Vampirella #2 (On Alien Wings)
Ron Goulart | Warner Books | 1975 | 138 pages
More a series of vignettes than a single coherent story, On Alien Wings pinballs its scantily clad vampire heroine from the Hollywood Hills to a doomed cruise ship to a remote island in the Caribbean where human subjects suffer otherworldly fates. While attempting to smash the far-reaching demonic operations of the Cult of Chaos, Vampirella is relentlessly pursued by blind vampire-hunter Conrad Van Helsing, seeking vengeance for the death of his brother.
Attempting to cheat the Cult of Chaos on a Faustian bargain, aging Hollywood movie producer Nathan Horner kidnaps Vampirella in order acquire her powers of immortality. If he can force her to turn him into a vampire, he will technically never die, infinitely postponing the date when his bargain comes due. Unfortunately for Horner, Vampirella’s unique status as a blood-drinking alien, rather than a traditional vampire of folklore, causes an unexpected result. The laconic demon Nergal steals the spotlight with his curt dismissal of a final fight with Vampirella, “I have no quarrel with you.”
Working as an assistant to small-time magician Pendragon (and transforming into a bat onstage as the culmination of his act), Vampirella books passage to work on a cruise line. But the owner of the cruise ship is beholden to the Cult of Chaos, and along with his crew of zombie minions, intends to sacrifice the entire passenger list to the demon Demogorgon. Unfortunately, this segment races to its climax without fully steeping in the potential trapped-on-a-cruise-ship-with-zombies-from-the-deep atmosphere.
Following the fateful demise of the SS Triton, Vampirella and Pendragon wash ashore on a remote island, only to become victims of Jeanne Pierre Dargaud, a deranged scientist experimenting on human subjects to find a cure for his wife Monique’s strange affliction—again caused by the nefarious workings of the Cult of Chaos. Vampirella becomes the hunted in a most dangerous game, with Monique transformed by her disease into a ravenous beast.
Although Van Helsing’s son Adam finds himself falling under Vampirella’s seductive spell, her character remains mostly a charmless blank-slate in this second novelization of her comic book adventures. Without the visual benefit of the comic’s distinctive attire, Vampirella is again reduced to repetitive descriptions of being “long-legged”, her character shaded only by the occasional lament on her condition—usually relating to her lack of available synthetic blood. The other characters also tend to be defined by a single trait—the elder Van Helsing has psychic visions, Pendragon provides comic relief by revealing the thoughts in his head (in parentheses).
Shallowly entertaining but derivative, On Alien Wings apes a number of familiar tropes across its short page count, with a few thinly developed individual story lines leading to an ultimately forgettable whole.