Feb 4, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Bloodstone

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.


Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave is one of the most beloved cancelled Marvel books from the past decade. The few people that were buying it, loved it, and with good reason, it was hilarious. Ellis created a new team of little-used characters of varying levels of popularity (mostly from slightly recognizable to completely abandoned). One of the lesser known characters, monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone, actually made her debut a few years earlier in her own mini-series, Bloodstone, an unappreciated gem itself. Produced during the early years of the Quesada era, it’s a book that tried to take a new approach and try new things with the Marvel universe that was so prevalent during that era. Written by the Abnett and Lanning writing team (there they are again) and pencils drenched in cheesecake by Michael Lopez, it’s a series well worth picking up, should you ever come across it in the back issue bins.

Let’s take a look.

Bloodstone #1. Story: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Michael Lopez; Inks: Scott Hanna; Editor: Mike Marts

A plane flies from London, England to Boston, Massachusetts. On board, a young blonde woman named Elsa Bloodstone wakes from a “stupid freaky vampire dream.”

She is traveling with her pregnant mother, Elise, to the house of her father, a man she has never met, who has recently passed away. They are greeted by Charles Barnabus, executor of the estate. As they enter the creepy old mansion, Elise whispers to Barnabus to keep quiet about the true life of Ulysses Bloodstone around Elsa. Ulysses left Elise and Elsa as the sole beneficiaries of his wealthy estate, including the mansion. He had been in the process of turning it into an antiquities and curiosities museum before his untimely death.

With the house being unsuitable for guests, Barnabus has arranged for the two of them to stay with his assistant, Mr. Dluga, at his nearby home. While unpacking the car, Elsa meets Tomas Dluga. He helps her inside. During a conversation while she is unpacking, she tells him that they just inherited the Bloodstone house. Tomas can’t believe they own “the haunted house.”

Later, Elsa falls asleep, and dreams of fighting monsters again.

The next day, she snoops around the office of her late father, and finds a secret entranceway. She makes her way down the stairs into a secret basement (funny Batman and Robin reference) and is attacked by strange black beads.

She is saved by a Frankenstein named Adam, the caretaker of the estate. (She had been attacked by zombie dust bunnies.)

He reveals to Elsa that her father was a monster hunter, the best that ever was. He then looks for and finds the Bloodstone choker, and gives it to Elsa.

She puts it on, and can feel newfound power coursing through her.

She picks up a nearby lamp (Aladdin’s lamp style), and makes the mistake of using the word “wish” while holding it. She disappears and reappears in a spooky cemetery, where she sees a man killing a group of men in masks. The man turns around and reveals himself as the legendary Dracula.

My brain thoughts: This series was very clearly trying to capture a Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe, which is okay, because we love Buffy here at the Cube. Abnett and Lanning took what was kind of a cheesy monster hunter character, Ulysses Bloodstone, from that wacky decade of the ‘70s, and replaced him with his young, attractive, blonde daughter. Add in prophetic dreams of hunting monsters and a sarcastic wit, and Marvel was clearly trying to win over the Buffy audience. Despite its derivative roots, this was still a very entertaining issue with characters that are easy to like, and a sense of humor that adds instead of distracts. Plus, she has a Frankenstein’s monster sidekick. What’s not to love about that?

#2. Story: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Michael Lopez; Inks: Scott Hanna; Editor: Mike Marts

Dracula asks Elsa why Ulysses did not come to face him himself.

When she tells him that her father is dead, he surprisingly expresses sadness for a moment, but then tries to bite her anyway.

He is blown back by a beam of energy, discharged from the bloodstone around her neck. He grabs her again, but is staked from behind by the men he was fighting earlier.

Before any questions can be answered from either party, Elsa is transported back to the basement of her father’s mansion, where Adam awaits.

He tries to answer all her questions, but when Elsa’s mom comes calling, she has to run off before he can.

Elise and Elsa go out to lunch, where Elise floats the idea of them staying there permanently, living in the Bloodstone house. There is a good college nearby that Elsa can attend. Elise is also going out to dinner that night with Barnabus.

Later, as her mom leaves for her dinner, Elsa ditches Tomas and sneaks back to the mansion. At dinner, Elise and Barnabus discuss turning the house into an Emporium after all. Elise sees it as Ulysses’ making strides toward giving up his life of adventuring and settling down with her and his daughter, like she had always wanted him to. But she worries that the dangerous parts of his life and legacy will come back to haunt their daughter.

Back in the basement, Elsa tries on the new monster hunting outfit Adam made for her. She’s not too sure she likes it.

I like it.

Adam explains to her that the lamp she touched earlier has a Djinn trapped inside, and it acts as an early warning system. It’s set to detect trouble and then take you straight to it when you wish upon it.

Elsa makes another wish, and then she and Adam are whisked off to Egypt. They are surrounded and attacked, and Elsa leaps into action. During the fight, she instinctively grabs her gun and shoots one of the attackers. At first she’s horrified about having killed another person, but they quickly find out that the man was already long dead.

They enter the pyramid, but Elsa falls down a hidden shaft. She turns around to find a monstrous mummy closing in on her.

