Comic Book Review: "National Comics: Looker #1"
Another edition of DC Comics anthology series National Comics arrives in an equally deadly and beautiful package in Looker #1. “Looker” written by Ian Edginton with art by Mike S. Miller, tells the tales of the ugly underbelly of the fashion world through the eyes of the beautiful, redheaded Model-Turned-Vampire-Turned-Fashion-Agency-Owner Emily Briggs. Her world is odd enough as it is (being an ex-model vampire trying to run a modeling agency while keeping her secret undead life from the prying eyes of the general public), but thing are about to get more convoluted. Along with her close confidants (assistant employees) she battles a supernatural murderer and contemplates her lonely life in this modern vampire tale.
“Looker” begins with Emily Briggs remembering what it was like to be attacked by a vampire, and being turned into one. Vampires aren’t the sexy “boy-toys” we think of in the movies—they are horrible savages. She can’t remember the face of the vampire that attacked her; he was just supposed to be another one-night. She used to be a world famous supermodel, before being turned into a bloodsucker. She believes that the vampire didn’t think she would come back as one too.
Now, in New York City, New York, it’s fashion week. All the supermodels are there for the fashion shows. Emily is reminiscing that she had to quit the modeling scene because as a vampire, she doesn’t show up on film anymore (so she can’t model any clothes or shoe are products). So she retired from the catwalk (using a light-sensitive illness / lupus excuse to the public) and started her own fashion agency: Looker. At her fashion show, Emily can actually feel the heartbeats of the people attending the show.
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Emily gets a call from Roma (her P.A.), who needs her backstage (she’s cleared the area so that no one will see that Emily doesn’t have a reflection in all the mirrors). Roma tell her the one of the new girls, Esther, has gone missing; As well as Siren, one of the veteran models (recently back on the scene after rehab). Emily notices that they’ve left they purses and phones; which is every odd for models to do.
Rhodes, the designer, is freaking out. Emily calms him down and asks him what happened. He tells her that they both apparently just walked out. Roma notices some powdery substance. She says it’s “not foundation”. It looks like Siren fell off the wagon. Emily looks at it: it is cocaine and something else. She tastes it—it’s blood. Emily suddenly goes into shock, and has a vision of dead voices screaming “Murder!” Then Emily passes out.
She wakes up two days later at her apartment. Roma is there with Charles (another one of Emily’s confidants) he offers her a cup of blood “body temperature with a dash of nutmeg, the way you like it.” Emily says that she sometimes gets leftover memories when she tastes fresh blood, but this time she got memories of multiple women. She believes they were murdered and the murderer isn’t human.
Roma says that the police found Siren dead, floating in the river. There was no sign of Esther. Emily is mad that Esther was so stupid to get mixed of with Siren. Just because she’s pretty doesn’t mean “a charmed life”. Now she’s probably in the river too. Emily tells Roma and Charles that when someone starts work for the agency they are taught the highs and lows. “Bottom: we’re their employers, not their parents.” Roma says she needs to get to work “after all, I’m just an employee.”
Emily realizes she was being rude to Roma. Emily was mean and selfish back when she was alive. She talked a lot of gossip about other models. It wasn’t enough for her to be successful; everyone else had to fail. Then she “died”, and had to quit modeling, so she opened a fashion agency (since it’s really the only thing she knows), but that was complicated too (since she couldn’t go out into the sunlight).
One night, when she was feeding, she met Roma (who was an immigrant who was forced into a high end brothel). She saw Emily attacking a Russian thug and since Emily doesn’t eat innocent people (there’s enough scum around to keep her fat and bloated), she hired Roma as her P.A. (It turned Roma was once a business major and a model, so it turned out well). Charles was other lost soul: he found out that a famous photographer was selling drugs on the side. When the photographer tried to kill Charles before he could tell anyone, Emily killed him, and now Charles works for her too.
Have Vampires in entertainment become too sanitized?
Emily goes to see her friend Paul (a retired blinded police officer who sculpts clay statues). He doesn’t know that she is a vampire. He knows it’s her because she like coming in through the window. He tells her that if she’d like, he’d give her a key. She asks him if he’ll ask around to the other cops if they hear anything about Esther, he agrees. She lets him touch her face, and then she unexpectedly kisses him. Emily apologies to Paul for kissing him and then quickly leaves. He asks her not to do anything crazy.
She rebukes herself for kissing Paul; she can’t get involved with him, since he doesn’t know what she is. Btu she needs to focus on Esther and Siren. Siren always went to the same person for her drugs: Perfect George. She crashes his apartment, and finds it trashed with George beaten to a bloody pulp. She demands to know who did it to him. He tells her that a secret admirer (Simon Glass) paid him a fortune to give the coke to Siren for him.
Simon Glass is some rich guy, which is all Emily knows. She sneaks into his posh home and finds Esther. She is in a trance on the couch. Simon calls to Emily from the shadows. She’s figured out that it was his blood in the cocaine. He uses it to enslave the women before he kills them. She says that he’s a vampire, he corrects her: he’s an incubus. He’s been one for about a century. She doesn’t know what an incubus is. He tells she got a lot to learn. He hasn’t tasted a vampire in a while and he going to enjoy it (his face opens up and exposes a monstrous parasitic sucker mouth underneath).
They fight each other, he gets in a shot that ruins her designer Couture clothes (she’s understandable displeased) and she manages to deal a mortal wound that kills him, but before he died, he tells her that he knows who turned her into a vampire. As he dissolves into a bloody pool on the floor, Esther wakes up from her stasis. She asks Emily what going on and what the mess on the floor. Emily tells her that she been kidnapped and drugged (that why she’s seeing things), and takes her home.
Later, Emily, Roma, and Charles are watching the news: Glass was found to be the murderer and after Esther Torin escaped, he apparently committed suicide by setting his apartment on fire. Roma asks Emily if she thinks that Glass really knew who made her into a vampire. She doesn’t know and doesn’t care. Emily asks what the two are doing tonight (except for torching apartments to cover up for their boss). Roma says they’re holding another fashion show. Charles asks Emily what her plans are. She says that she’ll stay in and have some “wine”. He gives her an envelope and says she might like it instead: it a door key with a note attached: “Be My Guest—Paul.”
This story is entertaining and fun. Vampire stories have been constantly changing (every type, version and take on the genre has been done by now) for over a hundred years; ever since Bram Stoker’s 1897 “Dracula”. There’s nothing new to add. So the best thing to do is to create an interesting main character and an entertaining story, and “Looker” does just that. Emily Briggs is beautiful, sultry and powerful (both physically and mentally). She is self-reliant, and confident. She is her own boss and very independent. In her own way, she is a vampiric Selina Kyle/Catwoman (an anti-heroine, who does bad things to bad people, but leave innocent people alone except to help them. while all is staying within her own personal guidelines and goals). This story reminds me of Jess Whedon’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” television shows (a strong and beauty female heroine fighting the supernatural world, and a vampire using his powers to fight evil and protect innocence people), the 1992 movie “Innocent Blood” (a gritty mob story told from the point of view of the female vampire protagonist) wand the UK series “Being Human” (supernatural people trying to live normal lives). This story offers a little bit of everything. It’s not in-depth, but not too lighthearted; it’s clever but not overbearing. It does just what it hopes to do; be an exciting distraction.