Review: The Reaper Beckons in ‘Vlad Dracul #1’

by Malissa White

Silence descends on wooden roofs blanketed by snow. Icy winds chill the hearts of Brasov like bated breath. On the parapets of Guigui fortress, Vlad Dracula hears the clatter-beat of a thousand footfalls. He meets the wind head on, and stares into the darkening horizon. It is winter 1461, the year of the Dragon. 

Vlad Dracul. Cover Art by Andrea Mutti.

Vlad Dracul #1 casts a perpetual winter as backdrop for the rise of its namesake’s legend. In this winter, already bitter at onset, cold tension brews fear in the hearts of Brasovians and readers alike. Writer Matteo Strukul introduces a brutal and passionate Transylvania, personified in its ruler Vlad. When we open, he paints himself as the country itself: hungry, strong, its blood and breath as much a part of him as the wolves that terrorize his new compatriots, Katharina and István Von Siegel. 
Vlad Dracul #1. Page Preview.

Like the wolf, Vlad hungers to tear down Transylvania’s oppressors, the Sultan Mehmed II of Constantinople. In refusing his tribute of one thousand children, Vlad declares war on the Sultan and beheads his messenger. Fear sours to hate among the people, and they turn on Katharina, Vlad’s great love, in response. The scene is fairly brutal, so be warned.
Vlad Dracul #1. Page Preview.

Strukul layers sparse but effective narration atop the tale, which adds tone and feeling to the transitioning scenes. The dialogue at times feels a bit disjointed, altering between passion and ferocity. Though, this follows Vlad’s characterization and does lend a sense of the period. It’s almost as if it’s been translated, which adds another lovely layer of imagination.
Vlad Dracul #1. Page Preview.

Artist Andrea Mutti paints a Transylvania of bleak blues, grey whites, and root browns. The punctuations of red and gold act as symbol for wealth and blood, both in Katharina Von Siegel’s hair and Vlad’s cloak and crown. There’s a windblown feeling to it: landscape trees are sparse, the background details of Wallachia’s great halls blurred as if out of focus. Yet, when we view Constantinople in one brief, beautiful panel, Mutti evokes a rich, fertile landscape of gold, sand, and verdant trees. The juxtaposition is stark: Transylvania’s pride is not in wealth, but in the strength of its people who Mutti crafts with focus. 
Vlad Dracul #1. Page Preview.

Vlad Dracul does a great job of investing energy in tone and texture. In 60 pages, I felt the start of a great, terrible war. I did wish for more of an emotional connection with Vlad to humanize him before he becomes the Great Beast. There’s an unspoken reason for his brutality. Yes, he takes great pride in his country, yes, he’s given thousands of children to Constantinople as tribute, and restricted his country’s wealth in their honor. Yet, I would like to dive deeper into Strukul’s vision of Vlad beyond his myth. What sort of rage drives a man to mount the head of their enemies? 
Those looking for grim, beautiful art and legends of the world’s most famous monster will highly enjoy this series. ‘Vlad Dracul #1’ is available on Scout Comics and in your local shops!

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