Review: “Vlad Dracul” (Scout Comics, Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome to a special Festival of Dread review of Vlad Dracul, the three-issue comic book miniseries published by Scout Comics in 2020.
Written by Matteo Strukul and featuring illustrations by Andrea Mutti, colors by Vladimir Popov, and letters by Joel Rodriguez, Vlad Dracul is a graphic depiction of the life of the titular character during the years 1456-1462, with a brief flashback to 1444. Vlad himself is, of course, the historical ruler of Wallachia who defended Eastern Europe from the Ottoman Empire and inspired Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
Although a dramatization, Vlad Dracul still uses factual events as the cornerstone of the plot. The centerpiece of the storyline quickly takes shape when Sultan Mohammed II sends his representative to Wallachia to collect his yearly tribute, but Dracul has other ideas in mind. As treachery and betrayal unfold, Vlad’s reputation for cruelty is showcased. I would describe the entire series as intensely violent. There are no overly “vampiric” elements to the story, although there are flashes where you could see the creators were paying homage to those legends.
There are no shortages of action sequences, as Vlad Dracul has to battle not only Sultan Mohammed II and the Ottoman Empire, but at times his own people to retain order and protect the ones he loves. Beyond the graphic battle scenes, Vlad Dracul is about complicated personal relationships – specifically, those between Vlad, his wife Cnaejna, his mistress Katharina, and particularly his brother Radu, who has pledged his loyalty to the enemy. These relationships are explored sufficiently enough for the reader to understand the complex nature of each, and the pacing in all three issues sustains the reader’s interest throughout the entire series.
The art style is unique but absolutely appropriate. Panels are laid out masterfully, and readers can gauge the tone of each page from the body language and facial expressions as rendered by artist Andrea Mutti. The colors are fitting and vibrant, and as you can imagine, red and black are plentiful. Most of the lettering in this series is dialogue balloons, with very few descriptive boxes. The letters are spotted perfectly in each panel, never obstructing the readers view of what the artist is trying to convey.
Suffering from very few negatives, the two things I could nitpick at are (1) the cover paper quality, and (2) the ending which comes abruptly and leaves the reader wanting more. Maybe that was the intention, but it still felt a bit flat.
Being that each issue of Vlad Dracul was 60+ pages and staple-bound, each issue had some weight to it. Handling a book of that weight could lead to cover creasing. That’s why a thicker paper stock would’ve been ideal for the covers of each book.
All that being said, my gripes are few and far between. Vlad Dracul was an excellent series. If we have a year-end wrap up of the best series of 2020 at The Splintering, this series will definitely make my list. I highly recommend Vlad Dracul to fans of Frank Miller’s 300, or anyone who appreciates elements of horror and violence in their comics. Each issue is priced at $6.99 and the final issue released in September 2020 (with a cover date of August 2020), so you can pick up the entire miniseries for about twenty bucks from the Scout Comics website here. *
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*Disclosure: the writer of this review personally purchased the entire three-issue series, though an advance digital copy of issue three was provided by Scout Comics for the purpose of this review.