30th Mar2018

‘Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter’ Graphic Novel Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Dan Abnett | Art by Tom Mandrake | Published by Titan Comics

Captain_Kronos_collection_cover

I managed to miss this when it first came out, in individual issues, so am pleased to see the collection arrive so I can finally give it a read. I’m probably an easy sell, as I’m a fan of both writer Dan Abnett and artist Tom Mandrake, mostly for their work at Marvel and DC. I’d count myself a casual Hammer Films fan, no expert but I like most of them and can remember seeing Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter tucked away late on BBC2 one night. Being honest, I can’t remember a lot about the film, but one thing did stick. Captain Kronos was a bit different for Hammer. He was, in essence, an action hero. Sure, being Hammer you had all the supernatural trappings, but Kronos was definitely a man of action.

One thing Captain Kronos doesn’t have is a unique origin. A career soldier, he returned from fighting to find his family murdered, this being the event that pushed him into his life of vengeance. Sort of like a Seventeenth Century Punisher. The little wrinkle here is that the perpetrators are vampires, and Kronos was going to kill every last one. He is most definitely a badass of the highest magnitude. This is demonstrated perfectly by the first 17 odd pages which double up as a fantastic fight between good and evil, but also as an opportunity to introduce us properly to the main characters. Captain Kronos, his mentor of sorts Professor Grost, and Carla, all returning from the original film. Quite the team they make, as they dispatch Porphyr, a powerful vampire lord.

Though victorious, Grost suspects something is wrong. Vampires are usually territorial, and Porphyr has let them chase him across the land to seemingly a place where he chose to make his stand. Why? The town is called Serechurch, and the living inhabitants seem pleased to see them. The town leader, Alderman Ermine, explains they have a ‘nocturnal’ problem (that’s a politician for you), led by a character called Slake. It seems he arrived after a terrible plague, and has been steadily turning the poor, making the slums into a nest. Kronos, Grost, and Carla set to work, Abnett really stressing what a great team they are. Brawn, smarts, and wile between them.

While Grost undertakes research in the library, Kronos goes for a safe reconnoiter while it is still daylight. So how can that vampire be standing there? How can it survive a stake? Silver shot? Luckily, not a sliced off head. Unfortunately, he’s brought friends. Still, let’s use the crucifix then…nope. No good. Fire then, that always works…nope. Kronos prefers the sword anyway. One epic battle later, with many vampires slain, Kronos takes refuge in a church. Did I say refuge? I meant he walks straight into the lair of Slake. Time to put those swords up again…While Kronos fights for his life, Carla and Grost race to help, though none of the towns people fancy helping for some reason. One lucky rescue later, the trio lick their wounds and compare notes.

As large as Slake’s army is, Kronos realises they are all just victims. Cut off his head, they all fall. Time to return to the serpents lair. Kronos, Grost, and Carla fight their way through the sewers, and kill Slake. So why are none of the vampires falling? Grost suddenly realises they have been played. Although Slake was a threat, he was not the main threat. The town elders are. Elders being right, as they are over 300 years old. Seems they are all vampires, preying on the inhabitants of the town as their livestock. Slake was one of them, he just got too greedy and was thrown out. Kronos and gang finish the job, though it’s a mixed victory at best. That’s Hammer Films though, never a clear cut victory, just the knowledge that the hero stood firm, and stands ready for the inevitable next time.

Dan Abnett certainly had a superb grasp on his cast of characters and the feel of the original film. Rather smartly, he makes Carla the book’s focus, with her narration and actions guiding much of the story. Kronos, technically the leading man, is just a one trick pony. A killing machine. Carla is the special one, smarter than Kronos, a good fighter, and it seems being trained by Grost to replace Kronos on his inevitable death. Fantastic scripting all round, and nice twist.

Tom Mandrake’s art is as perfect as you could wish for with this tale. Almost like a Hammer house artist, he channels some Gene Colan to deliver very moody and atmospheric visuals. Great mix of panels as well, some nice full page spreads intermixed with fast cut panels. Plenty of violence, but never gratuitous. Great stuff. A quick tip of the hat too to the editorial staff for the fantastic text pieces at the end of the book, with some great info on the movie and its legacy.

Very hard to dislike anything here, unlike you don’t like vampires. Top notch scripting, fantastic artwork, and a book that could easily make a great film. Loved it.

***** 5/5

Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter is released by Titan Comics on April 10th.

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