Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)
The only reason I am giving this modern rendition of “Carmilla” in graphic novel format a 3 out of 5 stars is because it managed to keep me hooked from start to end, despite being underwhelming and disappointing in the end.
Created by Amy Chu and Soo Lee, “Carmilla: The First Vampire” leaves readers wanting more from the story, but before you know it, the book is already over! Based on the 1872 vampire classic by J Sheridan Le Fanu, the graphic novel is novella-sized, which is where the problem lies. Athena, a Chinese-American social worker, lives with her nurse girlfriend Morgan and begins her own investigation into a series of mysterious murders of young women, all of whom have some connection to a club called Carmilla’s in Chinatown.
The character interactions are too swift and brief, the “romance” is a rushed superficial fling and worst of all, there’s almost no vampire action. Readers are only informed that a few young pretty girls were found murdered and there’s some paranoia over a beast responsible for the killings. Apart from that, there is little else happening, except for a ridiculously convenient climactic fight. Calling it a “fight” is a bit of a stretch for what happens.
As far as the artwork is concerned, the illustrations exhibit the distinctive DC/Marvel aesthetic, perfectly complementing the narrative set in the 1990s with a nostalgic nod to the era’s vibrant comic-book art. The multi-cultural elements along with the queer representation was nice, however, the short length of the novel isn’t able to reach its full potential, despite having solid material to lay back on. The book never gets spooky, blood-curdling or terrifying enough, and all of this even after the creators straight up lift off several quotes of the original novel to carry their own spin-off forward.
It’s a 3 on 5 from me.