Friday, January 21, 2011

Comics: 'Dracula: The Company of Monsters Volume 1'

The original bloodsucker takes on Corporate America.

Everyone is sick of vampires. Even if you’re not ready to admit it yet, the realization is lurking somewhere in your blood (pun intended). You’ve had it with the tween romances, the sparkly skin, the oversaturation of books, TV, movies and everything else you can possibly stamp a sexy monster on.
But the things we love about vampires haven’t taken a stake through the heart. Some of the true spirit of the genre is still alive and well if you know where to look. Among the people fighting to keep the awesome bits of vampire fiction alive are comics legend Kurt Busiek (Marvels, The Avengers), writer Daryl Gregory and artist Scott Godlewski.

With their new comic Dracula: The Company of Monsters, Busiek, Gregory and Godlewski revisit the darker side of the original vampire, Count Dracula, but place the Dark Prince of Translyvania in what is perhaps an even darker world than his own cobweb-strewn castle: the halls of an American corporation.

Evan Barrington-Cabot is slaving away in research and development at Barrington Industries, run by his uncle Conrad Barrington. It’s a job he hates, but it’s also a family business, so Evan does what he’s told, even when Uncle Conrad assigns him a top secret project that involves translating medieval Romanian texts that point to black magic and the existence of the vampire called Dracula.

Eventually, Conrad’s plan is revealed to Evan. He will excavate Dracula’s body, revive him using the old rituals that made him a vampire in the first place, and use his power to save the crumbling Barrington Industries. What could possibly go wrong?

It seems like a simple, throwaway premise for a quick story, but Busiek and Gregory add depth in unsurprising but still satisfying ways. As Dracula is kept in a bunker beneath the company headquarters learning about the world he has woken to find, he and Evan begin to develop a mutual respect. Even as Conrad fights to push forward with his plans, the Count and the researcher grow closer, and tensions within the company rise as the vampire grows stronger.

The solid story is backed up by wonderfully dynamic art by Godlewski, beautiful design  and an iconic look for the title character. It looks like Dracula, it sounds like Dracula, and at no point does it feel like it’s pandering to current trends. It’s a new, thoroughly modern vampire story in a classic style that would make Bram Stoker proud.

Volume 1 of Dracula: The Company of Monsters only includes the first four issues of the series, and ends on a frustrating cliffhanger, but readers can rejoice. Good vampire fiction is not dead. It’s rising from the ashes.

‘Dracula: The Company of Monsters Volume 1’ is available Feb. 1 from BOOM! Studios.

Advance Reading Copy Courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

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