Hello, my friends! Halloween 2017 is upon us, so it’s once again time to look at another horror-themed title for October. Since I’m still fresh off of reading through our favorite vampire’s clash against the king of Camelot from last year, it’s only fair that we stay with him as I look at the only comic book outing from a famous video game franchise. This year, we’re delving into…
Created by Hitoshi Akamatsu, the Castlevania series began on September 26, 1986 for the Nintendo Famicom Disk System before getting its American release on the Nintendo Entertainment System on May 1, 1987. Since then, the Konami-published series had various members of the Belmont family fighting the famed vampire of old. In 2005, IDW Publishing began publishing a five-issue series for the franchise.
Basing itself off the 1989 Game Boy entry “Castlevania: The Adventure”, this takes place before its handheld sequel (“Belmont’s Revenge”) and the inaugural game in the series. Written by Marc Andreyko, drawn & inked by E.J. Su and colored & lettered by Tom B. Long, the first issue was published on March 30, 2005 and sold 6,599 copies. For now, let’s dive into the inaugural entry and see how this tale unfolds.
We open with Dracula and his brides overlooking his impaling handiwork before the villainous femmes bring a young boy in front of him. As the kid bravely mocks Dracula about the “legends” surrounding him, the brides become eager to drink his blood.
Just then, our hero for the tale named Christopher Belmont arrives to confront the foul vampire and rescue the boy. However, he horrifyingly discovers that Dracula had turned the young lad into a vampire. Even worse, it turns out that it’s his own son, Soleiyu.
Fortunately, it was only a nightmare as he wakes up from it. Having heard his master’s scream, his butler named Deimos arrives to check on him. As Christopher soaks his face to calm down, we learn that he’s about to become a married man as he asks his loyal servant to prep some nourishment for himself.
During the daytime, we meet his bride-to-be named Illyana Riktor as she walks through the marketplace with her mother. After coming across a small statue of Mother Mary from a vendor, she picks it up and makes a prayer on her upcoming wedding. Suddenly, she’s startled by someone’s comments towards her as she drops the figure. Fortunately, it lands safely within a pile of mud as Illyana discovers that she’s been briefly spooked by Lord Bartley who proceeds to criticize her marriage into the Belmont family. As he mentions about “The True Lord Of Romania” returning some day to slay the Belmont lineage, Illyana calmly replies that Dracula is deceased and that she doesn’t believe in his remarks. As she’s about to pick up the Mother Mary statue, it’s suddenly stepped on and destroyed as it turns out to be Bartley’s niece named Sona who crudely mocks her upcoming wedding before departing alongside her uncle.
Meanwhile, Christopher arrives at the cathedral and is impressed with how it’s been decorated for the special occasion. Afterwards, he heads down into the Belmont family crypt as he narrates on whether his “night terrors” are serving as a potential warning for Dracula’s impending return.
We then cut to the night of the wedding as family and guests arrive to celebrate the momentous occasion. Inside a passing carriage, Lord Bartley and Sona remark on the Belmonts getting their comeuppance as they head out to meet up with “the other believers”. Inside the church, Deimos is putting the finishing touches on Christopher’s wardrobe before he’s met upon by his friend Sergei.
Over at the ruins of a desolate castle, a pair of guards are watching over the site. Suddenly, they get fatally hit by some arrows shot by Sona as she, Bartley and their fellow worshippers notice the deceased sentry’s blood begin to boil, symbolizing a certain vampire’s return. Back at the cathedral, Illyana is fitted into her bride’s dress. She then has a brief shock as her bridesmaids ask her if she’s alright, to which she says that it’s nothing to worry about.
Over the remaining course of the issue, we intercut between two different events. On one side, we have the wedding as it proceeds without commotion and ends with Christopher & Illyana getting united in married bliss.
On the other side, the slained guard’s blood gets drawn into the castle ruins as a familiar form starts to take shape. Lord Bartley then orders the worshippers to sacrifice themselves in order for their master to be whole again. As such, they take their own lives by stabbing themselves. After a painful process, Issue 1 ends with Dracula being reborn into the world.
Before I delve into my thoughts on the first issue, I should note that I’m more of a casual fan of the franchise and have only played the first two NES games (both starring Simon Belmont). As such, I’ll see how this series stands on its own within the series. From what I could find, Christopher Belmont was only playable in two Game Boy games and in the Rebirth remake of the first one. Because this takes place during the events of the first Game Boy entry, that means that the setting is in 1576 after Dracula was defeated by Christopher’s great-grandfather, Trevor Belmont. The artwork is really solid here and one of the true strengths to open up the series. Other than the occasional gradient background, everything is presentable and detailed enough to let the reader know what’s going on in the story. The only real complaint I have for this issue is that there’s not much in terms of character development. Christopher gets established as our main character, we learn that’s he’s engaged to Illyana and we quickly meet Dracula’s two loyal humans. That’s it. Maybe they’ll get developed as the series progresses, so it’s only a problem for this opening entry for now since it doesn’t really help the uninitiated. Before I close, I would like to compliment on the old-fashioned world that it establishes. The creative team did a solid job in bringing the setting to life on the page with feelings of wonder, scale and old-school nobility that seems to have define the time. I look forward to venturing through this setting over the course of the story.
Overall, this is mostly a solid start to the mini-series. While there’s still some character development to be discovered yet, it helps set the stage for the conflict to come throughout the course of the story with some nice set-up, established characters and a foreboding atmosphere that looks to grow in scale. It should be a good read for longtime fans of the franchise and even newcomers who’re looking to sink their teeth into this long-running series. Until next time, see you around the C-Cubed!
Castlevania (created by Hitoshi Akamatsu) is owned by Konami.