I grew up across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Both my parents are originally from there, and I had a lot extended family in the city for a while. Possibly even today, but I don’t know for certain. The point is, I visited the city fairly often growing up and have a bit of affection for the place as a result.
That may or may not be why I opted for this Image Comics horror series Killadelphia, with the first volume subtitled Sins of the Father…is that the most overused title in comics? Sure seems like it is.
Philadelphia police detective James Sangster Sr is looking for a gang member he suspects is behind a lot of mysterious deaths and disappearances in the city when he dies in an ambush. His son, a Baltimore cop, returns to the city for the funeral and soon makes a rather shocking discovery: his father isn’t exactly dead. Someone turned the older Sangster into a vampire.
Yes, there are vampires in Philadelphia, and the source of this plague is a surprising one: John Adams, Founding Father and second President of the United States. He and his wife Abigail were turned into undead blood drinkers sometime after he left the presidency, and the two have been living underground ever since, faking their own deaths and watching the nation grow over time. Adams doesn’t much like what he sees. He is something of a true believer in what he and the other Founding Fathers set out to do in creating a more perfect union (yes, I know that’s a Lincoln line and he wasn’t a Founding Father), and he figures the best way to make the country better is to make as many people vampires as they can. True equality will come after that.
By the by, interesting choice in Adams, one of the major Founding Fathers who didn’t own slaves since many of the transformed people are African American.
Of course, Adams also has another reason: he isn’t happy to be the “forgotten” or overlooked Founder, having been set off by, among other things, the musical Hamilton where the only reference to Adams is a single line that plays like a throwaway joke.
Now, all this sounds really cool, and that’s not getting into how writer Rodney Barnes reimagined Abigail as a woman who has some very different ideas on how things should be compared to her idealistic husband. The problem is Barnes has too many narrators running around demanding attention. He skips from Adams to either of the two Sangsters, trying to give all of them time in the spotlight, but over six issues, that isn’t a lot. When the vampires attack, it seems unlikely there’d be anyone left alive in the city the next day, and yet there are many of them. A kid vampire learned some magic and helps the Sangsters defeat Adams’s forces, but the whole thing is chopped and haphazard. I really got no real feel for many of these characters, and James Jr’s romance with the young coroner woman feels like something that came out of nowhere.
On the other hand, I have to admit that Jason Shawn Alexander’s artwork is gorgeous. The look of the book alone is enough to perhaps give the series a shot, but the way the story itself was told, even the best art in the world can only do so much.
7.5 out of 10 ominous Founding Mothers.
Yeah, I don’t think I’ll continue with this one any time soon.