Review: Victory Is A Bitter Fruit In ‘Vlad Dracul Issue 2’
by Malissa White
Arrows blacken the skies outside the Giurgiu fortress. Beneath them, the wails of thousands of men cry for salvation. Vlad’s forces have the Ottomans surrounded. Those that survive the storm of flaming arrows live only long enough to meet Vlad’s wrath.
If you read my review of Issue 1, you might recall several questions I posed of Vlad Dracul. I’m pleased to note that these questions on Vlad’s anger are answered in Issue 2. Here, amidst the blood and violence at Walachia’s border, we get a glimpse of Vlad’s past as one of the first prisoners of war.
Vlad’s hatred of the Sultan, and refusal to tithe one thousand sons, becomes razor sharp and clear. Yet, the memory offers no excuse or latent altruism behind Vlad’s violent vengeance. Writer Matteo Strukul only offers haunting narration over Andrea Mutti’s blood soaked panels. When we return to Vlad, he feasts in a field of impaled Ottoman soldiers. The transition between blood and memory serves as a baptism in blood for readers to Vlad’s new age. In his comfort among the dead, gnawing on a bone that suggests cannibalism, Strukul hits it perfectly: “The age of heroes is over. The Age of Demons has begun.”
Mutti paints Vlad’s ensuing violence in terrible flaming oranges, reds, yellows and washed black. I loved the color connections made in Vlad’s meeting with Katharina. Seeking her love and validation after assaults on Ottoman river towns, Vlad meets Katharina in the fortified church Viscri. Even her brightness is consumed by shadows of nightfall. The visual metaphor is well played by Mutti, as she commits herself to Vlad knowing well the terrible lengths he’ll soon go to to win against the Sultan.
Those depths are terrible indeed. After his siege on Ottoman river towns, Vlad enacts a scorched earth policy against the Sultan in an evening attack. Dressed in red armor, the dragon descends upon the camp in fire and fury. Strukul’s sparse narration tempers his rage with grim distance that mirrors Walachia’s snow covered ruins.
Vlad Dracul’s latest issue lives up to the promises made in Issue 1. I look forward to seeing the Sultan’s response, especially when Vlad’s past meets his furious present. If the revelations are any indication, victory will come at a much steeper price than Vlad anticipated.
Vlad Dracul is written by Matteo Strukul, with art by Andrea Mutti and letters by Joel Rodriguez. Pick up your copy on Scout Comics this August, or at your local retailer!