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Everyone knows that Vampires are the new Zombies, by that I mean they are everywhere from Movies to TV and yes… even comics! They are so infused in comics that even the X-Men are fighting them off while trying not to get bit. With all this vampirism going on it was only a matter of time before an independent publisher threw there hat into the mix, enter: Dracula the Company of Monsters from Boom! Studios. Here’s the thing that this book has going for it that no other Vampire/Dracula story has: Kurt Busiek. You may not know the name but I guarantee you know his work on such books as: Marvels with Alex Ross, Astro City, Superman, Avengers, you name it he’s probably written a notable story for it. So what’s Busiek’s take on the tired genre of Dracula and Vampires? Does it “shine” in today’s over saturated market, or simply lay in the dark.
The issue begins with a history lesson; in fact practically the entire issue is a history lesson. From the very beginning it is clear that this story is deeply grounded in the real history of Vlad the Impaler Prince. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire has set his army upon Vlad’s kingdom. Vlad and his small army attack the Sultan in the middle of the night and if not for the Sultan’s personal body guard, he would have already won the battle. The Sultan chases Vlad back to his kingdom of Wallachia only to find that every village has been deserted, every crop burned and every well poisoned. Vlad’s people have retreated to the hills so that they cannot be harmed by the impending battles. As the Sultan’s army approaches Vlad’s castle they find a forest of his enemies impaled upon spikes in the ground, oiled so that they wouldn’t die too quickly.
After our brief introduction to Vlad, we’re taken to the present day where Evan has been assigned to study and translate ancient texts about Vlad. He works for one of the top companies in the country, but only because his uncle owns and runs the company. His fiancée Corinna, calls him to make dinner plans and makes sure that he’s prepared for his meeting with Conrad (his Uncle). Corinna gives him a pep talk telling him to get his head in the game unless he wants to be laid off like the other 200 people let go that week. Evan assures her that that can’t happen due to his family member status. Evan’s life has been one of ease, but there’s the strong impression that he wouldn’t have it that way if he could. The story continues bouncing back and forth from Vlad’s story to Evan’s story as he recaps his finding for his Uncle on a jet ride to a secret location.
Let me start off by saying WOW! Personally when I read comics the experience falls into three categories upon completing an issue. The first is a sense of nothing, meaning I read the book and may read the next issue but that it didn’t change me or surprise me in any way. The second is the feeling of intense joy or anger. That is to say that the book made me feel one or the other and that’s about it. The third and the rarest feeling are intense excitement and anticipation for the next issue. Basically when a book is so good that you want to read more immediately, usually when finding these titles they either become the last thing you read or a book that you save up a few months at time so that you can read more. I bring this up because Dracula the Company of Monsters falls into this third group.
The story that Busiek has laid out is wonderfully different from any other run of the mill Vampire/Dracula story. In fact if I were going to compare it to the X-Men Vampire storyline right now I’d say that the X-Men story is neutered and not worth reading. While for this issue I would say it’s an explosion of fresh ideas in a beaten horse genre. Writer Daryl Gregory writes believable dialog and keeps a steady pace of historical and fictional storytelling. Busiek and Gregory make a great writing partnership and overall have a strong collaboration on the issue and series thus far.
For those of you that enjoyed Codebreakers, which is another title from Boom!, you’ll be happy to know that artist Scott Godlewski works on this title as well. Godlewski is one of Boom!’s top up and coming talents. His breakdowns and storytelling flow continue to be some of the best in comics today. His art style has a very natural progression from panel to panel that forces the reader to continue.
Overall this issue is great, but not perfect. Some of the characters introduced in the issue seem like filler for the story and are really un-needed. Otherwise this issue is damn near perfect and some of the best work to come from Boom! since the series “Talent” and “Potter Field.” Busiek shows that he is still a top talent in comics and it’s nice to see him reach out past superhero stories with a very different genre.
Overall Score 9.9/10