Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artwork: Mirko Colak, Maria Santaolalla (colours)
Release Date: 11th April 2018
Fresh from their horrific reimagining of the Arthurian legends in Unholy Grail, Cullen Bunn and Mirko Colak are back together once again, this time putting their own unique slant on the story of Vlad the Impaler, the original inspiration for one of the most iconic fictional monsters of all time.
The story opens with our titular Dracul brothers fully grown, as Radu visits his brother’s castle in Romania, witnessing the atrocities of Vlad’s seemingly insane actions first-hand. From here, we jump back to their formative years in Gallipoli where their father is forced to offer them up the Sultan as a way to keep him in line following his perceived lack of support.
Right from the beginning, the differences between the two brothers is pronounced, and as they find themselves being trained up for some unknown reason, Radu and Vlad’s outlooks couldn’t be more different. The former is initially hurt by his father’s abandonment, before gradually settling into his studies, while the latter remains icy and detached throughout, with the darkness inside him almost tangible, even from an early age.
Colak’s artwork is every bit as eye-catching as it was in Unholy Grail, with a gritty, earthy style that really helps to bring the conflict-ravaged 1400s to life. He also does a fantastic job in translating the visceral nature of the aforementioned atrocities, and neat little visual details – like Vlad’s blood-soaked sword being propped up nearby as he laments the tiresome nature of his “work” – really help to sell the story.
This is very much a character and dialogue-driven issue, and Colak deserves a huge amount of credit for keeping this opening chapter as visually interesting as it is. A lot of the heavy lifting is also done by the colours of Maria Santaolalla, who helps to give the world a visceral, oppressive quality throughout with her dark hues.
This is very much a set-up issue, almost feeling like a prologue of sorts before the real story kicks in on the final page. The dynamic between the brothers and their father is intriguing enough, but likely wouldn’t be enough to carry the series on its own without the shocking twist delivered right at the end – a twist which is beautifully delivered by Colak and Santaolalla.
With their track record on historical reimaginings already pretty damn strong, Bunn and Colak are clearly onto another winner here with The Brothers Dracul, providing a sharp and wickedly unconventional look at the formative years of Vlad the Impaler. A patient start to what promises to be another fantastic series from AfterShock then, and definitely one to keep an eye on as the story slowly unfolds.