Elvira Mistress of the Dark: Volume 3 – Written by David Avallone & Illustrated by Dave Acosta (Dynamite)

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has always been a vibe.

Cassandra Peterson, who embodies Elvira more than playing her, has always anchored her in a way that defies any strict categorization. Sure, Peterson’s an actress, playing Elvira, but like Dark Arts Barbie, Elvira’s able to be anything and everything – and she’s quite happy smashing the fourth, fifth, and sixth walls to do it. Modern woman about town? Sure. Actor in schlock horror fare? Check. Literal time-travelling hanger-out with demons and famous figures from history? No sweat. Wherever your imagination can take Elvira, she’s happy to go.

She is – as David Avallone has her say in the early pages of this comic book collection – the spiritual older sister of Deadpool – wisecrackin’, ass-kickin’, life-lovin’, wall-breakin’, pop culture referencin’ badassador of the damned, whether they’re alive or dead. 

Did we mention she’s always been a vibe?

The point that needs to be stapled to your forehead before we go on though is that while Elvira’s character can be all things to all darklings, she’s always been absolutely authentic – even in her inauthenticity. Perhaps Dark Arts Barbie was the wrong description. Think schlock horror Dolly Parton, working every angle but fundamentally true.

Got that set in your mind?

Good – now we can continue.

This collection is a complete storyline that is both Classic Elvira and new, groundbreaking Elvira, showing that authenticity by contrasting her with a bunch of douchebag secret society men trying to steal her power for their own purposes. Goshamighty, it’s like it’s 2024 or something…

The gag-rate in this collection is superbly high – and knows no particular bounds. There are plenty of direct-to-reader lines, and metatextual fun, as Elvira the Comic Book Character complains that her writer, Avallone, won’t let her get away with the things she wants to do. There are knowing nods to the audience, too, when a massive geekfight erupts, including a costumed superhero, and she announces “Look – geeks fighting! Real comic-book stuff, like you love!”

But beyond all that, there’s serious plotting, social commentary, and enormous positivity in the pages of this collection.

A group of douchebag wannabe witches, all of them men in low-rent costumes (think “Storming the Capitol on a Budget”) need to capture Elvira and suck her dry of her “Luciferian energy.”

Her what-now?

Early on, it’s explained that she’s recently been on a trip through time and space, killing Vlad the Impaler in the process, and that she ended up taking a tour of the circles of Hell, checking in on Mephistopheles and Satan. The result is that she’s positively…as it were…dripping with Luciferian energy.

The sad-boys have themselves a besom – your actual witch’s broomstick – that’s going schizoid as it wants to connect to Elvira’s Luciferian energy and charge itself up for some hardcore magic. The “witches” plan to steal that energy to summon a demon and become its army of agents when it rules the world.

There’s sheer joy in this storyline – and you’ll recognise riffs in everything from Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! to the aforementioned storming of the Capitol, to Being A Woman On The Internet In The 21st Century. Sad men with geekish tendencies, determined to steal what isn’t theirs and aggrandise their little lives, because “life’s not faaaaaaaair!”

There are glorious moments between the wannabe-witches, particularly in their use of “eldritch” language, and it being undercut by others of their number – “demesne” being a particular case in point. There’s something particularly “British” about this kind of humor – something that rings with Monty Python and Terry Pratchett. But it’s combined with classic American notes, like Elvira embarrassing the men who want to steal her Luciferian energy by telling them she’s having a particularly “heavy flow day” when it comes to that energy. 

There’s also a black Batman character, whose secret identity is secret to absolutely no one, but who still tries to maintain he’s not the billionaire cookie baron everyone knows he is. He has to utter his trademarked catchphrase “at least once per issue,” which shows the doubling-down of comic joy in this collection.

As we say, the gag rate is high, the knowing sense of the original Elvira vibe is strong, and the storytelling itself is coherent, consistent, and makes sense within its world.

The artwork from Acosta is vivid and supportive of the narrative, meaning you never especially pay it too much attention – but you certainly give it enough time with your eyeballs, especially where there are pages and panels that overtly deserve it. 

Everything comes together here to give you an adventure with that trademark Elvira vibe of anything goes, but with a strong storyline with just enough social satire to make you laugh, and not enough to let you sink into seriousness. Gags and drama are a great combination when they’re of this high a quality, and while the collection runs to 98 pages, you’ll finish it at a single sitting. The challenge is not to give yourself an embolism from laughing so hard while you do it.

Cassandra Peterson’s a human being, and human beings grow older, face challenges, and hopefully find happiness in their lives. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is potentially immortal, and as this collection makes crystal clear, she’s still the sassy, smart-alec doyenne of darkness she always was.

And she’s still kicking the ass of newer, post-modern wall-breaking kids on the block. In fact, she practically built the block they’re playing on. 

What this collection amply demonstrates is that we don’t actually live in a Deadpool world.

It’s Elvira’s world – the Big D’s just living in it. And that is simply wonderful. Tony Fyler

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