Sunday, 26 August 2012

Atlas Comics - Planet of Vampires #1.

Atlas Comics, Planet of Vampires cover, Neal Adams
Recent events may have got us all thinking about astronauts right now but we should remember that some astronauts are luckier than others. After all, not all of them return to Earth to be greeted by a hero's welcome.

No. Instead, some of them return to find the planet's been taken over by talking apes.

And some return to find it taken over by vampires.

After five years in space, the crew of the Aries 7 find themselves up exactly that creek when they arrive back home to discover a planet ravaged by nuclear war, its streets populated by homicidal, "savages."

Despite losing one crew member to a spear in the back, the rest of our gang are swiftly rescued by a bunch of people who live inside a huge dome built around the Empire State Building.

Atlas Comics, Planet of Vampires #1
Sadly, the people who live in that dome are even worse than the people who don't, and it soon turns out that, in order to ward off the effects of a plague, they're in the habit of draining the blood from their captives and helping themselves to it.

Needless to say, our heroes won't stand for such behaviour and, after teaming up with a group of captured savages, escape the dome - only to find themselves confronted by a whole horde of distinctly more hostile savages.

Can our heroes survive?

Only next issue can tell us.

It doesn't take a genius to spot that Atlas Comics is again doing its speciality of blatantly stealing ideas.

Atlas Comics, Planet of Vampires #1
Yes, it's the 1970s all right.
This time, it's lifting Charlton Heston's classics of dystopian foresight Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man. It also seems to have flung in a great chunk of Escape From New York, even though Escape From New York wasn't made until six years after this comic came out. It says everything about Atlas' genius for filching that they could even steal ideas from movies that hadn't been made yet.

The observant reader may have noticed I've not always been kind about Atlas Comics in the past. So, do I have a higher opinion about this one?

Not really. It's certainly way better than the nightmarish excesses of Michael Fleisher and it's solidly drawn by Pat Broderick in an Adams/Giordano sort of way but it does suffer from a serious lack of characterisation.

The truth is that all the main characters seem interchangeable and the two black ones barely make their presence felt at all until halfway through the tale where their sudden rise to noticeableness makes it feel like they've just appeared from thin air.

On top of this, the portrayal of the post-apocalyptic world doesn't feel right.

I'm not an expert on how a post-apocalyptic world would be but, to my eyes, some things seem to have changed far too much in two years, and some things don't seem to have changed enough. Supposedly there's been a nuclear war but there's no hint the astronauts might be in danger from radiation. Maybe this and other matters'll be dealt with in future issues.

It'd be nice, given its set-up, to think it all goes a bit Killraven from this point on but, knowing Atlas Comics - and seeing that the cover of issue #2 seems to feature an appearance by Dracula - I suspect such hopes may prove to be forlorn.


Anonymous said...

I loved some of Atlas' stuff so bad it was good (some so bad it was awful) But I did like !Planet of the Vampires!! it had some nice art with issue 3 being drawn by Russ Heath and the Broderick/Adams cover in issue 1 is still a favourite of mine - although issue 2's cover looks like it has Dracula on the cover its not him but rather one of the stories vampires (made to look like Dracula it has to be said) - McScotty

Anonymous said...

Lovers if the PA genre should appreciate it for what it typifies- bleak and depressing 1970's science first. The domed city,the plague ravaged world and the futility (even when you win, you lose) ending, the only thing missing is black turtleneck sweaters. Btw, it takes place 5 years after what must have been a very limited nuclear war- but even a very limited nuclear war would ruin your whole decade. I always made the rationalization that the nuclear war was mild, but it was the mutated disease plagues that really wrecked things.

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