In Review: Brothers Dracul #4

Vlad has crossed a line and will no longer do any man's bidding.

The cover: A vampir is on its knees, shown from the right, its head back in a scream. It’s sitting in a splatter of gore which is also on its hands and spews from its mouth as it bellows. Behind the creature is the profile of grown up Vlad, looking somber as if considering something terrible. The sky, barely visible in the upper right, is the orange and red of dawn or dusk. Regardless, the creature is a horror, but readers of his series know that Vlad is much more fearsome. Good symbolic cover by Mirko Colak with Maria Santaolalla on the colors. Overall grade: B

The story: Vlad has a vampir on the ground and is tearing into it with a blade. He screams at the beast, “Tell me! Damn you! Tell me! Where is she?! Where?! Where is Ermine?!” He buries his blade in the creature’s chest, but it dies silently. Radu approaches Vlad from behind telling him he should rest, he’s been pushing himself too hard for days. Vlad momentarily softens. “What would you have me do? They took her, Radu. The vampir took Ermine right out from under our noses.” This calm is undone with Mehmed’s entrance who tells the brothers that Ermine is dead as the vampirs do not take prisoners. Vlad cuts off the creature’s head. He tells the young men that the vampirs took the girl as punishment for those that they’ve killed. When Radu asks why his brother must take the creatures’ heads to warn them, Vlad responds, “I’m not trying to drive them off, Radu…I’m hoping the stink of their own dead will bring them to us. I want it to anger them. I’m leaving them a message…Telling them to come and get me! Cullen Bunn clearly shows that Vlad has reached his breaking point with the abduction of the girl he loves. Vlad no longer hides his disdain for Mehmed and even loyal Esel is not immune to the boy’s anger. Two terrific character scenes occur on Pages 6 – 8 and 11-14, with that latter moment extremely intense. Vlad’s plan to anger the supernatural creatures is answered, but has an outcome he was not expecting. This is tense, whether it be human versus vampir or humans talking to one another. An outstanding read. Overall grade: A

The art: Mirko Colak’s visuals are great. The fury that Vlad shows on the opening page is only a precursor of the character’s anger to come. I like how Colak knows when to omit backgrounds, such as at the top and bottom of Page 2: it’s a great way to focus the reader on the characters. The first time it’s done it’s to show how Dracul’s fury has finished and at the bottom of the page it’s to show the entrance of another character, but in silhouette. When this character is revealed to be Mehmed, look at how Dracul’s emotions have changed — he’s angry again and extremely focused as he severs the creature’s head from its body. The partial double-paged splash on 4 and 5 that shows the gory trap that Vlad has lain is awesome and foreshadows his violence to come as an adult. Vlad and Mehmed’s confrontation on 4 establishes how each regards the other beautifully. The last three panels on 8 contain no text but show the reader an incredible amount of drama; they’re great. Also textless is 9, with Vlad preparing himself for battle. The arrivals on 10 are great, with the individuals taking the bait. The visual hate that Vlad directs at Esel is awesome, with the fourth panel on 14 being a jaw-dropper. The joy on Vlad’s face on 16 is frightening, showing that his plans supersede others’ safety. A familiar face rises on the penultimate page, but who this individual is remains a mystery. The final page has a fantastic, nightmarish reveal. This book is emotional, tense, thrilling, and damn frightening, with Vlad more visually terrifying than the vampirs. Overall grade: A 

The colors: The colors in this issue are an incredible component to increase every aspect of the art. Maria Santaolalla gets to do a lot of work with reds, due to the blood spilled on several pages. I love the violets used for the vampirs, which is a color I’ve not seen for vampires, but makes them incredibly feral. Notice how greens are used in the fifth panel on the opening page, making Vlad’s actions supernatural. Once the creature is killed, a turn of the page has the coloring become normalized, with only red remaining on Vlad due to his slaying. However, when Mehmed returns the colors become gory in crimson as the boy’s anger rises. The partial double-paged splash on 4 and 5 is a nightmare of red, orange, and yellow. Radu’s scene in his quarters is the most normal coloring in the book, reinforcing Vlad’s claim that his brother is the most pure of all he knows. Notice that when Esel goes to speak with Vlad, the sun has set, allowing Santaolalla to darken the colors, increasing the tension of their conversation. Crimson returns for the final six pages as blood flows freely; even in the dark, red cannot be avoided. This is gorgeous work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Simon Bowland is responsible for the lettering on this book, creating yells, dialogue, sounds, screams, and the tease for next issue. There’s quite a bit of yelling and the size and style of the font informs the reader how loud the yells are. There are a few sounds, most from the vampirs as they attack, which, naturally, leads to a lot of screaming from innocents. I’m liking what Bowland is doing. Overall grade: A

The final line: Vlad has crossed a line and will no longer do any man’s bidding. Unfortunately he’s willing to sacrifice anyone to get what he wants. The story is tense, with the scenes involving humans rivaling the intensity of the creatures. The visuals are great, with plenty of horrific imagery and ghastly gorgeous colors. This is a delightfully dark book. Overall grade: A

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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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