Issue(s): Fear #27, Fear #28, Fear #29, Fear #30, Fear #31
Martine (apparently having just left her LARP group) takes Morbius to a secluded mansion to research a cure for his affliction.
He's very conflicted, unable to be satisfied with the bottled blood Martine brings him, but desperately trying not to succumb to his bloodlust.
Meanwhile, special investigator Simon Stroud, a character that hunted the Man-Wolf in Creatures on the Loose, is assigned to investigate a series of vampire attacks.
Michael Morbius is the prime suspect. It turns out there is a real vampire on the loose, but the police catch her as Stroud battles Morbius. Like Blade a few issues ago, Stroud is confounded when finding that holding up a cross doesn't affect Morbius.
Stroud kidnaps Martine at gunpoint in an attempt to gain an edge on Morbius.
Things get weird with the next issue. The police chief is really casual about having discovered a vampire and furthermore starts rambling about an old ghost story about the house Morbius was staying at.
Stroud talks to the old lady that used to live at the house, and she claims that she was visited by one-eyed demons that warned her that their master was coming to Earth. She said they were warning her because they didn't like living in Hell and they didn't want anyone else to suffer like they did when their master brings Hell to Earth.
Meanwhile, Morbius, who was shot by Stroud previously, finds that he has regeneration powers. He returns to the mansion and follows through a portal what he thinks is Martine but turns out to be one of the one-eyed demons.
The one-eyed demons tell Morbius that the way to kill their boss is to destroy one of his eyes.
From there he encounters the boss, Hell-Eyes. In fact, he winds up in Hell-Eyes' domain by coming out of one of his eyes...
...and then gets pushed back into another dimension when Hell-Eyes mushes him into one of the eyes in his palms.
Stroud winds up right behind him.
Robbins' art makes this book look cartoony, undermining Moench's script. Hell-Eyes and his minions are completely goofy looking and kinda cute; not at all horrifying.
The complaints on this series, as seen in the lettercols for #28-31, are pretty overwhelming. Frank Robbins' art is really trashed, but Moench's writing is also disparaged. People didn't like the ending to the Caretaker arc, but more importantly they are unhappy that Moench has completely abandoned the sci-fi angle established by Gerber and returned to a horror theme. The response that is that Moench needed to set his own direction, but then he's off the book with issue #29, replaced with Bill Mantlo, who is stuck finishing the strange Hell-Eyes story and - because the book is now slated for cancellation - wrapping up the rest of Moench's threads as well. A blurb in issue #30 announces that Morbius will be cancelled in two issues and replaced with another feature if sales don't turn around, so please get out there and get everyone you know to buy the book. In fact Fear is cancelled entirely with issue #31.
It's unclear exactly what Moench intended to do with Hell-Eyes, but Mantlo's version feels different. Not necessarily an improvement, mind you. Instead of a giant demon-god floating in a surreal dimension, he's a more reasonably large guy in an overgrown Inca pyramid setting, and he's trying to taunt Morbius in some way.
But - and this is probably not intentional - he's constantly interrupted because Simon Stroud can't seem to grasp that he's been tossed into some strange alternate dimension, so he keeps trying to kill Morbius instead of dealing with the giant eye-covered monster or trying to get home.
Eventually Hell-Eyes gets so fed up with them he cancels his planned invasion on the grounds that the people of Earth must all be nuts.
Morbius gets home by realizing that the minion's demons advice about the "one eye that would kill Hell-Eyes" really meant the "one I that would kill Hell-Eyes" so he finds his reflection in one of the eyes and jumps through.
This might have seemed more clever if Morbius hadn't already encountered a Lord I, whose name was basically the same pun, earlier in the series.
During the encounter with Hell-Eyes, Morbius announces that he believes in God.
This is interesting in the sense that Morbius is seemingly a vampire and yet a follower of God, and also because a couple of Morbius' foes have tried to stop him using crosses and that's now particularly ironic. That said, i guess i think that while there's nothing wrong with a scientist believing in God, i think considering how little characterization there's really been for Morbius so far, this seems like a strange additional thing to tack on. The useful contrast here is that Morbius is a scientist and doesn't believe in supernatural stuff. He's not a typical vampire and he scoffs at the idea that real ones exist. So adding the fact that he does, in a sense, believe in the supernatural, complicates things a bit. It's a nuance that, given the time and the right handling, could add to the depth of the character, but it ain't happening here.
Anyway, when they get back to the mansion, Morbius and Stroud find that it is now overrun with vampires.
This is the first time Morbius encounters real vampires (except, see below...), and he has a hard time believing it, even as they disintegrate when stabbed through the heart with wooden stakes.
Meanwhile, the vampire that was being held at the police station gets free and she slaughters a bunch of cops and turns Martine into a vampire.
That's the George Evans version. It's pretty nice, right? Kinda Gene Colan-ish. Definitely conveys the horror of Martine now being a vampire. Here's the Frank Robbins version. He's baaa-aaaack!
Eventually it comes out that all of these vampires were actually caused by Morbius after all - radiation in his blood got into one of his victims and it's been spreading around.
This is another weird complication, and not a logical one. Why do they disintegrate when staked through the heart, then? And what's the value of making Morbius just like a regular vampire? Maybe this was in response to the criticism that the book should have been sci-fi based, so the vampires Moench introduced are turned into science vampires, but at this point they should have just continued with the "Morbius is shocked to learn that vampires are real" angle, which was interesting. Now, as far as he knows, vampires still aren't real. And good god, he sure did wind up making a lot of them, and they sure seem to have established themselves very quickly.
But that's the story, and Morbius devises a cure for Martine but then, after he cures her, he gets his bloodlust and drains her blood.
That is awesome. He winds up not killing her, but he flees the scene and that's a wrap, people.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places Stroud's appearance here after all his appearances in Creatures on the Loose. Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #4 takes place between the previous arc and this one. Morbius' appearances in Vampire Tales #2-8 takes place before this, and Vampire Tales #10-11 takes place after this.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Frank Robbins' art is growing on me in a weird way as I read more and more of your reviews. I can't say that it entirely works for me, but I keep thinking that somewhere out there is a series perfectly suited for him but he just never worked on it. Of course I have no idea what that series would be...
Posted by: Jay Patrick | May 3, 2013 4:18 AM
That first page of #31 is the strangest butt shot I've seen in quite a while.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 5, 2013 4:33 PM
The pose Frank Robbins drew Martine in for the splash page of the "End of a Vampire" story would make Rob Liefeld jealous.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | March 23, 2018 8:40 PM
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