Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingénue #2

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill
Just another night in the life of Anita Blake, whom we follow from a morgue overrun by vampires to a cemetery, where a new animator gets in way over his head.

This issue is the opposite in every way to last issue's attenuated festival of talking heads. There's no excuse for so much exposition in one issue, except that this series is an adaptation of a novel in multiple parts, and Ruffner has become so faithful that if nothing happens for tens of pages in the book, then the comic suffers as well.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has figured out a better way to pace Stephen King's The Stand, but I suppose you could argue that Stephen King is simply a better writer than Laurell K. Hamilton. At any rate, this issue makes up for last issue's tedium (not the best way to start out a new arc, though we were introduced to most of the major players in depth) by being very active from start to finish. And we meet another new player (I think) -- the titular neophyte who Anita will obviously take under her wing, Larry Kirkland.

The issue starts with Anita blasting the head of a vampire to smithereens with a pistol, followed by fellow executioner Burke surreptitiously sowing the heart with holy water and staking the torso for good measure. Unable to help the many dead at the morgue (not the clients, but the workers and guards, sadly) any further, Anita leaves the scene to the police and heads out to help her new partner, Larry.

Only Bert (her avaricious handler) didn't tell her Larry, despite impressive talent at raising the dead, isn't a pro but instead a rookie college kid taking the job as his semester co-op! Larry foolishly tries to raise a third zombie, and loses control of it in front of the family. Having had only the benefit of book learning (animation is a valid career path in Anita's St. Louis full of vampires, were-creatures and ghosts), he doesn't know that an uncontrolled zombie soon gets hungry, for human blood.

To top all this off, Anita and Larry are attacked by snipers before they leave the cemetery, and are only saved by Anita's strong self-preservation instincts. It turns out these tools are activists (terrorists) in a right-wing anti-supernatural fanatic group who think Anita and her job are evil personified. Luckily Anita thinks concealed weapons are a job requirement, and protects herself and her protégé, who won't remain naïve for very long on her watch. She ruminates on his lost innocence not like a mother, but like a soldier watching a new conscript in his first skirmish.

Lim as usual doesn't miss a beat, depicting clearly all the action surrounding the petite, beautiful and deadly Anita. He's come such a long way from replacing Marshall Rogers on the Silver Surfer, or George Perez on Infinity Gauntlet, so many years ago. Lim shares a certain cartoonish flare with cover artist Brett Booth (whose sensual styles originally debuted Anita in the funny books), but has become a proven storyteller, and perhaps the book's single biggest asset. His hard work certainly assures the trades will look great.

Is there anything here for readers who aren't fans of the books? Well, sort of -- I've stopped reading the new books at this point (they've become extremely uneven), but I definitely enjoyed the first five or so, and I'm enjoying reliving my initial acquaintances with the characters on the painted page.

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