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Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter the Laughing Corpse #4

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2009
By: Shawn Hill

Laurell K. Hamilton adapted by Jess Ruffner
Ron Lim, Joel Seguin (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter the Laughing Corpse #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 14.

Plot: Anita has a busy day at work, harder than most. St. Louis is full of obstacles to the business of a licensed vampire executioner. Especially one who can also raise the dead.

Comments: Can I predict how you'll feel about this issue? No, I can't. A lot depends on whether you're a reader of the Anita Blake novels. In this second installment of the Marvel Comics adaptation of the property, credit is given where it's due to Laurell K. Hamilton herself. She seems more hands on for this volume, because the issues have become every bit as convoluted and morally ambiguous as her novels.

To wit, in this issue Anita needs some information on an unscrupulous client trying to press her into service to raise a long-dead zombie for financial gain. She also needs to defend herself from a voodoo priestess who has her own plans for Anita's great power. The werewolf reporter she contacts will only trade info, not give it, and he's more interested in Anita's relationship with the new master vampire of the city, Jean-Claude. So he forces her to meet at a vampire bar.

There Jean-Claude finds her and tries to explain to her how their relationship has changed since the events of the first volume. But Anita, stubborn as she is petite, is in complete denial about that new complexity, and anyway must also keep communication pathways open to her allies the police, with whom she is working despite all these distractions to find a supernatural killer of women and children.

Could anyone follow all of this? Well, it helps to have read it before. And it helps to have an issue like this, which is a talking heads issue where the scenes change but nothing actually happens but a series of heated expository discussions. There are so many characters and so many names to keep track of, it's a good thing Ron Lim's art is as clear as a bright sunny day, as open and accessible as a Disney film. Which isn't to say that he doesn't have a flair for the macabre and the ghoulish; in fact, his bright-eyed style is somehow all the creepier when he needs to depict some fresh horror. There's a tension between the idealism he strives for and the sordid subjects he's called to draw. It's clear he understands both extremes.

I'm not sure if this series is still attracting new readers. It may not pick up more with an issue like this, which lacks either sex or violence. But hang in there, because it's more like Anita Blake herself than ever, and those two activities are an unavoidable part of her lifestyle choices.







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