Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sword of Dracula – review

Story: Jason Henderson

Art: Greg Scott, William Belk & Terry Pallot

First published: 2005

Contains spoilers

Sword of Dracula is a graphic novel that suggests that Dracula survived into the 21st Century and is now a most wanted criminal, a Bin Laden of supernatural proportions.

The story begins with a failed attempt by the Polidorium, state run vampire hunters, to bring down Dracula in his castle in France. Now the castle is hidden behind a shield but, also, the castle is made of blood. I really liked this concept; Dracula as the master of blood manipulation. With enough reserves he can create a castle… thus Castle Dracula in Stoker's novel could have been a construct. If we take this a step further and consider the cut version of Stoker’s ending - Castle Dracula falling as Dracula dies - then in this universe it would have been Dracula relinquishing control of the blood (and, in this universe, one guesses that would have been when he faked his death). Its not only castles, other examples of blood constructs include guard dogs and a coach and horses. Dracula is Vlad Tepes in this and to fill his reserves he drains his victims through impalement.

The attack is lead by Ronnie (Veronica) Van Helsing. Out from under the yoke of her family but now subject to the whims of the Polidorium, and the politicians who fund it. The assault fails mainly because her men do not believe her warnings about how dangerous Dracula is, the Polidorium only having tackled low level vampires before. Later, in another cool bit of writing, we discover that Ronnie is bulimic… it is the only part of her life she can control.

As the story progresses we discover that vampires are, originally, children of nephilim who mated with humans. Two nephilim were imprisoned under the Dead Sea (imprisoned by the salt) but a desalination process has allowed them to escape and Ronnie realises that there are things worse than Dracula. A shaky truce must be forged to tackle the fallen angels.

If I had a problem with this it is in the hints of backstory that are not yet forthcoming. The history between the Van Helsings and Dracula. All that happened to Ronnie’s siblings. Hints were given to be explored at a later date (and an Alex Van Helsing novel is due in 2010). Of course that isn’t a problem per se, more a frustration born out of a positive aspect – Henderson built an intriguing world and characters, which I wanted to know much more about.

Art wise this was drawn in a stark black and white, which reminded me of comics I used to read as a kid – giving this a slightly retro edge.

There is, at the back of the volume, an interesting little article by Henderson about the novel of Dracula and the observations Henderson makes are insightful and worth reading.

All in all a worthwhile volume. 7.5 out of 10.

Jason Henderson’s blog can be found here.

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