Shiny Shelf

Stoker’s Dracula

By Jim Smith on 02 November 2004

The notes in the back of the first issue by author, and former ‘Infinity Inc’ hero, Roy Thomas make clear the writer’s great pleasure in this comic book being the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel in any medium. While this is difficult to dispute (although a pedant might invoke the BBC’s radio adaptation, starring the brilliant Frederick Jaeger, and its dazzling combination of readings, skilful dramatisation and terrific sound effects) it’s not the principal joy of seeing this long gestating project finally on the shelves again.

That joy is, and I don’t mean to denigrate Thomas’ excellent scripts at all in saying this, the artwork. Giordano’s art is gorgeous. Some of the nicest black and white American comic book art I’ve ever seen. The atmospheric grey wash and subtle panel layouts create a brooding, queasy atmosphere which almost pours off the page during reading. It’s very Seventies in its own proud way, but it’s also strangely timeless. It also represents an exact aesthetic mid-point between Marvel Comics of the classic kind and the brooding, awkward intensity suggested by Stoker’s own prose.

Long shadows streak the page and characters’ fingers creep out of the panel layout at opportune moments; the characters are distinct individual presences true to both the books (occasional) descriptions of them and the conventions of Seventies horror comics. There are moments of pure, glorious cheese (the Count’s first appearance) and moments of astonishing horror (the journey through the wood at the story’s opening) it’s sexy and funny and clever and strange. It’s the best comic I’ve read this month – and that’s far from entirely due to Stoker.

It’ll be interesting to see if the often meticulous Thomas can resist straightening out Stoker’s own corkscrewed, coincidence-led, and often outright nonsensical plotting as the story progresses. I can’t wait to see.

Can anyone say Eisner?

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