• Anno Dracula - 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem #1

    Anno Dracula - 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem #1
    Released by: Titan Comics
    Released on: March 22nd, 2017.
    Written by: Kim Newman
    Illustrated by: Paul McCaffrey
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    Katharine Reed is a journalist, free-thinker, bicyclist and vampire. She’s also an Irish protestant and one of the leaders in the insurgency against Dracula’s reign. Penelope Churchward is a society hostess, flirt, gossip and vampire. Fah Lo Suee, aka Tin Lang, aka the Daughter Of The Dragon aka a few other names, is the daughter of a criminal mastermind and a loyal agent of her father, The Lord Of Strange Deaths. Christina Light was once married to an Italian prince who she then left to take up with a vampire named Count Oblensky. These, according to the first page of this new Titan Comics series, are the four main female characters in our story.

    Cut to the Frisian Islands, February 1895. General Von Kronhelm alerts General Harkaway that the signal has been decoded. As such, ex-pat Harkaway orders his fleet to set sail for England. Accompanied by an American inventor named Edison and a vampire named Von Bayern, this massive fleet are out to lay siege to Dracula – the safety of not only the continent but the entire world depends on it. He’s currently laying claim to the throne in London, by way of marriage – this cannot be left alone. But as Dracula commands the elements, their mission will not be easy. Shortly after they chart their course they’re attacked by all manner of monster, by air and by sea, and maybe more surprisingly by the Royal Navy, under his command.

    Meanwhile, in Soho, London, the city is ordered to celebrate the victory of Prince Dracula and the Royal Navy. Fah Lo Suee approaches Kate Reed in a back alley, and recognizes her as the Wednesday of the Council Of The Seven Days. Reed denies it but it’s no use. One amongst the council of anarchists is a traitor, it would seem. Nevertheless, Reed makes her way to the book store to pick up the tome she had special ordered – which is really just an excuse to meet with aforementioned council in the store’s basement. Made up of Reed and Light but also of a Russian medical student named Alexander Ossipon, an English chemist named Paul Muniment (also Reed’s boyfriend), an eastern European painted named Peter Piatkow and an English poet named Gabriel Syme. And then of course there’s the president, known only as Sunday, a man with no known name or background. During their meeting they discuss the attack on the armada – there will be no help from outside sources, it seems.

    Elsewhere, Penelope arrives for a meeting with Lord Ruthven, the Prime Minister, just in time to see some of his vampiric allies – General Iorga and Caleb Croft - shoot and then murder Ambassador Van Kwarl, the German ambassador to England. Soon enough she meets with Ruthven, who tells her why he’s called her to his home. Here we learn how Dracula ascended into the ranks of the royals allowing the world’s vampire population to come out of the shadows, so to speak. As Penny is apolitical, they figure she’s just the one to head up the tin jubilee to celebrate ten years of Dracula’s rule. They figure she’s the right one for the job, and while there are concerns about her connections do ‘dear old Katie,’ well, an unexpected raid by Croft’s Special Branch on a certain bookstore should hopefully take care of that.

    Quirky is the best way to describe this mix of horror and humor. Newman writes this stuff like a natural, it’s basically his trademark style and he’s clearly having a good time putting all of this together. It’s only the first issue but already alliances are forming, backs are being stabbed and necks are being bit. It’s good, gory fun with a whole lot of gothic trappings and plenty of amusing, interesting intrigue to go along with it. The book is well paced and while it is definitely heavy on dialogue and exposition, when the quality of the writing is this strong it never feels slow or sluggish. Newman’s style is refreshingly literate, asking the readers to pay attention and rewarding them for taking in the details.

    Paul McCaffrey’s artwork is fantastic. It’s a nice mix of sometimes exaggerated, almost cartoonish expressionism but it’s loaded with detail and it never feels inappropriate or wrong for the story. The opening pages that deal with the armada’s failed assault show a keen eye for steampunk inspired visuals but so too do they allow him to go all out and render some impressively bizarre monstrous creations. Humans and vampires alike are illustrated quite nicely, lots of great facial expressions here help to convey emotion and reaction to various situations really well. His style matches Newman’s writing far better than it probably has any right to! Add to that the quality of colorist Kevin Enhart’s work and this shapes up to be a book that looks as good as it reads.

    Additionally, the back pages of this issue contain a time line of sorts, explaining how this story will serve as a prequel to the series of Anno Dracula novels that Newman has penned over the years. We also get a cover gallery showing off the five different flavors available.

    It’s still early in the game, but Titan’s Anno Dracula series really is off to an excellent start.