The concept behind Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit’s sumptuously perverse serialized comic “Requiem Vampire Knight” concentrates everything I want in a story into one super-powered hit of insanity. After his death, a Nazi soldier is reborn as a vampire on Resurrection, an alternate universe that functions like an eroticized Bizarro where Earth’s most unrepentant villains hold supreme power, aging in reverse and engaging in apocalyptic factional warfare. There’s a mix of gruesome fantasy, historical fiction and fast-and-loose world-building that combine to create a story so complete over-the-top bonkers that, upon reaching the end of the story thus far, I was non-figuratively*crying out for more.
*I feel this is the only way I can express “literally” in our current environment of Language Terrorism.
Much of the beauty of “Requiem” is tied to the fact that it is a true labor of love on the part of its creators. Mills is a seasoned comics author and editor, whose credits include the foundation of beloved British anthology 2000 AD in the 1970s, and “Requiem” marks his first work designed and produced for the French comics market. The fact that the book is published by Mills’ own imprint, Nickel Editions (licensed to Heavy Metal for translation and publication in the United States), has freed the story to metastasize into the gorgeous, kinky beast that it has become.
In contrast to the visual ugliness one might expect to match the story’s content, Ledroit’s artwork is instead packed with intense detail, beautiful character design, and evocative use of saturated color in sweeping panoramas. “Requiem” is the lushest form of exploitation entertainment, using the freedom provided by the comics format to create a horrific landscape that would cost a fortune to replicate on film. A painterly approach to the comics page comes with potential pitfalls—lack of clarity and challenges with reproducing for the page are foremost among them—but Ledroit’s use of color and detail define place and character within the story, from the blood-saturated landscapes of Resurrection to the stark, white vistas that characterize the pages detailing the exploits of a band of Teutonic knights.
The audacity of this comic cannot be overstated. Not only is there absolutely no fear of pushing boundaries, leading to horrifying—and thrilling—juxtapositions and tonal shifts to push the crazy quotient off the chart. This is a book in which an aged-in-reverse vampire lord has the body of a macrocephalic infant and is tended to by a wet nurse kitted out in studded leather who provides him with vampire-themed baby toys, whereas a scant few pages prior, a brutal rape scene during the battle of Stalingrad is portrayed. This disregard for tonal consistency is one of the hallmarks of my favorite exploitation films, indicating as it does a willingness to throw absolutely anything that crosses the creators’ minds into the mix.
The universe Mills has created lets him pile every historical baddie possible into his story. Notorious figures from Nero to Elizabeth Bathory to Aleister Crowley are imagined as powerful, supernatural beings, committing atrocities while scheming against one another to amass power. Supplementing these figures with colorful fictional creations like an uber-kinked femme fatale, a wise-cracking swashbuckler and fanatical vampire nuns, Mills provides abundant character-texture within the epic scope of his story.
With an additional five issues anticipated in the Requiem saga, I can assure you I’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the next outrageous installments.