Dark Horse Comics Berger Books Imprint
Amy Chu and Soon Lee’s reinterpretation on Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla is all kinds of wonderful. Not only do we get a modern interpretation from a Chinese perspective but also Lee’s auburn design on the pages where it flashbacks, alluding to the original prose, is beautiful. Here, the vampire is named Violet, and the place she makes her base of operation may be named after the famous vampire we all know.
Here, Athena is a social worker wishing she can do more for those struggling to survive in Manhattan. Her life is okay, but it seems something is holding her back. When one of her patients turns up dead, she investigates in true Kolchak fashion and what she finds in that nightclub goes beyond simply confronting some pimp. She becomes enamoured, and as a lesbian herself, she understands what’s going on. But after meeting Violet, there’s more than meets the eye not only about this seductress but also this nightmare that soon unfolds.
Chinese beliefs into what the afterlife entails is carefully woven into this tale, and it’s not too hard to comprehend. I know some of the philosophy that’s involved and what Chu instilled in this tale elevates the original take to another level. Honestly, it makes me want to revisit the original work again just to find the parallels. This author also examines Athena’s disconnection with life. All she has is her yeh-yeh, whose grandfatherly advise is regarded as old fashioned. Apparently, after losing her parents at a young age, she’s been feeling disenchanted for much of her young adult life.
Thankfully, no prior knowledge of either the book or the folk beliefs of China is required to enjoy this work. Although Athena doesn’t subscribe to any particular faith, she realises some religions offer a similiar purpose to the devout. In what I find more exotic is the Chinese spin on what immortality is about. I had to do a few more rereads just to make sure I understood Chu’s interpretation. Here, the themes explored are less about finding eternal life like the Chinese Emperors from long ago and more on the now, and finding that spiritual peace within.
But in regards to what Athena discovers for herself, I won’t spoil. Instead, when reading this book during Chinese New Year, it gives me added chills as I wandered why part of this story takes place during this festival. It certainly made me think of why some supernatural creatures prowl about during this time, and as for whether this vampire can be dispelled by a Lion Dance, these performers have a lot of work cut out for them!