Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingénue #3

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill
The cover to Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingénue #3 shows newly minted necromancer Larry, hired ostensibly to help out Anita's heavy workload of raising the dead, calling up too many souls from cemetery graves. That's not what happens inside.That was more appropriate for last issue, actually.

You have to give up on the titles and the covers having much bearing on what's going on in this adaptation, which is, oh, some 30 issues in and only up to the third in Hamilton's novel series. The subtitles only make it more confusing -- despite the badass cover, it's Larry who's the ingénue, not Anita herself. Her petite and demure looks hide not just an experienced Necromancer, but also an Executioner.

You also have to be prepared for each issue to shift wildly in tone. Two issues ago, it was all about talking heads explaining some weird behaviour at a morgue. Last issue was about zombies and greedy families and dangerous activists. This one's full-on vampire mayhem, from start to finish, starting with a car crash.

The backstory is that Anita has been investigating a series of murders that look like a wild pack of vampire marauders. Which makes no sense, as most vampires travel solo. I think we just met the pack (but not yet the pack leader). The meeting affords Ron Lim the chance to do one of his favorite tricks in the series: drawing a feral child. The kid they hit isn't a kid at all, as anyone who's ever seen Near Dark could have told them.

So then three more vamps jump out of the shadows, and Lim distinguishes all of them; his clean, direct and subtly cartoonish visuals have equal fun with a woman dressed like Celine Dion on a bad day, a cute blonde and a strapping Turok type who might be any age or race, just as long as it's ancient and formidable. Lim is like a Disney cartoonist who has wandered into the adult section of the bookstore. That he doesn't upgrade his style to capture acts of crosses hitting sizzling vampire skin, necks being ripped open by teeth and bullets flying around and through the combatants just somehow makes Anita's world seem all the deadlier.

We're building up here (if I recall correctly from the novel I read years ago) to meeting one of Anita's strangest and most depraved foes and learning just how varied the world of occult beings can be. At this point you're either fully invested for the long haul, or you stopped caring long ago. The creators have succeeded in translating Anita Blake into the comics medium; I wonder if they know they've got 17 books left to go. At this rate they'll catch up in 30 years or so.

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