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The Dracula File is the Cold War vampire comic we need this Halloween

Horror in the 1980’s had a particularly sinister bite to it, especially if it came from across the pond, from England. While the Cold War was still haunting geopolitics during that decade, the collective imagination was no longer hung up on the 1950’s and 1960’s brand of communist fears and paranoia. In comes a British comics magazine called Scream!, a weekly horror anthology that ran for 15 issues in 1984. With it came one of the most unique vampire tales ever to have graced the comic book page: The Dracula File.

The Dracula File
The Dracula File

Mainly written by Gerry Finley-Day, one of the minds behind Rogue Trooper, and illustrated by Eric Bradbury, The Dracula File took Bram Stoker’s iconic vamp, dropped him right in the middle of 1984, and then had him come out of the Iron Curtain and into Western Europe for his nightly feedings. Perhaps Soviet blood just wasn’t as fulfilling anymore.

Finley-Day and Bradbury take every opportunity to indulge in the Cold War setting to portray Dracula’s horror as a natural fit within the world of spies, secrets, and the constant threat of nuclear war. In fact, the story’s first entry opens with a scene involving a vampire crossing the ‘death strip’ (the distance that had to be run to reach the West over the Berlin Wall) to escape East Germany.

As was the case for those who actually attempted to escape East Germany, the vampire is met with machine gun fire and all manner of death traps that were supposed to deter people from trying their hand at it. After the vampire makes it to the other side, The Dracula File makes an unexpected shift into a genre not commonly associated with the famed bloodsucker: spy fiction.

The Dracula File
The Dracula File

Given the history of British horror, one could be tempted to assume the story would take much of its inspiration from the classic Hammer films. While there is a fair bit of Hammer in it, especially in terms of ambiance and monster designs (there are parts where the vampire shows a passing resemblance to Christopher Lee’s Dracula), The Dracula File owes more to the spy novels of John le Carré, Graham Greene, and John Deighton.

The first parts of the overall story carry the pacing and tone of a spy thriller. Reports of someone who survived the jump to the West are shrouded in secrecy due to the circumstances of the escape while supernatural incidents are studied methodically to account for the unexplained things that accompany the new development. Later, mysterious deaths lead to investigations that keep to dark alleys and backchannels, whispered among a select few. Finley-Day and Bradbury go lengths to present Dracula as a legitimate Cold War threat and a national security problem. And then they have spies and government agents become the natural evolution of the Van Helsing character.

The script and the art never let the spy elements overwhelm the horror in the story. Dracula File never stops being a horror story, but the underlying intrigue that comes with treating vampires as another threat under the umbrella of the Cold War gives it an identity all its own. Heavy mist still hangs over scenes where a vampire attack is imminent and the supernatural permeates throughout the entire story, but the spy thriller elements frame Dracula as a kind of provocateur without any real allegiance to any side other than his own. His cause is one of blood and it poses a threat to the order of things in the world of secrets the Cold War created.

The Dracula File

The Dracula File is a different kind of vampire story, a rare one, in fact. To insert vampires into the spy game and still honor the more classic elements of spy fiction is truly a feat and begs further reading. It’s a great addition to anyone’s Halloween reading list and it’s a refreshing break from tradition.

Review: Cold War Vol. 1 Dead Future

Panacea Cryonics promised life after death by freezing clients then reviving them in the future. The corporate pitch was too good to be true as they awaken in a world at war. Who’s the enemy and why are they fighting? That’s the mystery.

Cold War Vol. 1 Dead Future collects issues #1-15.

Story: Christopher Sebela
Art: Hayden Sherman
Letterer: Hayden Sherman

Get your copy in comic shops now in bookstores now! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon
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Zeus Comics

AfterShock provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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Chris Sebela and Hayden Sherman Head to AfterShock for Cold War

AfterShock Comics has revieled their brand new series, Cold War #1 from writer Chris Sebela with art by Hayden Sherman which will hit stores February 14th.

Panacea Cryonics offered its customers life after death by keeping their heads frozen until the day technology could rebuild them, free of disease and death. However, as these everyday people from the past are revived, they’re not handed the keys to a new life, but a gun, body armor and an ultimatum. They must fight in a war against unknown opponents for unknown reasons, to secure their place in a brave new world that doesn’t want them around.

