Based on the popular book series by Kim Newman, Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem #1 gives us a tale of those trying to bring down Dracula’s rule of the British Empire.
Writer: Kim Newman
Artist: Paul McCaffrey
Colorist: Kevin Enhart
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: David Leach
Publisher: Titan Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
PREVIOUSLY IN ANNO DRACULA: Dracula has married the widowed Queen Victoria, and rules as Prince Consort. A virtual checklist of fictional vampires have come out of hiding and gained new social status. But all is not going smoothly for the new regime: Jack the Ripper stalks Whitechapel, murdering vampire prostitutes. Charles Beauregard, a (non-vampire) agent of the Diogenes Club, is sent to track the murderer down, and finds himself enmeshed in a plot to free England from Dracula’s rule. – via Wikipedia
STEAMPUNK DRACULA VIA BOOK ADAPTATION
The combined forces of France, Germany, Russia, and forces funded by a private investor from America have launched an initiative to “liberate” England from Dracula. Unfortunately, for the rest of the world, Dracula and the rest of the vampires have summoned the monsters around them to sink the fleet to the bottom of the sea. It has been ten years since Dracula took control of the British empire, and it is time to celebrate.
I really didn’t know anything about the Anno Dracula series until I started getting solicitations from Titan Comics, and knew even less when I started reading this issue. So seeing an entire fleet taken down by creatures from the deep is a bit confusing, but on the plus side, Edison electrocutes himself to death, so there is that.
Did I mention all of this action happens in the first four pages of the issue?
From there, readers are introduced to Katherine Reed, a journalist, free-thinker, and vampire, who is a member of a secret organization who are conspiring to bring down the vampire British empire from the inside. There is a lot of political intrigue and allusions to other events that new readers to this series aren’t privy to. This makes reading this issue a challenge. New characters pop in and out of the book with little to know exposition than something akin to “Hello, I’m here, I’ll be important later,” before slipping back into the shadows. If you can jump into the issue and just run with it without the need for clarification, or additional information, then you will probably be okay. Though there is a Meet the Characters section at the beginning of the book, the descriptions give little to no information about their alignments in the story, and so on.
By the end of the issue, we know a big party is being planned for Dracula’s 10th anniversary. There are those that want to plot against him, and there are those (humans, vampires, and otherwise) who are trying to bring The Council of the Seven Days down.
As confused as I was going into the world of Anno Dracula, I thought this first issue was – for lack of a better word – fun. I like the overall concept, the secret society, and a government run by vampires. If you aren’t familiar with the series, you might have a hard time getting into this first issue, but give it a chance. If nothing else, it may prompt you to seek out the first book.
YOU CAN’T TELL WHO IS A VAMPIRE
At first I thought the easiest way to tell who was a vampire in this series was to look for the pointy fangs and ears, but that isn’t always the case with the art by Paul McCaffrey. McCaffrey’s art is really interesting overall – on one hand, we get a lot of bloody moments you would expect from a vampire tale, and on the other there is a beauty in all of the detail he crowds into the frame. While a major sea battle might be brilliant on the double page spread, I was taken most by the crowded London street with human and vampire mingling together. You can see everything you need to know about the society portrayed in Anno Dracula from this one panel. It is brilliant.
I like the late Victorian Era aesthetic McCaffrey brings to the series, and though there is a fair amount of Steam Punk mixed in, it works incredibly well. Best of all, you can actually tell who the various characters are, even though they occupy a panel or two in the entire issue. At no point was I confused about who was getting their throat slit, and who was being shot from behind when the action cranks up at the end of the issue.
BOTTOM LINE: ALTERNATIVE HISTORY WORKS FOR ME
I can get behind a world like Anno Dracula. The notion that you can take characters and situation from a horror genre and throw it into a murder mystery, or spy thriller will keep my mind working for days. Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem #1 is definitely worth checking out if you have a fondness for vampires, or if you are already a fan of the Anno Dracula series. This first issue may be a bit confusing for first time readers, but Newman and McCaffrey work together to serve up a tale that has me wanting to see what happens next.