Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem – Kim Newman & Paul McCaffrey (Titan Comics)

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The first Anno Dracula novel is my second favourite horror story with its historic detail, adventure and tension it’s even better than Dracula. Although the latter books in the series (Dracula Cha Cha Cha and Johnny Alucard) are 6/10 at best. So needless to say this comic is one I’ve been anticipating and when I found out it was in paperback form as well I had to have it. The graphic novel is set nine years after the first book in which Dracula has gained control of Britain but his hold is tenuous following the events of the first book. However, for anyone new to the series or someone like me who hasn’t read the first two books for a few years there’s little re-cap to the extent I couldn’t remember what year Dracula is dethroned. It enticed me to read on to see if it’s during this story that Dracula is overthrown. Like the Anno Dracula books the graphic novel had multiple twist and turns, the main character in this case ex journalist Kate Reed faced certain death on multiple occasions and I had no idea how she would survive (she features in the later books so I knew she would).

This added tension is a result of the new range of creatures including underwater vampire babies and a kraken as well as the gruesomeness of the regime. The graphic novel like the book series is more story rather than character driven although you do sympathise with both Kate Reed and the Daughter of the Dragon (the unworthy daughter of a crime boss). Several new characters are introduced in this book including the rest of the anarchist group that Kate belongs to but few of them are well developed.  However, Kim Newman includes literary and historical figures in all his prose and I enjoyed seeing Graf Von Orlok (Nosferatu) back again this time as a potential usurper and the first appearance of the Phantom of the Opera who leads a European effect to get rid of Dracula.

Speaking of the head vampire, he’s featured even less than in the novels which is a surprise considering he loses his throne in the 1890s (as established in the second novel- Bloody Red Baron) I would have expected him to be more hands on.  Whilst many characters are not as deep as I hoped for they each have their own way of speaking which fits in with their backgrounds in Victorian Britain. And as mentioned above the series is more plot driven than character.

There are a variety of different breeds of vampires and each has its own characteristic and look which Paul McCaffrey captures excellently whether they are fighting, eating or just walking down the street. Orlok looks even more repulsive than I imagined him in some of the panels when creatures are crawling over him and he stands still, silent and scary. Many of the panels are gruesome but unlike many horror comics a dark, gritty colour scale isn’t used instead all colours are used just not bright shades of them.  Whilst most of the characters lack depth their appearances are all individual and the Victorian setting is captured well. My only slight complaint on the art is Dracula’s British flag just has a bat in front of the Union Jack which looks childish.

Overall, this graphic novel is every bit as historical, horrifying and tense as the rest of the Anno Dracula series however the characters are less developed than I hoped and Dracula features less than in the latter books of the series (the worst ones).  The art superbly captures Kim’s vision of a dark Victorian Britain ruled by Dracula, it’s just a shame about the flag. David Jenkins

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