Review by Win Wiacek
Superman & Batman vs. Vampires & Werewolves is an intriguing, if flawed, oddment with one of the clunkiest titles ever imagined. It should have appealed to the casual reader, especially if they’re not too adamantly wedded to the comic roots and DC continuity.
Prowling the streets of Gotham City, Batman comes across a partially devoured corpse and is promptly boots-deep in an invasion of mindless berserker vampires and werewolves who turn the city into a charnel house. Helpless to combat or contain the undead rampage, the Caped Crimebuster accepts the aid of enigmatic (but rational) vampire Marius Dimeter and his lycanthropic counterpart Janko. They grudgingly ally themselves with the hero to track down Herbert Combs – a truly deranged scientist resolved to traffic with the Realms Beyond.
To facilitate his goals, Combs turned Janko and Dimeter into the accursed creatures they are, and unleashed his plague of horrors to further his research. The bonkers boffin is infecting more helpless humans and has become an actual portal for Lovecraftian beasts to invade our reality.
Superman joins the fray just as one of these Elder God nightmares is unleashed, but even after its defeat he’s no real help: hampered more by his ethical nature than utter vulnerability to magic. Far greater aid is provided by super-naturalist Jason Blood and his Demonic alter-ego, whilst Kirk Langstrom – who can transform into the monstrous Man-Bat at will – provides both scientific and brutally efficient clean-up assistance.
Fellow harder-edged heroes such as Wonder Woman, Nightwing and Green Arrow turn up and join the battle to great effect, but after their admittedly impressive cameos and participatory contributions they inexplicably wander off before the overarching threat is ended. Nuh-uuh! Once a team-up begins, comics guys (who aren’t paid big bucks like big-name guest actors) don’t leave until the day is saved!!
So it’s up to the headliners – with Dimeter and Janko – to finally restore order and normality, even though the cost is high both in blood and convictions.
At the last, the superheroes are – relatively – victorious, but the ending is rather ambiguous and leaves the impression that the whole affair has been a pilot for a Dimeter spin-off…
This was clearly a break-out publishing project, aimed at drawing in new readerships, and on that level the daft and inconsistent plot can be permitted, if not fully forgiven. Kevin VanHook makes more films than comics these days and the tale is certainly most effective on the kind of action and emotional set-pieces seen in blockbuster flicks. It means even if there are many plot holes big enough to drive a hearse through, the sensorial ride should satisfy most readers. Most importantly, the moody art of Tom Mandrake is as ever astoundingly powerful: dark, brooding and fully charged for triumph and tragedy.
So if not perhaps for every reader, there’s sinful pleasure to be found here. And let’s face it: who doesn’t like monster stories or finding out “who would win if…?”