Marvel reboots its vampire mythos and gives readers a taste of what to expect in the new X-Men book with Death of Dracula!
Credits & Solicit Info:
WRITER: VICTOR GISCHLER
PENCILS: GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI
He is the legendary Lord of the Vampires. Dracula. Who would dare attempt to overthrow him? Only Dracula's son Xarus, a ruthless and clever upstart with the bold ambition to unite all the world’s vampire sects under one flag. But Xarus's older brother Janus isn't sure he likes the idea of a new regime and seeks allies to oppose Xarus. The ultimate battle to control Earth's Creatures of the Night unfolds, with the future of the vampire race – and possibly the Marvel Universe – at stake. One-Shot/Parental Advisory …$3.99
IN STORES: July 8, 2010
Before reading Death of Dracula, I was a little bit apprehensive about the new X-Men book by Victor Gischler. Relatively new to the comics scene, hard-boiled novelist Gischler has written some Wolverine and Punisher books which I have not read. He's also written Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth, which I am lukewarm on, and Deadpool Corps, which is absolutely amazing. In addition, vampires are overexposed (no pun intended) in pop culture today, so I feared that this would be just another attempt to capitalize on their recent popularity resurgence. I'm glad I picked up this book, because now I'm going all in. I can't wait for X-Men #1 this week!
The concept of vampires has existed successfully in Marvel for quite some time. Tomb of Dracula, of course, had a well-respected run in the seventies, and the Blade franchise arguably kicked off the success of Marvel characters in the movie world. Doctor Strange once destroyed all of the vampires in the Marvel Universe in the early eighties, but by the nineties they were back in full force for the Midnight Sons storyline. Since then, they've sort of fallen out of focus, so now may be the perfect time to bring them back to prominence, along with giving them a much needed new overhaul.
The first major addition to the vampire mythos that comes out of Death of Dracula is the reorganization of Vampires into various sects, coexisting in a world of politics and intrigue. This isn't a new idea. In fact, it's pretty much the same idea that White Wolf's Vampire the Masquerade role playing games is based on. However, in the setting of the Marvel Universe, the idea feels fresh and new, and breathes new... um... undeath into Marvel's vampires. The political structure of these sects is, of course, given a serious shake-up as a result of the events in this issue.
For a prelude book, Death of Dracula really nails its purpose. In comics, we get a lot of "issue zero" and "prologue" type books that are meant to promote a new series and feel like nothing more than advertisements, leaving the reader with a sense of having been duped into paying for a publisher to coax them into buying more books. Death of Dracula, however, contains an interesting and well executed story on its own, which happens to set the stage for the new X-Men series as a side effect. This is the right way to approach this sort of book, and Gischler shows that he's a real pro here.
Though this will lead into the new X-Men series, the X-Men themselves are nowhere to be found, as we instead get a crash course in the new lore of the vampire sects and an introduction to the major players. Dracula's death is not the climax of this book, but instead occurs right near the beginning, and sets off a power struggle that sees one of the most powerful Vampire sects eliminated, and culminates in a new regime and a device that will turn Vampires into a major threat with impact on the Marvel Universe as a whole.
If I had to find a flaw to hold against this book, it would have to be the dated look and feel. It's not that Camuncoli, whose last penciling work for Marvel was 2009's beautifully illustrated X-Infernus, does a bad job, because the art itself is beautiful, but the overall look of the book feels very dated, straight out of the nineties. This is likely a result of the very Gothic fashion sense that vampires for some reason seem to gravitate towards, and is compounded by the dialog. This isn't so much a flaw of the creators as a convention of the genre, and, if nothing else, this book feels like it could have fit in perfectly with the Midnight Sons era at Marvel, which could work out to be a very strong selling point.
Camuncoli's art, other than the Gothic tone and armor, is fantastic. He seems to be very well suited to drawing monsters and other dark creatures, as X-Infernus work and his depictions of the Nosferatu and Claw clans here highlights. He makes a stylistic choice to refrain from drawing pupils in any of the eyes of the characters, as they are all just glowing red orbs or empty sockets. This does add to the inhuman nature of the characters, but inhibits some facial expression. Luckily, Camuncoli is up to the task of overcoming such an obstacle, and the result is a gorgeously dark book, and a fan (me) that will certainly check out his next project, whatever that may be. I'm rooting for a Doctor Strange book.
Another thing that really excites me about this book is that we're seeing the setup for a brand new "big bad" in the Marvel Universe, and particularly for the X-Men, who badly need it. After all, the most recent X-Men storylines have consisted of pretty much every dead X-Villain from the eighties and nineties being resurrected and brought together against the team. After overcoming that, would the eight-hundredth return of Mister Sinister really seem like a legitimate threat? Instead, we get a fresh cast of enemies, with diverse powers and, even better, ambiguous allegiances. For possibly the first time since Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men began, the hype for a new X-Men reboot has some serious potential.
Whether or not it will live up to that hype remains to be seen, but if Gischler can bring what he brought to this book to the X-Men, he'll be off to a great start. I would also love to see some Camuncoli take on some more projects, particularly in the mystical realm. I've tried to stay away from revealing the plot details here because, as I said, this book is uniquely rich in story for a prologue book, and the twists are best left to be experienced by readers. If you're undecided on whether or not to pick up X-Men #1 next week, give this a read and it will change your mind. If you're an X-fan who will be picking that up regardless, this will make a compelling and exciting primer for what promises to be an epic chapter in the history of Marvel's mutants.
Rating: BUY IT!
My rating scale:
BUY IT - You have to read this for the foreseeable future.
TRY IT - Worth at least a few issues.
WAIT FOR IT - Pick this up in trade if it lives up to its potential.
SKIP IT - Spend your money on something better.