In Review: Brothers Dracul #1

An excellent beginning to a creepy story that seeks to explain Vlad's later infamy.

The covers: A frightful five to find if one becomes a fevered fan. Cover A is by Mirko Colak with Maria Santaolalla. This features a large image of the grown up Vlad looking regally at something, while below him is a younger version of himself and his brother Radu standing ankle deep in some water. Young Radu has a hammer and wooden stake in his hands, while young Vlad holds a torch to light their way. They’re both before a grave but have turned to the reader as if startled by a noise. Excellent cover that’s tied together by adult Vlad’s red cape that foreshadows events to come. The Cover B by Szymon Kudranski has two sets of Rosary beads on a white surface. A pool of blood has consumed the top two-thirds of this image, with the splatter below the beads in the bottom third. This crimson is so immense that it is able to reflect what’s above it. It’s showing a freakishly large bat head looking into the red. Excellently frightening. The Diamond Retaileer summit cover is by Marco Rudy and has Vlad in the center of the image with a full moon behind him. His lower body is dissolving into a colony of bats which is flying toward the reader at the bottom. The image is creepy coolness and the colors are sweet, starting in cool blues at the top and changing into blood red for the bats’ background. Sad Lemon Comics is selling a cover by Francesco Francavilla limited to 200 copies. This has the brothers side by side, each with a spike and hammer in their hands. A giant orange cross is behind them, keeping an animated vampire skeleton from attacking them. This looks really rough, like it was made in two hours. The C2E2 cover is by Dalibor Talajic and is fairly muddy looking. This looks to have young Vlad chained inside a castle. He’s surrounding by miniature straw people with spikes going through their chests. Not great. Overall grades: A A, B A-, Diamond Retailer Summit Exclusive A+, Sad Lemon Comics Exclusive D, and C2E2 Variant D

The story: The snow covered hills of Targoviste in 1462 are the opening setting. Adult Radu is being escorted by four men to his brother Vlad’s castle. As they approach the castle one of the men complains of a foul smell that the wind carries. Looking over a hill Radu proclaims, “Oh! Oh, dear brother! What have you done?” Dead bodies are everywhere, some on the ground and others held in the air by giant spikes. Snow and blood mix with carrion birds feasting and flying about. Writer Cullen Bunn has Radu make it to the castle and is informed that much has changed since he’s been gone. One of his escorts states, “Your brother’s gone mad. That much is certain. We shouldn’t have come here. We’d best pray we don’t end up on one of those spikes, too.” This causes the man leading them into the castle to say ominously, “Yes. Do that. Pray.” The two brothers meet and Radu asks how Vlad could commit such acts. This takes the master of the castle aback. “After everything that happened, brother…How can you even ask?” This is where the book moves back to 1442 in Gallipoli where the brothers and their father find themselves in a deadly situation. This is extremely fascinating reading, not only for the horror, which does appear in the closing pages, but how the brothers and their father are in peril and partially escape it. In addition to being held in the political machinations of a local potentate, the brothers are trained in a set of skills that will obviously come to light in later issues. Two supporting characters of the brothers’ ages are introduced who will demand attention in future installment; I’m fearful for Ermine even though she’s only in five panels. There’s some subtle foreshadowing of Vlad’s future, such as at the end of Page 9. I like that Bunn is showing Vlad not to be wholly innocent as Radu is. The last page is a slick cliffhanger, injecting a solid surprise into this historical tale. I can’t wait to see what Bunn does with these boys. Overall grade: A

The art: Mirko Colak is the book’s artist and I love his work. I fell in love with the look of Unholy Grail and am glad to see him back on another series so quickly. The opening of this issue is cinematic with the tranquil snow covered hills revealing the men on horseback with a castle in the distance. The look of shock of Radu’s face is solid, but still isn’t enough of a tell for the horrors shown on the double-paged spread of Pages 2 and 3. The corpses in all their poses are ghastly, but having the pristine woods as the setting for this violence amplifies their graphic ends. The birds are also a neat, albeit sick, touch. Love the castle panel atop Page 4, with it being sightly askew showing that all’s not right about this locale. Vlad’s first appearance is good, with him resembling a lord with the weight of the world on his mind. I was already enjoying this book’s visuals, but was really impressed when the flashback began. The number of characters and their actions are terrific. The close-ups on the family members on 9 are great, with each ending their dialogue by looking down, showing their loss of hope. The individual they appear before on the next few pages looks great. He oozes power. The action of one character on 11 is fantastic: there’s no dialogue for three panels, but much is communicated in the visuals. The training on 14 is neat, but its the individual that Vlad is speaking with catches the reader’s eye and she’s sure to return in upcoming issues. The other new character on 15 is visually arrogant by his action and that hat — that is one hell of hat. You’ve got to hold a lot of power to be able to walk around with that hat on and no one snicker behind your back. That the hat has a tilt to it makes the wearer even more despicable. The journey on Pages 16 – 19 is terrific as it hints of unseen horrors that increase with each panel. The final page is a full-paged splash and is such a perfect cliffhanger. The design of the character reminds me of Hammer horror films. I love it. I love Colak’s work. Overall grade: A

The colors: The work by Maria Santaolalla increases the horrors of the visuals. The first panel is a beautiful view of the castle with the surrounding woods covered in snow and the sky a beautiful overcast composition. Placing Radu in a violet top is the perfect way to have him stand out from other men. The reds used on 2 and 3 are horrific and startling when used on the snow. The splashes of crimson are perfect. Adult Vlad has on a red coat that reminds the reader of this character’s sinister nature. When the story delves into the past, the ground is colored orange and crimson to fantastically highlight the violence that’s just ended. Even the sky is orange — it’s great! Young Radu and Vlad continue to wear the colors they wear from the opening, orange and red, cluing the reader in to whom they’re looking at. The violets on the antagonist introduced on 15 make him stand out, though he is wearing a red cape — perhaps the one that Vlad later adopts? The final page has beautiful coloring for such a monstrous image. The spike of green behind the character really makes it pop. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Scene settings, whispers, dialogue, and yells are Simon Bowland’s creations for this issue. The scene settings are wonderful, thin block letters that have a very Eastern European feel. Perfect for this story! There’s a lot of whispering, often done under one’s breath as characters spy something unnatural or wrong. There are also a few yells given during emotional outbursts. There aren’t any sounds yet, though the last page is promising some grotesque ones at the start of the next issue. Overall grade: A

The final line: An excellent beginning to a creepy story that seeks to explain Vlad’s later infamy. The characters are interesting, the action cool, and the visuals fantastic. Thank you, AfterShock Comics for this series! Another feather in your cap!  Overall grade: A 

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Brothers-Dracul-1/digital-comic/634937

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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