JUST JOSHING: Cult of Dracula
Dracula never goes out of style. There’s something about the count we all love. Retelling the tale in a voice that stands out takes skill and Rich Davis does that well here. Let’s talk about Cult of Dracula.
Cult of Dracula
Created and Written by Rich Davis
Illustrators: Henry Martinez (Issues 1 and 2) Puis Calzada (Issue 3)
Colorist: Trevor Richardson
Letters: David Lentz
Publisher: Source Point Press
Cult of Dracula sounds exactly like you thought it would. Issue one opens up with a police officer investigation of an aftermath of a slaughter the likes of which you heard about on television. Mass killings of their own disciples are a sign of a cult sacrificing themselves to their gods or goddesses, but in this case, the murders are brutal, grotesque, and filled with a bit of a mystery. I’m going to give extra credit to Rich Davis here. Very little dialogue exists in the first issue. Martinez’ pictures are worth thousands of words as you can see the devastation and aftermath.
While this is going on, a crew named Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray are students of Abraham Van Helsing. They are getting ready to interview the church of Dracula. They are told to wait for instructions to be let in. Cult vibes are felt here right at the outset with the rules of a compound being enforced. Once they are allowed in, Mina and Jonathan separate. Going to get his camera, he meets Lucy, a siren like beauty, and Arthur Holmwood. Both of them are caught in this place in very different ways. Arthur seems to want to leave, and Lucy wants to do everything to stay.
As they are talking they are interrupted by a man that looks like he’s infected with something. He talks like a musician and a preacher. He’s charismatic and dangerous and is later identified as Renfield. A very disturbing conversation happens and Jason ends up heading back.
Mina for her part is disturbed at the place as well. There is a sense of connection here for her, that isn’t really explained, but there is this impending sense of deja vu. Once the characters are reunited the issue ends.
Issue two starts with the interview between Renfield and Mina. Renfield is very good at speaking a lot of words and saying nothing. And you begin to see that connection in issue one between Mina and this place. She has dark dreams that seem to be both imagined and real somehow and the big issue reveal at the end confirms this connection.
Meanwhile, the policeman investigating the murders meets Abraham Van Helsing’s former partner in the priesthood and they talk about the truth and how God sometimes protects their followers. Abraham didn’t really want that kind of protection and lost his innocence in the process.
The rest of the issue is about Lucy and Arthur. Arthur and Lucy seem to care but their faith, or lack thereof in Arthur’s case, pushes them apart. Lucy goes on and we watch her become something more with the three demons that seem to be there.
There’s a lot about the first two issues I really like. I like how Davis and company retold this story and reimagine the cast from the Bram Stoker novel. This story is a homage to Dracula, yet it also tries to cults and the stories of Adam and Eve, and Abraham and Isaac from the bible. In the case of Adam and Eve, the price of knowledge. Knowing that there are monsters out there tends to make one a monster themselves. Van Helsing’s name is Abraham, and the baby sacrificed in issue two is Isacc. There is no coincidence in the alliteration in the story. Between that, and casting Renfield as a cult leader, Davis has created a very interesting take on the story of Dracula.
For all that, I wasn’t a big fan of issue three. Issue three is really a bit of backstory on Renfield himself, and a lot of the pieces of the story, including Mina’s connection, is explored here. This information is important, and necessary to tell the story, but it definitely takes a step down in strength of character and story. The characterizations of Arthur, Lucy, Mina, Jason, and the detective are missed here significantly. While I do feel this issue was necessary, I thought the first two issues were stronger.
Henry Martinez illustrated the first two issues and did so with a great flare. He captured a nice divide between the real world and the one in the compound. He drew monsters as easily as human beings. Lucy in particular is inspired. Issue three is appropriate for the backstory. I think Puis Calzada did a nice job with Renfield in particular, and it gave the issue a bit of an old school horror vibe that was enjoyable.
Credit to Trevor Richardson for keeping the tone perfect for the story with his colors, making the monsters even more ominous with his colors. I really like the three demons in particular. David Lentz’ contributions in the letters can’t be ignored. Whether he’s doing dialogue for Renfield or doing music, the words add to the storytelling above and beyond. Kudos to the people involved in the book.
This is a smart, compelling retelling of Dracula. Worth the read if you do like this kind of book. Dracula as a cult works.
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Next time I do a good old fashioned science fiction tale with robots. Until then, stay inspired and keep shining in the dark.