My brain thoughts: I know cheesecake-y art isn’t for everyone, but I absolutely love it. Artists like Terry Dodson and J. Scott Campbell have always been favorites of mine. I’ve never seen anything else Michael Lopez has worked on before this or since, but he does an excellent job on this series. Abnett and Lanning, as usual, do an excellent job on the writing side as well. (They’re right up there with Claremont and Byrne in terms of number of times Back Issue Ben has covered their work. At this rate, a project with Abnett and Lanning writing and Byrne on art would have to be the official book of Back Issue Ben.)

#3. Story: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Michael Lopez; Inks: Scott Hanna; Editor: Mike Marts

The scene opens with a group of men (incorrectly) performing a spell to awaken Rakssses the Necromancer. Rakssses thanks the ringleader by killing him.

From afar, Elsa watches on with the mummy from last issue, who is actually N’Kantu The Living Mummy. N’Kantu needs her help to get the Orb of Ra away from Rakssses.

N’Kantu distracts him by taking the direct approach, while Elsa steals the Orb from behind. She tosses the Orb to N’Kantu, and he “begones” the minions on out of there. Elsa chases an escaping Rakssses, but is delayed by a giant bug monster.

Elsa dispatches of the monster fairly easily, but Adam gets the final shot on Rakssses.

Everything back to “normal”, N’Kantu stays behind to guard the Orb, while Adam and Elsa return to the mansion. After they return, a spying Tomas catches them. Elsa agrees to let Tomas help, if he keeps his mouth shut about their activities around her mother.

Later, Elsa and her mom are cataloguing the strange artifacts in preparation for opening the Emporium, when Barnabus joins them. He invites Elise to dinner, but she is too tired, and heads for bed instead.

While continuing to catalog items, Barnabus senses danger, and also notices the bloodstone glowing in Elsa’s back pocket.

They are surrounded and attacked by monsters, where Elsa discovers that Barnabus is a vampire, and she is knocked out. Tomas wakes her up, where she immediately sees a beheaded Adam (it turns out he’s okay).

Adam informs Elsa that the Nosferati took Barnabus, and that he was the one they were after all along. Elsa sets off to rescue her mom’s new boyfriend.

My brain thoughts: I joined the Buffy bandwagon a little bit late. After hearing many great things about the show (and its creator, eventual Avengers director Joss Whedon) on comic-related websites and chat rooms for many years, my curiosity was piqued. One day, when leaving Wal-Mart, I saw a display of Buffy DVD sets selling for $20 a season. Being newly single with nothing else to do, I took a chance and bought them all. The first season was a little tough to get through, but by the time Spike shows up in the second season, I was all in. Spike was, and is, the main reason I have so much love for the Buffyverse. Unfortunately, in the comic books, they always try to make him a solo character. Spike has always worked best when playing off the other characters, whether it be on Buffy, or the spinoff series Angel (season 5 of which remains the greatest season of either series).

#4. Story: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Michael Lopez and Tom Derenick; Inks: Scott Hanna; Editor: Mike Marts

Elsa, Adam, and Tomas are teleported to the Dearborn Center for Homoralgic Disease Control. They are immediately surrounded by Nosferati vampires.

Meanwhile, nearby, Lord Nosferatu lays out his evil plans to Barnabus and Dracula.

Back at the fight, Elsa is kicking monster butt.

Lord Nosferatu and his minions have successfully used the first turned the first test subject into an “immortal blood donor.” Elsa sees Barnabus in trouble and decides to break up the party.

Lord Nosferatu takes a sip of the new blood concoction, and grows into a giant man-bat-like creature.

Nosferatu takes a bite of Elsa, but the power of the bloodstone running through her veins has unexpected results, curing him of his vampirism.

All that’s left is a punch from Elsa to turn his decayed corpse into dust. She then frees Barnabus and Dracula just in the nick of time. Dracula flies up to help Adam open up the door and let the sunlight in, frying all the vampires in the room, except for Barnabus hiding under Dracula’s cloak.

Dracula disappears, and with their mission complete, Elsa wishes them all back to mansion. Barnabus agrees to keep Elsa’s new life a secret from her mother, on the condition that he is around to help her.

Six weeks later, the Bloodstone Curios emporium is about ready to open. Elsa has been attending the college nearby.

She heads downstairs to find Adam and Tomas waiting for her, and preparing to leave. The lamp had been flashing for hours. “It’s the Kraken.”

And the hunt begins.

My brain thoughts: The addition of a second penciler on this last issue is a little bit jarring, since, as I said before, I was really enjoying Lopez’s work on the book. Assuming that this book wasn’t anything highly anticipated, I don’t know why they didn’t just wait for Lopez to finish the book, unless other circumstances were at play. Derenick does a capable enough job, but it’s just a little distracting when the characters look so different in the last chapter of a four issue story.

My final brain thoughts: Zombie dust bunnies, Buffy, sarcasm, Fabio, cheesecake, and Frankenstein janitors.

Elsa Bloodstone went on to star in the crazy-excellent series Nextwave. She was portrayed as much more of a no-nonsense character (and a redhead), but still with a biting sarcastic wit. This was probably to distinguish her a little bit more from the full-on Buffy clone she was in her original mini-series. Regardless, the final result was pure awesome.

For those of you that loved Nextwave for its wild situations, wacky villains, and hilarious dialogue, you’ll find a similar tone in the Bloodstone mini-series. It may not be as great, but it’s still pretty darn good, and doesn’t deserve being lost in the back issue bins of history. If you’re ever digging through a box of cheap comics at a convention and come across it, I highly recommend it.

Until next time!

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