In Review: Brothers Dracul #5

Bunn and Colak have created a sensational saga of brothers fighting horrors.

The cover: Radu and Vlad are back to back. Radu holds a bloody stake over his left shoulder, while Vlad looks away from his brother with indignation. Behind the pair are three people that have influence upon them, including Esel and Ermine (I don’t remember who the woman is on the left). These three characters are in a orange-red tint, hinting that something terrible is going to happen to them in this concluding chapter. I like the character work by Mirko Colak and the coloring by Maria Santaolalla, with the brothers colored much more brightly than those behind them. That said, this isn’t a particularly dynamic cover for the final issue; it’s not as thrilling as the previous issue’s covers. Please note, the image accompanying this review has the background much brighter than the physical copy I purchased. Overall grade: B+

The story: Targoviste, 1462. A grown up Radu confronts his grown up brother Vlad. The voivode’s castle is surrounded by hundreds of bodies he’s impaled on stakes. Radu declares, “You must stop this, brother. These senseless killings…I will not allow –” But he cannot finish his thought, for Vlad has grasped him by the sides of his head. Radu’s men demand their leader be released or they will cut down Vlad. “Cut me down? Do you think you will?” The tension is terrific as writer Cullen Bunn has the reader feel the doubts of Radu’s men, which Vlad gives voice to, “Has madness given me the strength and speed of the devil?” Radu tells his men to put their weapons away and then tells his brother to kill him. There is a stand off and then Vlad releases him. Turning from his sibling he says, “So many years, Radu…since you stopped seeing me as your brother.” The story then turns to the past where young Vlad was seen last issue, confronted by Ermine who has been turned into a vampir. There is another character who arrives and he creates much of the horror of this finale. More characters arrive and this confrontation becomes epic, with plenty of surprises and more than a generous helping of death. This is to be expected when vampires are involved, to be sure, but it’s on Page 14 that Bunn goes into unexpected territory and each page gives a good surprise. Page 19 has a great reveal of something that’s happened to a character and why the brothers are no longer close. The final page has a fantastic reveal, justifying much of the violence, but in a very unexpected way. My hat is off to Bunn for creating horror and tragedy for this book’s conclusion. A solid conclusion to this saga. Overall grade: A

The art: Mirko Colak is absolutely the perfect artist for this book. He captures the time period perfectly, in the settings and the attire of the characters, but he also does terrific work on the characters, communicating a depth of emotion from the images he creates. The first panel of the book shows Vlad’s castle in the distance, while in the foreground are several dead bodies graphically poised on stakes. The second panel has Vlad seated on his throne, showing his power in stature over his brother. This is followed by a close up of the older brother, and he does not look as one would expect: he’s rather heavy in the face, looking a little overweight, he has a thick mustache, a tiny goatee (calling it a soul patch would be blasphemous), and incredibly long black hair. Radu is also a big man, but his brother has the look of a brawler. I really like how Radu’s men have no faces, insinuating that they are the evil ones in this situation. The transition between Pages 4 and 5 is great, having a regretful older Vlad regress into a young man who is about to lose his way. Ermine the vampire is also a great visual: she has no teeth, no wings, no crazy eyes, nothing that has her look inhuman, save the copious amounts of blood that are all over her. This is slick visual way to have the reader believe, like Vlad, that she can be turned back into the woman she was. The transformation on 9 is great, culminating in classic vampire action. Pages 14 and 15 are a great montage of one character confronting a horrific threat on his own, showing horror and anger at what he has to do. The final panel on 18 shows the transformation of a character completely. The third panel on the penultimate page is just flat out awesome, saying much about both brothers. But it’s the final page where Colak really shines, creating an image that will pierce the reader’s heart as violently as a wooden stake. This is gold. Overall grade: A

The colors: In horror, colors can be key in foreshadowing events and increasing the terror. Maria Santaolalla does both in this concluding chapter. The first panel uses very light colors, almost blurry colors for the distant castle, giving it an otherworldly feel, while the bodies in the foreground garner attention for the crimson that’s splattered the ground before them. The first panel that shows the brothers is very dark, subtly showing how their relationship lacks all light at this point. When the tension gets heavy, the background is given a cool, dark blue to remind the reader of the lack of lights within the castle. Red features prominently in this issue with blood on characters due to their feeding or dying. When the climax begins, the sky is given a pale violet to create the darkness, rather than black which would have made the panels too dark. The variety of reds in this issue are strongest on 17 with one character composed almost entirely of crimson. Blues and white are striking on the last page, but to explain why would be telling. Overall grade: A

The letters: Simon Bowland delivers a grade A job on this issue’s scene settings, dialogue, whispers, sounds, yells, and the book’s final word. I love seeing whispers in comics because they pull the reader more deeply into the book and several characters speak softly out of concern, fear, and horrific reasons. The sounds are big, due to the violent climax, and each leapt off the page. The scene settings deserve a special focus for looking archaic and savage, dating this tale delightfully. Overall grade: A

The final line: Bunn and Colak have created a sensational saga of brothers fighting horrors. The story delivers all the thrills and screams one would want, as well as several excellent surprises. The visuals wonderfully capture the time period and have believable characters going through absolute hell. This should be in every horror fan’s library. The only way to improve this book is to continue this saga. AfterShock? 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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