Publisher: IDW Publishing
Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Mike Mignola
Inks: John Nyberg
Letters: John Costanza
Release Date: 22nd August 2018
Originally published as a four issue mini-series in 1993 by Topps, this adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula has long been on fan’s wish-lists for a lavish hardcover collection.
Francis Ford Coppola’s vision of Dracula is more love story than Gothic Horror at times, but is visually stunning and for the most part very well acted (sorry Keanu, this wasn’t your finest hour). As such, it’s somewhat fitting that the comic version is similarly a feast for the eyes.
After waging a bloody crusade against the Turks, a 15th Century Wallachian nobleman, Vlad Dracul, returns home to find his wife has killed herself after receiving false news of his death on the battlefield. The Church condemns Elisabeta’s suicide as a mortal sin and, in a rage, Vlad Dracul denounces the church and vows that if his wife is damned to burn in hell then so will he. “The blood is the life, and it shall be mine.”
Four hundred years later, Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania to assist a mysterious Count in purchasing properties in England and learning all he can about British society and its customs. However, Harker soon discovers the Count’s true nature and the horrors that dwell in his ancient castle. Abandoning the unfortunate solicitor to the mercies of his vampire brides, the now-revitalised Count travels to England where he targets Lucy, the best friend of Harker’s fiancé Mina, but it is the latter where his real desire lies, as he believes to be the reincarnation of his long-lost love. Led by the expert knowledge of Professor Van Helsing a team is assembled to both fight the ancient evil presented by Dracula and save Mina’s very soul in the process…
One thing to be mindful of is that the film is not the novel written by Bram Stoker, and the comic is a further contraction of that. As movie adaptations go however, this is pretty faithful to the film despite only being a four issue run. Where the condensing of a film into 120 pages of comic normally results in a disjointed and ultimately unfulfilling read, I genuinely prefer this version to the actual film.
Roy Thomas pens the script for this and I can’t claim that Thomas has created anything particularly breath-taking in this comic – he has pretty much had his script handed to him, after all – but what he has done is refined the movie script into what is, for me, a much more appealing and dramatic story than Coppola created in two hours of screen time.
Mike Mignola has been my favourite comic book artist since I first picked up a copy of Seed of Destruction almost 25 years ago. Mignola can create the most incredible images with what seems like almost no detail whatsoever until you really look hard and see all the minute flourishes that at first just seem like a random line or shape.
I have yet to tire of his work and his creations take up serious shelf space in my collection. His rendering of the characters in this comic are flawless and each character is easily recognisable as the actor that portrayed them in the film. My favourite aspect of Mignola’s work however is not so much his characters but the scenery he creates which is always stunning, and the almost random panels that consist of a single, sometimes commonplace, and innocuous item in exquisite detail such as Jonathan Harker’s crucifix while he’s being devoured by the Count’s brides.
John Nyberg inks this story and brings Mignola’s pencils to life beautifully, although I never did understand why Mignola didn’t ink them himself for this book. I have found previously that where another artist applies the inks to Mignola’s works they miss the finer detail of what he is trying to achieve but, in this case, Nyberg has, in my opinion, captured Mignola’s vision perfectly.
I sometimes feel that the letterer doesn’t get enough credit in reviews. I’m as guilty of it as anyone but I feel that John Costanza really does deserve credit where it’s due on this comic. The original book is written in the form of journal entries and news clippings and Costanza has done a fantastic job of creating a different handwriting style (or type set in the case of Dr. Seward) for each character.
As an adaptation of the film, this is excellent. As a stand-alone graphic novel, it’s also excellent. What I feel really lets this edition down, and what I’ve found a bit disappointing, is that for some reason they’ve elected to print this entirely without the original colouring provided by Mark Chiarello.
As much as I love Mike Mignola’s pencils and inks I’ve always felt that they really need to be coloured as so much of what he does is blocks of black and white and the colouring really gives that final breath of life into the art. I don’t understand this move by IDW as I believe that a colourised version is due for release early next year. As I’m more led by the art than the story in this particular comic, I’d rather wait for the colour version as I think it is the better representation of the original finished product.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek