|The enchanting cover to #1|
I'd attended the Enniskillen Comic Fest simply to meet some of the Oink! creatives and perhaps see some of the amazing talent from 2000AD there too, as well as catch up with some old friends. What I didn't expect was to come away with a new found enthusiasm for buying some comics again, the current UK being a melting pot of independent talent. You can read about my day and the amazing people I met in my previous post about the event, but finally now I can tell you all about one of my favourite purchases from that day: Vampire Free Style from Neptune Factory, otherwise known as London-based Italian comics creator Jenika Ioffreda.
Sitting beside Oink! legend Davy Francis at the con', Jenika's table immediately drew my attention with all of the lovely badges and magnets featuring a cute little black cat. Upon closer inspection I realised this cat, called Micia, was the star of a six-part comic series from Jenika. I nearly bought the complete collection graphic novel based on this one character alone but, not knowing how much money I would spend throughout the day (a lot, as it turned out) I decided to hedge my bets with my first dip into new comics and bought #1 instead.
The story revolves around a young man whose girlfriend has mysteriously vanished without a trace and he's dabbling in witchcraft in order to find out where she's gone. As a novice witch he hasn't quite got the hang of it yet and we see him researching the craft and building up to his first flight on his broomstick. Clearly this would be the culmination of his work; being able to fly would mean he'd succeeded and could use his new found powers to track her down. Well...:
|The tale lends itself to some great, random|
spots of humour
Sudden bits of humour pop up throughout, each one more surprising than the last and Jenika adds what looks like a highly-animated Anime style to each one, such as with the bird in the last panel above. More important than the bird though is the little stray black cat, the aforementioned Micia, a character who seems to have gathered quite the following online with fan art and even tattoos popping up on Instagram. Even though she obviously can't talk and her facial features are minimalist she's still full of character and is a delight to look upon.
Apart from aunt Margherita (who we only see the body of, Tom-and-Jerry-style) and a stranger on the street who keeps seeing Micia (but whose friends don't) there's really no one else in this first issue and I think it's all the stronger for it. Dialogue is kept to a minimum for quite a lot of the early pages, concentrating instead on atmosphere and telling the story through lovely greyscale artwork and clever use of sound effect lettering. The dialogue we do get for the rest is mainly from our protagonist chatting away to his new pet, which allows for the reader to be sucked into the story without the details feeling like forced exposition:
|The intrigue builds bit-by-bit with tiny Micia|
Interestingly it seems the meeting of our two main characters may not have been by chance, but this is kept to slight hints in this first issue. As far as the back story goes, some flashbacks show us glimpses into the boy's life with his girlfriend. As I write that I know you might now be thinking filling in the gaps this way would be a cliché, but what if I told you the flashbacks were happening to Micia through her interactions with certain objects belonging to the missing girl? Ahhh... intriguing stuff and the little flashes we do get only ask more questions. The final page has a great surprise and leaves things on an interesting cliffhanger that left me wanting to know more about these characters and their story. Jenika has definitely hooked me.
It's clever stuff, all wrapped up in an art style which I can best some up as being completely natural and free-flowing. Jenika's style is definitely unique and gives you this feeling of it being freshly inked just before you turn each page. It's like she's drawn this superb comic just for me, or just for you if you also purchase it, which you definitely should. Vampire Free Style may be my first brand new independent comic but I don't think I could've picked a better title. It all feels very personal, a real labour of love and I may only be one issue in (and planning on purchasing the graphic novel soon, so watch out for it on the blog) but it's been a lovely experience and one I can't recommend highly enough.
The pure black cat with the big eyes drew me in and now I want to know all about the humans in the story too. As someone who often looks after a friend's rescue cat, I found one specific image particularly lovely and I'll end this review with it, because it's my favourite from the comic and it sums up that happy feeling this premiere issue has brought to this reader:
Vampire Free Style is available as individual issues and a graphic novel collection from Jenika's website Neptune Factory, where you can also check out Micia merchandise and the new comic series, Midnight Tea. Also there you'll find the comic cons Jenika will be attending and a list of the comic stores where you can simply nip in and grab your issues: