Review: Voodoo Vol. 2: Killer in Me trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Voodoo Vol. 2: Killer in MeI liked Mike Costa’s Blackhawks: Great Leap Forward, though it only lasted one collection. Blackhawks fans like me will be pleased to find that Blackhawk leader Andrew Lincoln figures prominently into Josh Williamson’s Voodoo: Killer in Me. Different writer behind the character, of course, and neither Lincoln’s Blackhawk adventures nor any of the team’s other characters really factor in the book, though the status of the now-defunct ‘Hawks does get a mention once or twice (except Williamson, for some reason, calls them the “Black Hawks” instead, maybe to contract with Voodoo’s Black Razors).

Lincoln’s presence is only one of just a few reasons most readers will want to pick up the second Voodoo collection; most will probably be content to let this one lie. There’s a handful of continuity notes here, in the form of ties to DC Comics’s other Daemonite invasion-centered books like Superman and Grifter, but probably that’s not enough to net the book a wide audience, and this title’s cancellation is merciful.

[Review contains spoilers]

What works in Williamson’s Voodoo story is his establishment that Voodoo is a clone of Priscilla Kitaen, a normal person kidnapped and experimented on by the Daemonites. Voodoo and Kitaen stalk one another over the course of the book; whereas in this series’s first issues Ron Marz presented Voodoo as a Daemonite agent beginning to find affection for humanity, with this change Williamson is able to make Voodoo more of a villain (though still put-upon enough by the Daemonites that the audience roots for her), and contrast her with Kitaen, her “good” opposite number.

There’s a nice push-pull and love-hate between the two characters that it might have been interesting to see develop under different circumstances and with a different basis for the title.

Foremost, however, it’s tough to discern what Voodoo is about and what motivates the characters. Voodoo has been presented as a loyal Daemonite hybrid on a surveillance mission; when she learns she’s a clone, she abandons that mission and fights her way into a meeting with the Daemonite high council, where she destroys the other clones and threatens to punish the council for “the crimes [they’ve] committed.” But even though Voodoo didn’t know she was a clone, the Daemonite council did, and for the most part she acted exactly as they wanted; what exactly she’s mad at them about, besides the general “character finds out they’re a clone and goes nuts” trope, I wasn’t sure.

Similarly, by the end the reader understands that Kitaen was just a random abductee of the Daemonites, but when offered the chance to return to her normal life or join the Black Razers, she joins right away and goes off to fight on alien worlds. What did Kitaen do for a living before she was abducted (we know she wasn’t a stripper, and in this way Williamson separates “his” character from the excesses of Marz’s earlier run)? What’s her relationship like with her family? The reader never learns any of this, and in this way Voodoo never feels fully fleshed-out; both Voodoo and Kitaen are more pieces Williamson moves around the story than characters the audience ever feels invested in.

Sami Basri continues here the great work he started on Power Girl, hinting at this title’s cheesecake elements without making them overblown or gratuitous. But at times Killer in Me is shockingly violent, much more so than the Marz-helmed first volume What Lies Beneath. Here, the choice of Basri is all wrong, though it’s no fault of his; Basri’s style is cartoony, such that the gore comes off as though it’s meant to be humorous even though it isn’t, such that the “joke” seems in poor taste (that Williamson kills off all of Marz’s characters in the first two issues grates, too). In essence Basri is the artist that a book like Voodoo needed, but Williamson isn’t writing the kind of Voodoo to go in a book drawn by Basri.

Even, unfortunately, the final Zero Month issue doesn’t land quite as hoped. The best part is just the last two pages, which point Voodoo readers over to Grifter for the character’s continuing appearances. The rest is just a recap of Priscilla Kitaen’s abduction, escape from the Daemonites, and capture by the Black Razors — nothing is established here differently than what the reader already knows, making this truly just an origin (and without real importance, at that) and not a “secret origin.”

I do, in an overall sense, applaud DC for having Blackhawks Andrew Lincoln appear here, and for sending Voodoo over to Grifter. Those these all seem like last gasps — it doesn’t seem Lincoln hasn’t appeared since Voodoo’s cancellation, nor Voodoo since Grifter’s — but I like this idea that DC’s series don’t just end (especially given how often they’re cancelled these days) but rather that the characters move on and join other titles or groups. This gives a sense of a more living world — the same with Mr. Terrific in Earth 2, OMAC in the late Justice League International, Frankenstein in Justice League Dark, and so on.

With sometimes-hackneyed dialogue, stock characters, and a story of alien carnage that just doesn’t seem right for the title, Voodoo: Killer in Me is far from the best of DC’s New 52. Though the swiftly rotating cast of DC titles may give some whiplash, here the system has worked — Voodoo is allowed to come to a natural close, the character’s story continues, and an underperforming title comes to a close. Hopefully the characters may get a better, second life somewhere down the line.

[Includes original covers]

Later this week, a review of Red Lanterns Vol. 2: Death of the Red Lanterns. See you then!
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1 comment:

  1. Very much liked this title, although I was obviously in the minority. I had no prior experiences with the old Wildstorm universe whatsoever but the initual issues of Voodoo, Grifter and Stormwatch were actually among my favourites with the New 52 launch. Voodoo at least got a nice run that went full circle and was constantly enjoyable.

    Did not see those deaths coming at all, I did not think of them as grating, they truly surprised me. There's a a safety net with more well-known characters where you know they won't die. That was comletely absent here and I got a few great shock moments out of it.

    Her one appearance in Grifter (I believe it really was just one issue) led to nothing. She got to give Grifter a goodbye kiss before he went on a dangerous mission at least. That's it. All that's missing was him slapping her on the ass.

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