Thursday, December 27, 2007

Review: Daughter of Dracula

I recently slashed my pull list at my local comics store, primarily because I was buying a lot of titles that I wasn’t enjoying. Simultaneously I realized that the stuff I really looked forward to was mainly reprints of titles from the 60s and 70s.

Maybe it’s part of getting older – that craving for the nostalgic favorites of my younger days – but I truly believe a lot of it is a simple dissatisfaction with the quality of comics today, where it seems every title is part of a larger crossover prompting months of build-up for little or no payoff, until the next crossover begins.

I realized that I missed good storytelling. To me, that’s solid writing that uses a beginning, middle and end to tell a tale, rich characterization and art that serves the story, rather than a platform for full-page poses that do little to advance the plot.

So I was in the perfect place to appreciate Daughter of Dracula by Ron Fortier and Rob Davis.

From the striking Mark Maddox cover, I knew I was in for something special. That cover is one of the most effective pieces I have seen is 40-plus years of reading comics.

Foriter is a veteran comics writer and novelist, and from the first page his sure hand is evident in the pacing of Daughter of Dracula. The Countess Marya Dracula has a chance encounter with a young man who will soon come to be known as The Red Baron. Marya is, of course, the child of you-know-who. Foriter quickly establishes her vampiric side, just as he offers her the possibility of true love.

Their romance blossoms, grows and reaches an unexpected conclusion over the 108 pages of this graphic novel. However, before you think this is a comic book version of a chick flick, let me make clear that Daughter of Dracula is filled with many scenes of warfare, bloodletting, sex and aerial dogfights. In fact, the richly detailed World War I setting is almost as much of a character as are Marya and Manfred von Ricthofen.

The art by Davis is always clear. The reader never questions what is happening in a given panel. Some of the landscapes and aerial battles are breathtaking. Davis uses a careful blend of realistic and cartoonish effects at just the right spots to emphasis whatever mood Fortier has thrown at him. Incidentally, Davis handled the art, lettering and, I presume, the gray tones that add so much to the story’s ambiance.

It’s difficult to find fault with any aspect of Daughter of Dracula. Other than a couple of typos and a slight problem I had in reading some of Mayra’s “handwritten” captions, the book is a joy to experience.

In fact, the best compliment I can pay to this satisfying graphic novel is that it could have easily been serialized in one of Marvel black and white horror magazines of the early 1970s, my favorite era in comic book history.

As much as Daughter of Dracula begs for a sequel I hope Fortier and Davis let the story stand as it is. Instead, I would prefer to see them explore other genres and other characters. The comics biz needs these guys.

You can order Daughter of Dracula here.

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