Review: The Skeptics #4

skeptics4coverWriter Tini Howard, artist Devaki Neogi, and colorist Jen Hickman bring their Cold War con artist alternate history romance comic to a close in Skeptics #4. Mary and Max, who don’t actually have superpowers, and Evgenia and Vasily, who actually do, have hatched an ingenious plan to stop World War III by pretending to not have them and make it one big misunderstanding. It’s a clever, bloodless plan that shows that sometimes cooperation and using one’s wits can win a battle or at the very least a skirmish against brute force, which is President Nelson Rockefeller’s nuclear option idea. Skeptics #4 abounds with love and friendship, especially for this dark time in history, but it’s all bittersweet in the end because sadly four bright young people can’t end the Cold War.

Skeptics #4 has a bit of cold open set in a Washington DC night club where Max is teaching Vasily how to use his power for card tricks, and Max and Evgenia are working a similar con with two boys and their wallets. It’s all set up to make Evgenia and Vasily’s abilities look fake (The opposite of what Max and Mary did earlier in the series where they pretended to have actual powers.), but they also have a good time. Hickman’s colors are downright groovy with a continuous stream of red and yellow in the background while the stylish characters drawn by Neogi chat and listen to some “far out” tunes. But she is back to a neutral palette when the police show up for Mary and Max, who are held and detained illegally because the Rockefeller regime just cares about staying in power and not constitutional rights. (This kind of thinking can be seen in the US’ current administration and its terrible Muslim ban executive order.)

groovystyles

The meat of Skeptics #4’s plot is taken up in Evgenia and Vasily working with Dr. Santaclara to rescue Mary and Max and prevent a nuclear strike, but Howard still finds time to show that they are a hell of a romantic pairing. In the past four issues, the proper and scientific Mary and the churlish, rogue Max have rubbed off each other with Mary learning how to use trickery to get her way, and Max being open with his feelings. Neogi still gives a laidback demeanor as he smokes and relaxes while hanging on his prison bars, but then calls Mary the “loveliest person [he’s] ever met” in a payoff that is more pleasing than any elaborate prison escape scene. This shared bond can be found on a more platonic level as Evgenia and Vasily are overjoyed to strike up a friendship with Mary and Max, and the multiple hugs and little hearts over their heads show their feelings.

Skeptics has been an exciting, twisting and turning Cold War thriller, but what will make me remember it fondly are the personalities and quirks of the characters created by Tini Howard and Devaki Neogi. From Dr. Santaclara’s passion and inability to sit still to Max’s charming glimpses and flirty one-liners to Mary’s determination to break both gender and race barriers in her field and amazing fashion sense, I could have definitely spent more than a miniseries with this cast and seen more of this 1960s alternate history world, which eerily mirrors our own reality in 2017 with both times having underqualified billionaire princelings sitting in the Oval Office.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Devaki Neogi Colors: Jen Hickman
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

IDW Publishing Previews – 4/4/12

30 Days of Night #6

Steve Niles (w) • Christopher Mitten (a) • Davide Furnó (c)

Fright-master Steve Niles continues the all-new, critically acclaimed 30 DAYS OF NIGHT ongoing series! As Alice Blood debates her future with the FBI, a new threat from the North comes to America. Barrow, Alaska, has been massacred. And the death of a vampire leads her once great love to become the greatest enemy humankind has ever known.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

30 Days of Night, Vol. 1

Steve Niles (w) · Sam Kieth (a & c)

Fright-master Steve Niles returns to the creation that launched his career for an all-new 30 Days of Night series, with warped genius Sam Kieth handling the art duties. Features an all-new cast of characters being introduced to the world of 30 Days of Night for the first time!

TPB · FC · $17.99 · 104 pages · ISBN 978-1-61377-172-3

Cold War, Vol. 1: The Damocles Contract

John Byrne (w & a & c)

Acclaimed creator John Byrne releases his latest creation, MI-6 agent Michael Swann. In Swann’s opening adventure, “The Damocles Contract,” the secret agent is called on to stop a defecting British scientist from granting the Soviets complete nuclear dominion over the free world… promising ample doses of intrigue and espionage.

TPB · FC · $19.99 · 120 pages · ISBN 978-1-61377-177-8

Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms 100 Page Spectacular

Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb (w) • Juanfran Moyano, Rags Morales (a)

Thrill to these classic tales of the Forgotten Realms, selected by creator Ed Greenwood! First, a thrilling 2-part adventure—adapted from Greenwood‘s own story “Elminster at the Magefair”! Plus two classic, genre-busting Forgotten Realms comics from the 1990s: “Head Cheeeese”, in which the halfling Foxy battles a very case of… er, food poisoning? And a very unusual peek behind the curtain in “Everybody Wants to Run the Realms.”

FC • 100 pages • $7.99

Danger Girl: Revolver #3 (of 4)

Andy Hartnell (w) • Chris Madden (a) • J. Scott Campbell, Madden (c)

It’s the sexiest and most dangerous event of 2012, and the action continues right here!  While on target to recover a missing Peruvian treasure, Danger Girl Abbey Chase encounters a deadly new rival who may beat her to the punch.  Will Abbey reach it first, or will the sudden involvement of Peru’s most powerful villains prompt her to stand clear of the inevitable explosion?!

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

G.I. Joe: Ongoing Vol. 2 #12

Chuck Dixon (w) • Will Rosado (a) • Will Rosado, Steve Ellis (c)

COBRA COMMAND AFTERMATH! It’s a new day for the JOEs—as they crawl from the ruins of COBRA COMMAND, they find a new status quo… and a change in command! Who will lead the Joes into this new, deadlier, downsized future? SCARLETT leads and op into one of the wildest wildernesses on the planet to uncover a COBRA facility that threatens the very balance of the universe as we enter… DEEP TERROR!

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night one-shot

Duane Swierczynski (w) • Stuart Sayger (a) • Livio Ramondelli, Sam Shearon (c)

December 1952. An Air Force pilot and civilian photographer embark on a top-secret mission to investigate a possible Russian installation near the North Pole. They discover they’ve been beaten to the punch by another team, and they’re not Russian. But they do have a fondness for red…

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Pick of the Week – Heart #2

Heart #2, the mixed martial arts comic by Blair Butler is beyond fantastic.  The focus stays on the people inside the ring and what drives them to do what they do.  But, it’s more than just the character development and MMA action that make this a must read, it’s also the numerous small details Butler adds throughout the comic.  The type of fighting styles each fighter has, their entrance music, it’s all detailed in this behind the scenes look at the scene.  This is a comic for MMA and comic book fans alike.

  • Heart #2 – see above
  • The Last of the Greats #3 – Joshua Hale Fialkov’s comic about a being who is the last of his kind and may be a villain or savior of humankind keeps you on your toes. This entire series is out there.
  • Avenging Spider-Man #2 – I loved the first issue.  Beyond fantastic.
  • Voltron #1 – I grew up in the 80’s, nuff said. I’ve been pumped for this since it was announced.
  • Cold War #3 – Read it, just fantastic.

Pick of the Week – Animal Man #3

Animal Man is one of the messed up and weird series from DC.  It definitely draws it’s roots more from Vertigo than the happy go-lucky DC universe of the past.  The mix of hero and family man is fantastic and it’s one of the leaders of DC horror right now.  An amazing series that seems to tie into Swamp Thing which also is on the list.  A creepy series that I’m drawn to as a must read.  I’ve expanded the pick list this week because there’s some great stuff.

  • Animal Man #3 – see above
  • Swamp Thing #3/American Vampire #20 – Scott Snyder is one of the best writers out there right now and the man knocks it out of the park.  I lumped these two together because they’re both by him and both fantastic.
  • The Last of the Greats #2 – Machiavelli done super hero.
  • Cold War #2 – It’s a James Bond/Cold War/Spy Thriller, aka awesome.
  • Peanuts #0 – It’s Peanuts!  How can you not be excited by this.
  • Our Love is Real  – I read it and holy shit is it weird.
  • Uncanny X-Men #1 – The first issue of Wolverine’s team last week was awesome.  I expect nothing less from this series.
  • The Rinse #3 – I love crime comics and noir, this one isn’t the best, but very entertaining.

