Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reviews: Dracula; Witch Doctor #1; American Vampire Vol. 1

DRACULA (Marvel, 2010; Hardcover)
Collects Dracula Nos. 1-4 (cover dates July- September, 2010)
Writer Roy Thomas and artist Dick Giordano's adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula has had a long, storied road to completion. It started out in chapter form in Marvel's '70s magazines. The stories from issues 1 and 2 first appeared in Dracula Lives! Nos. 5-8, 10, 11, and Legion of Monsters No. 1 (cover dates March- September, 1975). The project was cancelled, and editor Mark Beazely got the ball rolling to see it completed in 2004. This must have been a pet project for him, as he got Tomb of Dracula reprinted in Essential phone books and later in 3 gorgeous Omnibus editions (which I am proud to own). This 2010 hardcover edition collects the colorized version from 2010. I am usually a purist, preferring things as they were originally presented, but for some reason my OCD permitted me to buy this version. The computer coloring over Giordano's greyshade '70s pencils has a scratchy look to it, like an old movie, and looks wonderful. His pencils from 2004 were not as heavy handed. It's pretty easy to spot where the original material ended and the 2004 picked up, because his art choices became slightly different, and he utilized full bleed pages versus the traditional bordered panel pages. I wish that he would have stuck with the bordered panel look for consistency's sake. Most people probably wouldn't notice, but I have an eye for detail for stuff like this. This was a better adaptation than Dynamite's recent Complete Dracula series. While that series was a more comprehensive adaptation and excellent in it's own right, this was a better read as a comic book.
Production quibbles: Like all Marvel Premiere Edition hardcovers, this has glued binding. The book is thin, so it's not too bad. The problem is that this format is designed for comic book width. The material in the first half of this book is shrunk down from the wider magazine size, so the gutters get a bit tight for my tastes. Sewn binding, like that found in the same size Marvel Premiere Classic hardcover format would have helped rectify this to a degree. Another problem is that some of the hand lettering can be difficult to read, like the journal portions. This has been recently solicited in Marvel graphic novel-TP format for the mass book market, and I am not sure how well it will read in that format. The Vampire Tales GN-TPBs are in that format and read fine, but certain lettering in portions of this story may prove otherwise for this title. Your mileage may vary. This is most definitely worth a read in some format.
Witch Doctor #1 (Image, June, 2011)
Say what?? A first issue that tells a complete story? Writer Brandon Seifert will never make it in this business of padded, talking head, made-for-the-trade comic books. I for one am wholly impressed by this bold move...let's call it storytelling...where there is a beginning, middle, and end. Where there is an underlying, ongoing plot line laid out, but things just don't go SPLAT and the issue stops. I thoroughly enjoyed the supernatural with a wink aspect of this title, and will be back for more when the inevitable trade paperback is released.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE VOL. 1 (Vertigo/ DC, 2010; Hardcover)
Collects American Vampire Nos. 1-5 (cover dates May- September, 2010)
The comic book press and community hyped this series as the second coming of the Horror genre when it first came out. I picked up the floppy of issue one, flipped through it, and put it back down. Still, the name Stephen King was attached to it, so I was a little curious. Time passed, this hardcover came out, and I didn't bother buying it. I have too many irons in the fire as it is, and won't add more unless the quality is there. My local library has been expanding their graphic novel section. I am "friends" with them on Facebook, and they listed their latest additions. I took a peek at what they had and saw this on the shelf, along with a few other things that I will check out in due time. Reading things for free kicks ass. I have three criteria which determine if I will read a title. Time, space and money. My space is limited, as my house is small and I have a wife and 2 kids. I also have too many books. Money...well, that doesn't grow on trees, and it is that which determines the bulk of my purchases. The library removes 2 of the 3 factors which determine if I will read something. I only had to invest my time in this book. So was it worth it? In short...not really. This book presents a slightly fresh take on vampires, but the whole thing doesn't work for me. The artwork seems amateurish, and it prevented me from really enjoying the story. Would I recommend this title, even for free from your local library? No. You'd have to be a vampire obsessive to give a rat's ass about it.

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