Action Lab proved to be able to take the reigns of a B-Movie franchise and completely reinvigorate it with Puppet Master. Their other Full Moon-related titles have brought on some of the comic world’s best talent and Subspecies is no different, coming from superstar writer Cullen Bunn—of Harrow County, Uncanny X-Men and the new Pumpkinhead series as well. In a way, there’s another level of excitement going into this that even Puppet Master didn’t have, in that it’s been forever since fans have even had so much of a glimpse of the Subspecies world.
It’s now been twenty years since the release of Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm. The comic does not take place immediately afterward and instead wisely settles into how long it’s been. Whereas the movies all took place around the same time, picking up where the last one left off, this one smartly avoids that for the sake of allowing both new readers and fans alike to re-familiarize themselves with this world.
Our heroine Michelle is still a vampire and still in possession of the fabled Bloodstone, the object of the sinister Radu’s obsession throughout the series. Refreshingly, Michelle does not seem to be seeking a way to cure herself and has instead adapted to her condition. She works nights at the hospital, and the Bloodstone actually proves to be the perfect tool for a vampire who doesn’t want to take lives—as this stone is a perpetual source of blood.
This first issue is very reliant on narration, but that’s actually perfect when taking this into account as a Subspecies sequel. Each of the movies would begin with Michelle often lengthily recapping everything that had happened up to that point. It’s important—especially as this is not a household name franchise—to bring people back up to speed on who these characters are and what they want, and the way it’s handled just feels like coming home. It’s a great nod to the franchise’s past.
I really wish the marketing for this book hadn’t spoiled the issue’s biggest surprise. I get that they wanted to lead with a selling point, but I think having Subspecies back is selling point enough. In fact, I’ll even throw up a spoiler warning in case people missed the synopsis that was given in the preview solicits.
There are five Radus this time. It was stated months ago, when the release of the book was announced, so I was used to the idea. But I didn’t know that it was meant to essentially be a big reveal at the end of the first issue, so with that in mind, the surprise was kind of spoiled.
It’s still an incredibly neat idea. How it works is still anyone’s guess. But the idea is already spinning the franchise on its head in the same way that Puppet Master proved to do so successfully. Is this some magic that Radu was playing close to the chest? Or did the subspecies themselves, born from Radu’s severed digits, simply grow into him as time went on? Obviously, there’s no real way to know for sure except to read the next two issues as they come. As a lifelong fan of this series, I can’t wait to truly see what they have in store.
Overall, there’s a lot of recap and exposition in the first issue, but some of that’s definitely necessary. It also captured the atmosphere and tone of Subspecies, which could be the hardest thing to lock down when telling this story in a different medium. There are times when you can almost here the score, and that’s probably the best compliment I could give it.
Subspecies is back, and while the next two issues will truly tell, it could prove to be the best it’s been in ages.
WICKED RATING: 7.5/10