In the first issue alone there’s the introduction of the titular characters (although one doesn’t make an appearance until the end of the issue), some sexy lady vampires (of which more later), a couple of punch-ups, men in vampire-proof armour, a fight with a plane, time travel and a lot of exposition.
Absolutely ages ago I reviewed a preview* of ‘DvsRHvsJ&H’ writer Chris Bunting’s ‘Mr T’ comic**, and my main issue then was that the story was too slow paced and too reverentially serious for a comic based on a silly TV personality from the 80s. That certainly isn’t a problem here, with a pulpy, fast-paced tongue-in-cheek approach that fits with the mash-up title.
It’s fun, in other words, with bold artwork, big ideas and over the top action. For a comic from a small publisher, Mohawk Media, I was exceptionally impressed by the art – JL Czerniawski has an excellent clear line, with distinctive designs, a grip on both action and characterisation, and even a decent handle on background architecture.
Bunting plays fast and loose with the characters while knitting their backstories together in an action comic, so his Henry Jekyll is a contemporary character whose Hyde persona is a Hulk-type brute who gains completely different clothes during transformation. Jekyll and Hyde have a pre-existing relationship with Dracula, who also has a new mythology attached that’s partially illuminated across the first two issues.
I’m glad that Bunting is confident to throw us right into the story without explaining everything upfront, but that still leaves a lot of exposition scenes to chew through, some of which are inelegant while still managing to lack clarity – when did Hyde ‘kill’ the woman Dracula mentions mid-way through the comic, and was that before or after he was stuffed in a hibernation tube? How deep does the relationship between the two go? Is Dracula a contemporary character as well, or has he just been kicking around since the time of Stoker’s novel?
It’s all a bit unclear, and the breakneck pacing doesn’t help – there’s a fight referred to which seems to happen entirely off-panel, apart from anything else. A dense story is good, but it feels like a bit of a dialogue polish could have drawn out the story details better while cutting down some of the more packed speech balloons.
There’s also another niggle, which is that the female characters are portrayed in a uniformly buxom way, with tight clothes and a lot of cleavage. There seems to be a clever inversion going on when issue one opens with one such stereotypically proportioned woman in the centre of a splash-page, only for it to turn out to be a deliberate distraction to draw the eyes of an armoured car driver – but no, all the other female characters look like that as well.
It’s a shame. Some of the female characters are quite independent and active, in some respects, but they do seem to primarily be there to react to the all-male main cast of the title, and it’s a shame Czerniawski, for all his talents, either can’t or won’t draw any other female body type than standard comic book cheesecake.
Those reservations aside, ‘Dracula vs Robin Hood vs Jekyll and Hyde’ is a snappy, inventive read, and competitively priced as a digital only release available in a number of file formats. If you want to give the book a try, you can find Mohawk Media’s ecocomics (i.e.: ecomics rebranded with an ecological spin) store here.
* I’m not sure whether that issue was ever commercially released. Bunting and Mohawk Media did go on to publish a very different, all-ages take on the Mr T character, though.
** Bloody hell, that was Neil Edwards?!?