Hello, my friends. The spirited festivities are starting to wind down, but we still have some trick-free treats to hand out. As such, I welcome you back to another batty entry of the…
As we arrive at All Hallow’s Eve, we now come across a unique feature presentation. While our favorite Lord of Darkness gets to rise up once again and spread his fear amongst the good-natured citizens, his reign of terror will come in a short two-issue tie-in comic. As such, let me talk a bit about what we’re expanding upon.
Released in 2004 by Green Ronin Publishing and Human Head Studios, this is a table-top, tactical board game set in Victorian Era England. 11 years after his supposed death, Count Dracula has returned to quench his thirst and he aims to get it in blood-soaked revenge. Not only that, but he’s brought an undead army of his fiercest and most loyal minions with him. All that stands in his way is the legendary vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing & he’s getting support from his fellow friends who aim to use their stakes, crossbows and their belief in God to vanquish this eternal evil once and for all. I’ve personally never played this game before, but I wouldn’t mind checking it out if given the chance.
At the same time, IDW Publishing released a two-issue mini-series. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, writer Matt Forbeck views this as a continuation of Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 tale. He said, “At the end of the original novel, the heroes kill Dracula with knives just as the sun sets. Of course, as Van Helsing knows, knives can’t kill a vampire. There’s a theory that Stoker was keeping his options open for a possible sequel he never got to write. This is that sequel, drawn from the same vein.” With contributing art work from Szymon Kudrankski, the first issue sold 4,711 copies back in May 2004. So what scheme does the near-unstoppable Vlad have in store for late 19th Century Britain? Let’s draw our fangs and take a bite to find out.
We open in England on September 1, 1898 as a journal entry from Detective George Abberline mentions how the slayings have started up again. A prostitute named Anita Bennett is wandering the streets at night looking to offer herself to any gentleman who’s out and about at this hour. After getting rejected by a meandering guy, she’s suddenly approached by a mysterious stranger who helps her up. Afterwards, Anita takes him down an alleyway in order to “thank” him. Just as she notices that he’s “as cold as the grave”, he takes out his knife and proceeds to slay her. Come the light of day, Scotland Yard has found her deceased corpse as Det. Abberline mentions in his journal entry that he believes Jack The Ripper may have returned after a decade-long absence.
We cut jump ahead three days later as Van Helsing arrives into London after informing Dr. Seward that he’s heard about the recent killings and that he should “alert the others”. After arriving in town, he ends up traveling to the Great Eastern Hotel to rest up. As an assistant helps him towards his room, they’re suddenly attacked as a female vampire grabs the bellhop and bites his neck. Abraham arms himself with a holy cross and a wooden stake before demanding to know why she’s here. However, all she mentions is that “he’s back”. With Van Helsing realizing that Dracula has returned, she proceeds to smash through the window and escape. As he looks over the slained bellhop, he’s suddenly approached by some officers as they demand an explanation for what happened.
We then cut to the next day as Abraham’s recent account is being questioned by Sergeant Godly. Despite him telling the truth, the official thinks that he’s talking crazy. Not only that, but he even shows Van Helsing a copy of Bram Stoker’s own famous novel and mentions how its far too similar to the book’s elements. Just as Abraham is stunned by this revelation, he suddenly gets some unexpected help as Lees comes to inform Godly that the professor is being released from police custody. With the sergeant demanding to know who gave the authority for such an order, Det. George Abberline comes in and says that he did. Later, he and Van Helsing take a carriage ride as they discuss about the recent killings with Abraham telling George that these aren’t related to Jack The Ripper. After a short while, they meet up with a particular figure who just so happens to be Bram Stoker himself. Van Helsing is surprised that Stoker’s assistant Jack doesn’t recognize the name since it was on a book that Goldy had. As Bram tells them that an actual Harker family member approached him on his book, Abraham asks him if he knows where they can be found. As such, Stoker leads them on.
Later, our four-man group arrive at the apartment as Van Helsing arms the men with crosses and stakes while he uses a crossbow. As they head inside the building, they find it dark inside. Suddenly, they discover a small group of female vampires waiting for them from the ceiling as our hunters proceed to engage them. George uses his revolver, but he’s unable to shoot them in their hearts. Fortunately, Jack plunges a stake into one of the she-beasts before Abberline responds as well. With their supernatural adversaries defeated, Bram tells his fellow hunters of a place they can go to.
Later, our group meet up with Mina Harker as Abraham demands to know why their past encounter with Dracula ultimately came to the printed page. She explains that she and her husband Jonathan feared that the infamous count was still alive, so they asked Stoker to publish this tale as a piece of fiction. Despite this odd method of summoning him, Van Helsing assures her that they’ll finish Dracula off once and for all as the scene ends with Dr. John Seward informing him that they have a plan. That night, Abraham & Lady Harker are walking through the streets of Whitechapel as Mina informs him that their vampiric fiend has been attacking people under the guise of Jack The Ripper and has fatally crippled his victims after feasting on their blood. Van Helsing wonders how Dracula survived their last encounter, to which Mina says that she’s just as perplexed since she and the rest of their fellow hunters saw him burn to an ashy cinder. However, Dr. Seward’s examination of the recent victims has confirmed that the Lord of Darkness has somehow returned. Just then, they hear a scream as John and Abraham head over to investigate. They see a mysterious figure overlooking a woman lying on the street as Seward tells the hooded being to back off. However, both it and the victim are actually female vampires as our male hunters fight them off.
Back with Mina, she’s suddenly confronted by a demonic wolf. Fortunately, she takes out a cross and fends it off before stabbing it with a stake and kills the literal she-beast. Just then, Issue 1 ends with her suddenly confronted by Quincey Morris. Her journal entry mentions that he lost his lover Lucy to the vicious Count. Lady Harker comforted him follow said tragedy and he ultimately died in Transylvania protecting her. It turns out the Dracula has brought him back as a vampire as he tells her that it’s not safe for her and her fellow hunters in London. Mina vows to give him an eternal rest before he disappears through the fog.
Overall, this is a somewhat adequate start to a short tie-in comic. The characters will be familiar to those who’ve been exposed to the mythos of Bram Stoker’s famed novel, the pieces for Dracula’s grand return have been properly set and the artwork fits the dark, foreboding atmosphere. However, I hesitate to call the visuals gothic as well since it’s also murky and it made me somewhat confused on the identities of certain characters (Van Helsing, for sure). Because of its style, lots of backgrounds are plain & gradiant while the rough & sketchy artwork messes with the character models quite a bit. Despite that, the story is well-paced enough as it gathers our team and begins to build toward a final confrontation while the action is simple yet comprehensible. It’ll be interesting to see how Abraham & company will tangle against the Lord of Darkness and his new righthand man, but it should be a bloody good time.
Dracula’s Revenge is created by Green Ronin Publishing & Human Head Studios. Comic published by Idea & Design Works Publishing.