Last week, I revisited the first appearance of Morbius the Living Vampire in the 1971 comic book, The Amazing Spider-Man #101 (1971). The story features the character as a bloodthirsty villain who maintains quite the complex disposition on his own existence.
With this, today I am sinking my teeth into yet another story featuring Morbius, one that exhibits the more complex facets of his moral compass.
In 2018, Gail Simone began writing a solo series focused on the mercenary known as Domino. As a whole, the series focuses on the evolution of Domino's peculiar set of abilities and unpredictable interactions with other figures in the Marvel Universe.
Consequently, Domino #8 comprises one of those interactions as our titular character comes face-to-face with The Living Vampire himself.
Domino #8 presents quite the ominous opening. A man speaks to a colleague over the phone, describing a master plan that culminates with the eradication of human existence.
That's right, some malevolent force has doomed all of civilization.
Meanwhile, Domino and her favorite allies, Outlaw and Diamondback, have taken a job on behalf of a Wakandan baroness with deep pockets. This job involves the trio retrieving a trunk from Norway, a trunk they were strictly instructed not to open.
Of course, they open the trunk, only to discover a weakened Morbius inside.
Though, after a brief scuffle and some dialogue, Morbius reveals that the trio has actually rescued him. He goes on to explain that prior to being locked in the trunk, he was attempting to combat a band of vampires who have insidious plans to eradicate humankind.
However, before Morbius can delve more information, he states that he must feed in order to restore his strength.
Surprisingly, Domino offers herself, and Morbius takes a bite.
The process is undeniably disturbing, and Domino immediately expresses her discomfort towards the experience. Interestingly though, after Morbius releases Domino, she states that she feels a newfound, inexplicable connection to the vampire.
Blood on Her Hands
After restoring his strength, Morbius reveals that the vampires he had tried to combat have access to a bloodborne virus that can kill all of humanity. Ultimately, the source of this virus stems from Morbius himself since the vampires had fed on him and are continuing their feeding frenzy on humans.
Thus, these vampires are spreading Morbius' own virus that doomed him to live as an artificial vampire. Unfortunately for humanity though, they will not even have an opportunity to live when they come into contact with Morbius' virus.
With this, it is worth addressing Morbius' motivations in allying himself with Domino and her crew. He states that his vampiric nature promotes self-preservation. Therefore, he is unable to kill himself and, thus, must live to survive. Therefore, he must live as a killer, a predator who consumes on the blood of humans to survive.
So, it should come as no surprise that Domino feels incredibly conflicted in assisting Morbius on this mission. He must save humanity if he wants to continue feeding on humankind in order to live.
Sure, Domino wants to save the world, yet, in doing so, she is facilitating Morbius' own lifestyle.
Again though, Domino wants to save humanity, and perceives the losses to be greater if she does not stop the virus from spreading. So, she allows Morbius to lead her, Outlaw, and Diamondback to the vampire king.
The squad manages to find and defeat the king and successfully end the threat of the virus. Though, upon their victory, a vampire hunter appears, prepared to kill Morbius.
Interestingly, before anyone can see it coming, Domino saves Morbius from the hunter.
The Living Vampire himself expresses great confusion by the heroic act, and Domino herself remains at a loss in explaining her motivations. So, she simply asks that Morbius leave her alone as the issue comes to a close.
Blood on His Hands
Upon the beginning of Domino #8, Morbius traverses his own origins that led him to becoming the killer he is today. In doing so, he presents an interesting question,
"If you lived a life of unending pain, would you take the cure if it made you a murderer?"
In regard to this and her overall familiarity with him, Domino struggles to define Morbius.
Yes, Morbius is a killer, there is no denying that. Also, the inexplicable connection Domino feels with Morbius, developed after he fed on her, complicates her perception of him further.
She does not perceive Morbius to fall into the binaries of good or evil. In fact, she does not even perceive Morbius as a predator.
Ultimately, it appears as though Domino sympathizes with Morbius as he lives without a choice, living instinctually in order to survive. Domino has also come to realize that Morbius lives a life of self-loathing as he would rather be dead than prey on the civilization he was once a part of, as depicted in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 (1971).
However, this sympathy is tinged with frustration and anger. Domino does not want to sympathize with a killer. In fact, there is arguably a part of her that wishes she could kill Morbius herself, but she won't.
In a way, Domino loathes herself for her inability to remove Morbius as a threat from the world. Though, perhaps there is greater punishment in allowing Morbius to continue on in his existence, allowing him to suffer in his own doom.
Ultimately, there is no correct answer when it comes to defining Morbius, and Domino struggles to come to terms with that.
Today, she defends humanity and rescues the world from the vampire king that could have ended it all.
Though, in doing so, she leaves humanity susceptible to another Grim Reaper.
Domino #8 provides a fantastically dark and thought-provoking vignette on Morbius the Living Vampire in addition to an interesting juxtaposition to his introduction in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 (1971).
The Amazing Spider-Man #101 definitely depicts some of Morbius' own internal conflicts. However, the issue primarily focuses on his role as a villain. Domino #8 on the other hand presents the character as more of an anti-hero with more nuanced characterization, even if his motivations are not necessarily heroic.
As a result, I find Domino #8's portrayal of The Living Vampire to be much more debatable. There is no, single right or wrong perspective of the character. Consequently, it is exceedingly difficult to gauge a holistic understanding of Morbius.
Of course, that is one of the various reasons his character is so engaging.
Is Morbius good? Is Morbius evil? Should Morbius be held responsible for the sins he has no choice in committing?
The answers are truly ambiguous.