Sunday, August 26, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #238: Girlfiend by The Pander Brothers

I have never been so tempted to take Jacob and Arnold Pander's surname so literally.

Perhaps it's because Girlfiend started off as a screenplay, but this thin (but stylish) story of a runaway vampire girl and the boy she meets in the big city (Seattle) feels like a collection of second-hand attitudes and moments in search of a coherent plot or reason for being.

Don't get me wrong: it looks great, as always with the Panders, full of speed lines and slashing shadows and evocative eyes. They get into some complex page layouts, too, with negative effects overlaid on shard-like panels on big double-page spreads, to give comics the eyeball kicks of a big-screen movie. And this would be a lot of fun as a movie, though it feels like something you'd see in the second-run theater in about 1988. (The Panders have always felt like a window into a superstylish '80s; that's what they do.)

So a young woman gets off a bus in downtown Seattle, sometime that could be now but doesn't really feel like it. She's distracted and maybe a bit overwhelmed -- and she's killed, messily, in a car crash.

Cut to the local morgue, where tech Nick is working on her body. And she comes back to life after he removes a nasty piece of rebar from the middle of her chest. Her name is Karina, and, inevitably, she moves in with him within another scene or two.

She tries to hide her secrets, but it all comes out quickly: she's a vampire, one of the special "next-generation" kind who can go out by day, but otherwise has the usual vamp details -- fangs, needs to drink blood, young and beautiful forever, strong and agile and powerful.

Meanwhile, in the B plots, there's both a crew of criminals who have heisted something very valuable and dangerous (and keep getting themselves killed in various ways trying to open a safe and maneuver for control of it), and two detectives who spend a lot of time talking about justice and showing up after those criminals and others die in bloody ways.

Nick gets Karina to go after criminals for the blood she needs to drink -- which means, mostly, the gang I just mentioned. The two cops are more familiar with vampires than you'd expect. And a team from Karina's "family" is heading to town to return or eliminate her: no one is allowed to escape.

They all collide in the end, as they must. Since this is a comic, we don't get a Kenny Loggins song under the big fight, but we can imagine it. There's a happy ending for the heroes, since that's how '80s movies have to end. And, again, it all looks great, even if the story is nothing but B-movie cliches as far as the eye can see.

But if you're looking for the great lost Seattle vampire movie of the late '80s, you just might have found it in this comic.

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