Reviewby Lissa Pattillo, Aug 15th 2010
Karl is a descendant of the vampire-hunters known as Van Hellsing. Rumors and fear stemming from his Father's absence make villagers suspicious of the boy and his mother, leaving Karl to a lonely and abusive life at their hands. One day he's befriended by a kind young woman who gives sympathy to the young boy who only wants to worship the same God as they, even if he was must squat outside windows to watch the sermons. But Karl cannot have nice things because a vampire murders the woman in front of him and the townsfolk. Blaming the still-a-child Karl for being unable to save her despite his lineage, he is driven from the village, now set on a path of vengeance against the vampire. Unfortunately his chance comes and then slips through his fingers as he himself falls victim to the vampire's bite.
Does the world really need another vampire story right now? Digital Manga seems to think so. Perhaps it's the success of their Vampire Hunter D releases, a manga cult-classic, or maybe it's just certain outside influences. Either way, Crimson Cross is about as ‘vampire’ as you can get… unfortunately.
Karl is out for vengeance and Karl is a vampire, which is considerably less relevant than the first point. The book follows him as he hunts, somehow, the vampire who killed the girl from his childhood and then subsequently turned Karl into a vampire for his own amusement. Throughout the book their confrontations are sprinkled with the usual life-or-death philosophical banter and the vampire has fun playing around with the silly little hunter who obviously has no chance of stopping him. In the first story-portion Karl is rescued by a woman living alone in the woods and is thusly bearer of a forest-grudge after the events that transpire. After that he finds himself against a female vampire completely at the whim of her Master and then by the story's end he's trying to stop a nun from bringing a vampire back from the…dead-again dead. To keep things on-track his nemesis always shows up for one reason or another to allow the story another stab at their sort-of fight scenes.
The story is generally unsatisfying, and this unresolved game of cat and mouse never stops feel one-sided enough to be interesting. The same resulting boredom can be said for either of their personalities which are mere shells of the very standard roles they're both playing. Karl wants to kill vampire-guy and gets frustrated when he fails again; vampire-guy finds Karl amusing and the creator tries to make it very dramatic and all-encompassing – rinse and repeat.
There's also some easy confusion created by an unclear shift between past and present events. What you may think is Karl battling his evil vampire-nemesis yet again is actually him prior to being turned into one himself. It really goes to show how little his vampiric abilities mean, short of causing some searing burns to appear on his neck when he speaks Holy Scripture, and it causes some frustrating disorientation during the moment it becomes clear what's actually going on.
This kind of uncertainty is added to by the distractingly similar appearances of the disposable female characters. Each arc of the book has one female character for the story to cycle around, whether it's the quick-to-sacrifice-herself-for-a-stranger woman from the first chapter or a nun looking for information on her past by resurrecting a vampire in the final episode. They all look almost completely identical. If this is intended to create some sort of immediate attachment-factor for Karl, the story falls completely short of taking advantage of its own artistic flaw.
Thankfully the story fares far better with the artwork as a whole. It's a flowy, atmospheric and often dark style that suits the subject matter. Panels are oddly placed at times, and are sometimes a little too sparsely laid out, though it does cause a sort of euphoric feel that benefits the intended mood of the plot. Karl is your average manga pretty-boy who has mastered the life-is-hard solemn face and the vampires are your usual shadowy flowing-haired figures in shadow or the monocle wearing classy sort. A short stint with a werewolf does offer some notably strong visuals during the story's mid-section with some good moonlight shading and an intimidating looking mass of walking fur and fang.
But an appropriate art style is still a long way off from making up for the book's shortcomings. Crimson Cross mixes together all those elements of vampire stories you've seen before so short of those entirely new to the concept, or those so smitten that they must have all there is to do with the undead-leeches, readers will find very little here to satisfy. Regrettably dull and generic to a point it almost hurts, there's just not much to sink your teeth into with this one-shot.
Overall : D+
Story : D
Art : B-
+ Nice art style that achieves some good evening atmosphere; those who can't get enough of vampire-lore will appreciate all the usual tropes
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