Review: Spitfire #1 – “Living in the Ruins”

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Elena Casagrande
Cover by Jenny Frison
5-page preview at Marvel.com

Marvel Comics’ Spitfire one-shot, released last week, looks like a speedster story from the cover…but it’s really a vampire story. Once I realized that, I found the second read much more enjoyable.

The Basics

Spitfire is Lady Jaqueline “Jac” Falsworth, a World-War II–era speedster who got her powers from the combination of a vampire bite and a blood transfusion from the original Human Torch. After she lived out a normal lifetime, a second transfusion restored her youth and activated vampire traits, like fangs and, most importantly for this story, immortality. She works for British intelligence service MI:13, along with vampire slayer Blade, whom she is dating.

The plot involves Spitfire and Blade pursuing a suspected spy — who is also a vampire — to New York. Through the course of their pursuit, Spitfire has to confront the similarities between their quarry and what she herself has become. Will immortality leave her jaded and empty, like it has so many of the vampires she’s met? Will she become what they hunt?

New Readers? Really?

As someone who doesn’t follow Marvel Comics very closely, and hadn’t even heard of the character until a few days ago, I appreciated the text page at the beginning. It’s a bit dense, but it covers Spitfire’s origin, her history with vampires and fighting Nazis, her recruitment by MI:13, and her relationship with Blade. It’s also easily skippable by readers who are familiar with the character.

The cover is labeled “Women of Marvel,” which seems to be some sort of event like DC’s ill-titled “Girlfrenzy” set of one-shots during the 1990s. Most of what I can find online has to do with a series of variant covers for established books like Captain America, Iron Man, and the Avengers, so I’m not sure what other books are involved.

So How Is It?

Mild spoilers after the cut.

I said it’s more of a vampire story than a speedster story. There are several reasons for that:

For one thing, there’s very little speeding going on in these pages: A couple of brief runs early in the book, and one frame in the big fight scene, but that’s about it. As far as powers go, Spitfire is focusing on learning to use her new, extended vampire senses (and celebrity). Blade, meanwhile, takes a break from his usual main-character status to be a mentor for this story.

It’s a very moody book. Colors are dark and muted to the point that sepia-toned flashbacks barely stand out as different. A good 2/3 of it is talking, either about the mission or about the nature of vampires. Then there’s the villain, who betrays her country (to the Nazis, no less) for no other reason than that she’s bored with immortality. Jac herself is deeply concerned that she’ll one day go down the same road.

That’s really the core of the story: Can Spitfire remain essentially human if she lives for hundreds of years? It’s an intriguing question (as you can see by the number of examples in that TVTropes link), and could probably support a longer story. It’s given as much closure as you can in 22 pages, but it’s not the sort of thing that can be resolved in one night.

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a super-speed adventure, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a vampire hunt or a character piece on the perils of immortality, you should definitely check it out.

5 thoughts on “Review: Spitfire #1 – “Living in the Ruins”

  1. rowdyoctopus

    I thought about checking this one out. I’m more of a Marvel guy, but the Flash is my second favorite super hero. Marvel has that exposition page in ALL of their comics. It explains things that happened recently, or even a little further back if it is relevant to the story. And you are right, readers who know what is going on can skip right past it (which I usually do). Sometimes I’ll go back and read it on a re-read of the issue just to see how it sets the tone for the issue.

    Anyway, Marvel seems to be pushing this Vampire stuff. There is a Spider-Man vs. Vampires one-shot coming out in October, and right now marvel kicked off a new X-Men on-going with a multiple issue X-Men vs. Vampires story arc.

    In the end, I just didn’t care enough about this character to warrant adding it to my list that is pushing my limit.

    Reply
  2. Mark Engblom

    Marvel’s never really been about the speedsters, even though they have a number of them. For whatever reason, super-speed adventuring is a sort of “sideline activity” coming from B and C-listers. For whatever odd reason, it’s a “Marvel thing”.

    I think the exact opposite may be the problem at DC: Too many A and B-list speedsters. But…maybe this isn’t the forum to express that opinion. 😉

    Reply
    1. West3man

      Lol. Maybe not.

      I will admit that I am really a mark for speedster tales. If I see someone running really fast, I am instantly interested. Dunno why.

      Hearing that Spitfire is all spit and no fire (I dunno what that means, either) is pretty disappointing because I thought Quicksilver and Super Sabre (or whatever That veteran speedster is called) had some MU company.

      Reply
  3. Devin "The Flash" Johnson

    Yeah I’ve noticed a distinct lack of focus on speedsters in Marvel as well. I, like many others here, is a huge fan of The Flash and other speedsters in general. I love characters that move fast. I followed Speed Demon in New Thunderbolts, I followed the Blur in Supreme Power, I followed Quicksilver over a myriad of appearances, and I could go on and on. I’ve rarely seen a speedster utilized well at Marvel.

    Then again I know it’s not easy to write about a guy who’s faster than basically anything and that a lot of writers might prefer not to have to utilize them if they don’t have to or write around them if able. Similar to how Marv Wolfman treated Wally West on the Teen Titans back in the day.

    Reply

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