IDW Reviews – Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1, HP Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror #1, 30 Days of Night #1, Cold War #1

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1I went into this first issue a bit skeptical.  The whole idea of a mash-up/crossover featuring the cast of Star Trek and Legion of Super-Heroes seemed silly.  I dig the Trek, but haven’t been much of a Legion fan.  So, I went into this expecting the worst.  By the time I was done, I wanted to read the second issue.

Written by Chris Roberson, the comic’s first issue sees two stories that then merge into one.  It’s not as straightforward as the Legion winds up in the Trek universe or vice-versa.  There’s much more to it and it’s laid out in a better way.  And for that well thought out plotting, the story really works.

The art is pretty decent, and I really dug the first few pages which I don’t want to spoil.  The story itself also has a throwback feel to it.  It’s not quite modern and gritty, this is a comic I might have picked up in the 70s or 80s (it’s not a bad thing).

The first issue is really all lead up.  The two groups haven’t really met each other, and instead the focus is on the circumstances where they would.  It very well could fall apart from here, but the first issue got me interested, and I went into this with a bad attitude.  So for that achievement, I have to give the series some props.

Story: Chris Roberson Art: Jeffrey Moy Publisher: IDW Publishing

Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75  Recommendation: Buy

HP Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror #1

There’s two items here, a longer comic and then an illustrated story.  There’s a lot out there based on the world of H.P. Lovecraft.  The man is a godfather of modern horror.  The stories also vary greatly in quality.  This one follows an amateur group of ghost hunters who get together when one of theirs passes away.

The good is, I really dug the characters.  Their interaction is very good.  The bad is, the story itself is pretty forgettable.  It blended into one of the numerous Lovecraft based stories I’ve read or even a general horror story.  Nothing makes it stand out.  It’s not bad in any way, it’s just not memorable.  There’s a good chance this’ll read better as a trade or graphic novel once it’s completed.

The art for the comic as well as the “prose” part of it is very good.  The second part especially, which I’d expect from menton3.

Overall, there’s nothing bad about this, just nothing where I can say it’s a must buy.

Story: Joe R. Lansdale and Robert Weinberg Art: Peter Bergting and menton3 Publisher: IDW Publishing

Story: 7 Art: 8.25 Overall: 7  Recommendation: Read

30 Days of Night #1

30 Days of Night #1I’ve never read this series.  I caught a bit of the movie, but really I know nada.  That’s good, because going into this, I have no preconceived notions.  There’s two parts to the story here, a battle that’s brewing between some vampire clans and also a woman who has a website that’s investigating whether vampires exist.  The two stories together have an X-Files mashed up with Underworld feel about them.  That’s a good thing because I really enjoy both of those pieces of pop culture.

Sam Kieth’s art just adds to it.  I’ve loved his art work, it’s so unique that’s often imitated but rarely matched in it’s style and look.  Here, it just fits.  The art and story work so well together, I’m hoping this is a combo that’s here for quite a while.

Writer Steve Niles has done his job here, creating an entertaining first issue that’s good for both long time fans (there’s small items here and there I can tell they’d enjoy) and for new readers (like myself).

Story: Steve Niles Art: Sam Kieth Publisher: IDW Publishing

Story: 8.25 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.25  Recommendation: Buy

Cold War #1

Cold War #1I like politics. I like noir. I like spy stories.  Legend John Byrne has mashed all of those together in this new series that takes place during the Cold War featuring a British spy that’s part Bond and Bourne.  The comic has that spy action movie cool about it, with the first ten pages being silent relying totally on the art to tell us what’s going on.  And through those ten pages we get to learn a hell of a lot about the main character Michael Swann.

The story then focuses on a scientist that wants to defect.  Swann is thrown undercover to figure out what’s going on.  There’s a great mix of sex and action with an honest 50s/60s vibe that’s exuded by the classic Bond films.  You can just here Sean Connery reading off Swann’s dialogue.

It’s just the first issue, but there’s a throwback feel to the series that reflects the time it’s set in.  So cool and smooth, like it’s main character Michael Swann.

Story: John Byrne Art: John Byrne Publisher: IDW Publishing

Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5  Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review

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