well, so I can also recommend it to fans of that particular genre. Something I’d like to note is that the ending of Vampire Free Style is somewhat open in that it doesn’t necessarily depict everything that you might expect; read it and you’ll see what I mean. Whether it was intentionally left this way to set up further Vampire stories has yet to be established, but nevertheless the ending is satisfying enough and one could easily draw their own conclusions from what is actually shown.
My final thoughts on Vampire Free Style are that it is a light-hearted, often humorous love story that managed to gain my attention, even after my initial reservations about it. This just goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover… or rather, I should not. While my relationship with the vampire fiction genre has been left strained since the late 1990s/early 2000s, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Vampire Free Style. I can recommend it to fans of the genre (especially younger or newer fans), or if you are just looking for something a little different you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by it. Vampire Free Style can be purchased here, along with some other neat Vampire goodies. Give it a stab, I say! You know… with a stake?
Will you be picking up Vampire Free Style, or have you already read it? Let us know what you think in the comments section and on our Twitter page!