Vampire Hunting Moves Past Stakes In Captain Kronos #1

by Rachel Bellwoar

Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter is one of those perfect movies watches. Coming out of Hammer Studios in 1974, writer-director, Brian Clemens, had purposely wanted to write a script that wasn’t like Hammer’s usual fare. Bits of vampire lore I’ve never seen anywhere else make the movie anything but common, and there’s a scientific method to Kronos’ process that’s considered and professional. Buffy was always big on research, and Kronos is surely a forerunner, but, for everyday vamps, the stake could be relied on. Kronos promises more of a customized practice.

Tom Mandrake’s art and Sian Mandrake’s colors are different from the look and feel of the movie, which was all Hammer elegance, with luscious colors and green forests. Vampires in that film sucked up youth the way most suck up blood, so the hallmark of their appearance was beauty. For the Mandrakes’ vampires, then, to have a skin tone devoid of color, is a difficult change to embrace.

In all honesty, though, having different species of vampire was what was so cool about the premise of Captain Kronos. Not every vampire was the same, and that made them tougher to kill, because it was trial and error to find out which weapon could hurt them. Since Captain Kronos never became a franchise, that variety was shelved, so you start this issue looking for the familiar. The series was always meant to evolve (even travel to different times) but the creative team behind this comic get that. I was the one who had to ease myself forward.

Issue one begins with Kronos in the middle of fighting a vampire who hypnotizes locals to act as his back-up. The trouble is Kronos kills the locals as if they were turned, and there’s a difference, so I’m not sure what this scene is about. About midway through, the issue switches to a new investigation. This is when the comic gets going and writer, Dan Abnett, has an ear for how the characters sound, with Simon Bowland’s lettering singling out key words.

To talk more about the art, the blue of Kronos’ coat takes its rightful place in the forefront of your vision and some of the facial expressions will destroy you with laughter, they’re so unbelievably priceless, like Kronos’ dead on, gangster stare when he’s flying through the air for a beheading.

Mostly because of his small, dark glasses, Grost’s look is somewhat questionably steampunk. One mention is made to his “infirm body” but I don’t know that readers will realize he has a hunchback if they haven’t seen the movie. It’s never played as a joke in the film (in fact, a pretty remarkable scene of friendship has Grost being honest about how such comments make him feel) but the hunch was obviously fake, in that semi-sweet, budgeted way– not Young Frankenstein bad, but in that ballpark.

In the film, women dominate–if mostly as victims–but, apart from Carla, the comic is very male. Carla’s appearance matches that most that of actress Caroline Munro, and her facial expressions carry the same fire to knock you off balance. The dress they’ve stuck her in needs to go. She’s falling out of it, and Hammer films could be like that. Captain Kronos wasn’t. It’s a regrettable choice because otherwise, the writing and art for her is the best, with Abnett choosing to make her the narrator and Mandrake getting Carla involved in the action. Her friends have her back, and she has theirs, and that is the heart of every great horror story.

Captain Kronos #1 arrived in shops from Titan Comics on September 27th.