Written by Kim Newman | Art by Paul McCaffrey | Published by Titan Comics
The horror comics renaissance of recent times seemingly continues with the arrival of Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. Kim Newman should need no introduction to horror fans, being a critically acclaimed writer and critic, and the fact he is not just licensing but also writing his ‘baby’ obviously bodes very well indeed. This new series, together with some new Anno Dracula novels out this year too, will expand his fictional universe nicely.
Anno Dracula began life as an early 1990′s novel, with Kim Newman doing the Alan Moore-esque thing of intertwining a fictional narrative with real historical personalities, creating a different yet familiar alternate timeline. This is a world split, between humans who have chosen to ‘turn’, and those who have chosen not to. The initial book saw Jack the Ripper killing prostitutes, as per our real world history, but in this case because they were vampires, and the marriage of Queen Victoria to hypnotic charmer Count Dracula.
A marriage that has, as the opening pages here reveal, helped unite others in opposition to the new British Empire prince-consort. A French zombie, Maestro, the American genius Thomas Edison, Von Bayern a German vampir, and General Harkaway, Great Britain’s now self-exiled military hero. All aboard a huge military armada backed by German, French, and American money and men, all with one purpose. To destroy Dracula. That doesn’t go too well.
We shift to London, where we meet Katherine Reed, or Wednesday of the Council of the Seven Days. A vampire, but a liberal one working underground to depose the tyrant Dracula is seen as. She has just learned one of the ‘days’ of the Council is a traitor, information passed on by the Daughter of the Dragon, daughter of the powerful crime lord The Lord of Strange Deaths. The Council is a mix of humans and vampires, a secret group of 7 sworn to overthrow Dracula, led by the most mysterious of them all, Sunday (all have real names of course).
Another shift of scene to the residence of Lord Ruthven, the vampire Prime Minister who has just survived an assassination attempt by the German Ambassador. A quick little potted history reveals that Dracula’s marriage to Victoria a decade earlier had allowed the vampires everywhere to reveal themselves, and to attain positions of power everywhere. A development that will be celebrated with a Jubilee. The person selected for that task is Penelope Churchward, vampiress about town and childhood friend of Katherine Reed. That would be the same Katherine sitting in the Council of Seven Days about to be attacked by the vampiric Special Branch….
Where to start? An incredibly dense and detailed start to Kim Newman’s series. There are so many ideas everywhere they are bursting at the seams to get out. A first issue is always used to world-build, to introduce us to the main places and people we will be following. This book could have done with two issues, it is so detailed. I had to read through twice to make sure I was both not missing anything and fully understanding who was who and what was what. None of that is a criticism, just an observation. I loved the concept, the set-up, and the main characters we have so far met. Kim Newman’s script is a little too overloaded with dialogue and text at times, but overall an exciting and exhilarating read.
The art, by Paul McCaffrey is one of those hit and miss areas. It is a ‘miss’ in that I find it a little lacking the technical things I like, the type of texture and feel I look for. Layout wise it is perfectly fine though. It is a ‘hit’ in the sense that it suits the story it is telling, giving the script the required pulpy look and feel it needs. So script and art do complement each other well. An excellent laying of groundwork for future issues, and clever thinking by having the story begin by not focusing on Dracula himself, but the world he inhabits.
Can’t wait to sink my teeth into next month’s issue.
Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem #1 is released by Titan Comics on Wednesday March 22nd.