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Blade: The Series

In a neat bit, Blade: The Series begins sort of where the first movie ended. A Russian vampire runs down non-descript but obviously formerly Communist industrial tunnels. At a crossroads, he looks around in panic. Then there's that sound of a motorcycle - not just any bike, but one that's state of the art, with a rider in black leather, silvery weaponry and of course, plenty of attitude.

That's a good move by show creator David S. Goyer, because he has to reset some viewers' expectations. With the help of his old comics' writing partner Geoff Johns, Goyer returns the character of Blade to a more recognizable world, and this one can sustain the serial format of a weekly action series.

The series does crib ideas from each film in the trilogy, but lowers the stakes a bit. In the second film, it was a wonder that humanity had any chance at all, and the third made vampirism into a global conspiracy as intractable as Wesley Snipes' grim acting choices.

For the small screen, Blade (Kirk "Sticky" Jones) works out of Detroit, and conveniently, so does a large vampire clan, representing the shadowy House of Cthon. Nicely, in that it will allow a meta-story to build, these aren't the ones in control, but they're enough to oppose Blade's efforts to rid the world of vampires for now.

He still hides out in a dark warehouse space, now aided by the cocky Shen. At one point, a character makes reference to Kris Kristofferson's Whistler, but we must assume that he stayed dead after Blade's trip to Russia. Shen makes a capable replacement, cobbling together an effective arsenal for the Daywalker.

Yet after the dynamic opening, they largely remain in the shadows. Instead, the plot is driven by returned Iraq War vet Krista Starr (Jill Wagner). Her twin brother Zack has been found dead, and the police are no help. Though they dismiss the strange marking on Zack's neck as a gang tattoo, Krista knows there has to be something more.

Both Blade and Krista circle around the show's central villain, Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson). The most public member of the House of Cthon, Van Sciver dedicates himself to the restoration of Detroit's landmark architecture. He's so good a citizen, in fact, that many might forgive him the bloodsucking and drug-dealing that apparently gives him his wealth.

Van Sciver also has a lovely blonde assistant, Chase (Jessica Gower), whose motivations are hard to pin down. Even with extended time for a pilot, it's hard for the myriad of characters to make much of an impression, but the possibly psychotic Chase does. Of course, at Fanboy Planet we stick by what the guys at YK Productions once said so bluntly and truly: female vampires are alluring.

The two-hour pilot has a different tone and pace than the films. Director Peter O'Fallon shoots much of the action a little darkly, perhaps to cover that the fight choreography isn't quite as cool as before. Though he gives Jones a couple of chances to strike Blade's signature poses, most of the fights are blunt affairs. But then, they probably would be.

If the lower budget affects the fights, it also forced the production team to get more creative. Borrowing from Trinity's body farming idea, here the "blood bagging" riff looks a lot more cobbled together, and somehow more chilling because it's strictly utilitarian.

By putting focus on Krista, too, Goyer's and Johns' script allows for a little more repartee between foes. The Blade Snipes created would not have allowed for much monologuing.

However, Jones' Blade just might. Though still growling, he slips a couple of looks of pleasure, as if the vampire hunter knows that what he's doing is kind of cool. Jones also has a higher register, treating Blade's attitude as just one more piece of armor instead of the only note Blade can play.

Overall, Blade: The Series lays the groundwork for a decent mythology. A few hints are dropped as to characters' long ago pasts that will probably be mined for future episodes. They'll be worth it. A surprise (and uncredited) guest star makes reference to another Marvel hero, too.

Not that it needs the help. If Jones can maintain his low-key charisma, there will be no need for Nightstalkers or anyone else from the Marvel Universe to make an appearance, at least not for a long time. Blade can hold the center just fine.

When and Where: Wednesdays, starting June 28 at 9 p.m. for the two-hour pilot, then 10 p.m. afterward, on SPIKE TV.

Derek McCaw

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