Sunday, March 04, 2007

Comics: This doesn't royally suck.

Recently, at the New York Comicon, I got the chance to ask the gents at the Silent Devil booth just what happened to their Dracula vs. Capone series. The first of three issues came out several months ago and, since then, nothing. The bad news: the date for issue two is still uncertain. The good news: the series, despite setbacks, is still very much alive and Silent Devil intends to get the series completed as soon as they can.

On getting this bit of info, I thanked the dude at the booth and started to walk away.

"You ever read the first one?" he asked.

"What first one?"

"Before Capone, we did this thing."

He held up the trade edition of the 2001 and mini-series Dracula vs. King Arthur.

Of course, I bought it.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I've got a weakness for the monster-mash formula of taking two well known characters and ramming them together into a single story. Admittedly, the results are almost always heavy on the cheese and weaker than a strong outing of each character on their own. But I can't help it. It is just too damn fun. How does one maintain a proper critical stance when you're talking about, say, Billy the Kid trying to gun down Frankenstein's monster? If you can, you're a better critic than I – but you're also a joyless bastard that hates happiness and all that is good and true about life.

Dracula vs. King Arthur is actually about as low on the cheese factor as you can get and still have something called Dracula vs. King Arthur. Sent back and time and vampirized by Satan, Dracula tears through the traditional Arthurian legend killing or turning minor and major characters with ludicrous abandon. Arthur and his knights, being completely unfamiliar with what a vampire is (actually, one of the nice touches in the book is that Dracula doesn't know what a vampire is either and most test and explore his new powers and limitations), are routed. Eventually Merlin figures out what they are facing and, armed with water from the Holy Grail, Camelot goes on the offensive. This leads to a wonderfully apocalyptic conclusion that at once subverts and satisfies the Arthurian themes of the work.

The writing is filled with details from the stories of both legends (with Drac built heavily from historical sources rather than Stoker's source novel). The story moves at a brisk pace, quickly dispensing with the exposition and launching into the action. The characters, especially those drawn from the Arthurian legends, stay mostly true to type; but the writers wisely avoid in slavish loyalty to the traditional narrative, happily having such key characters as Lancelot and Guinevere go all bloodsucker on us.

The art is bold and communicates the story well. It occasionally feels thick and cumbersome, but the action is well-handled and the artist even manages to slip in some allusions to prior vampire comics (specifically some references to Marvel's Tomb of Dracula).

I should also mention that Silent Devil continues is welcome tradition of reasonable pricing. The most recent trade of DC/Vertigo's critical and commercially successful Fables collected four 22-page stories (only three of which carried any story arc, one being a semi-disposable one-shot). It padded this offering out with script pages, a few goofy maps, a cover gallery, and several advertisements. For this package, Vertigo wants you so shell out $18.00. Silent Devil's trade of Dracula vs. King Arthur collects four 32-page stories, and includes several pages of completed story not featured in the original comics, a cover gallery, character sketches, and not a single advertisement. Silent Devil's book costs a buck less.

A fun, smart, affordable book – what more do you need?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dracula vs. King Arthur!
Oh, man!
You know, I don't know why I don't jump on this bandwagon (combining famous fictional characters with historical characters or variations of same), because I have a perverse fascination with mushing different genres together--well, not in reality, yet, but in my head.
It sounds like a writing exercise, doesn't it?
Put a bunch of combinations in a hat, pick one at random, write a story about it.

I'll have to track this title down, too, damn it!