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ALL GUTS, NO GLORY (review)—”Try to say no”

Writer: Ralph Tedesco

Artists: Jordi Tarragona, Guillermo Fajardo, Walter Pereyra

Zenescope, January 2022

BEEN CRUISING BACK-ALLEY scenes lately, haunting those small clubs behind dark portals in brick façades: inside shadowed, packed, humming. Just ripe. Rhythms of the night depend on these holes in the wall. Blood rises.

I creep toward one place behind two guys overloaded with bunches of equipment, but they stop and turn, and the taller guy says: Hey, this is ALL GUTS, NO GLORY in here. You could die. Just stay out.

Naturally, I go in anyway, and see what he means immediately. A slavering greenish vampire guy with a black tongue and sharpened fingernails lunges at my throat. Fortunately, first-responders are on the scene already, a suited-up, well-armed government-authorized monster hunter team, and I am saved by an explosive round to the creature’s head just as its hands clutch my throat.

The team stays cool. My blood rises higher.

Following these characters around a little, you learn what they do. The operation team tracks and eliminates vampire packs and other monster types, while the cleanup team, consisting of an older guy who is a former monster hunter himself and a high-school student protégé whose mom thinks he works somewhere else, do the chop, mop, bag, and shop-vac work afterward. The kid is the interesting one. He is the one who finds the newly minted vampire girl a few days later in an upstairs closet after the killer team misses her.

These are the tension points assembled in ALL GUTS, NO GLORY, a three-part mini-tale from early 2022 with a signature Zenescope superbabe superhero in the lead, written by Ralph Tedesco with lots of real-life drama, and smashing artwork by Jordi Tarragona, layouts by Guillermo Fajardo, warmed in colors by Walter Pereyra. The results are especially pleasing.

The writer was helped by an expanded story team (Joe Brusha, Dave Franchini, David Wohl), apparently to frame the event in the future Zenescope universe. It’s an origin story for vampire-star Sara, with potential spinoffs for the cleaners and hunters. Overall, it tastes like a plum, a big seed in a fruity exterior to consume whole in one fierce bite.

Vampire-star Sara is more modestly real and attractive than most superbabes, formerly a freshman college student she tells us later, and a night-time actress at one of those back-alley clubs, which is where her problem started. Now she is a blood-sucking creature who needs to be somehow controlled, and saved if possible.

Occasionally individual monsters show up to help, not harm, apparently guys with day jobs that keep them concealed like other illegal aliens. In the end, the righteous survive and thrive, but then … so do the unrighteous.

For further adventures, strutting star Sara with big teeth looks hungry to take on anything. The guys in baggy coveralls follow behind. Hopefully they shall manage to stay together to balance the action-figure heroine in her new not-quite undead form with casual episodes in normal life and night-time strolls through the theater district, arm in arm laughing, peaceful-like. Not much of that appears, of course, alongside secretly hunting, killing, and fastidiously disposing of monster muck in a sanitary fashion, but little reality checks, intervals of innocence, help round-out the characters and raise the charm in this little drama.