Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Single Minded: Dracula the Unconquered #1

"I vant you to buy my comic!"

Hello and welcome to a new feature here on Panel Patter, Single-Minded!  This is where the Panel Patter team weighs in on single issue comics, on those occasions where we read them.  Erica, Sarah, and I don't generally read things by singles anymore, but there are some exceptions, especially with digital comics being a much bigger part of my reading habits than ever before.

In this first installment, I'm taking a look at a new venture from the prolific (and funny) blogger, Chris Sims, that tries to put Drac back on the map.  Does it succeed?

Written by Chris Sims
Illustrated by Steve Downer
Action Age (Self-published)

Dracula lies dead in a London tomb.  His menace is forever ended...or is it?  When another vampire has designs on the title of Sovereign of the Night, a play is made to put Dracula into the mix once more, in a reduced role.  But no man, alive or undead, can control the man who once ruled armies!  Dracula, no matter how many defeats he faces, will remain...unconquered!

Most people who read this are probably already familiar with Chris Sims, his view of comic books, and his sense of humor.  He's made a living out of talking about comics and pop culture by this point in his life, and the target audience here are definitely fans of Sims--or at least people that value his sense of comics, which can find awesomeness in the most ridiculous conceits.  Sims can love a well-written comic from someone as serious as Darwyn Cooke, and yet also wax nostalgic for 1,000 words (or more) about a 1950s Batman comic that's preposterous or the time the Punisher used a jetski.

This love of the fun side of comics shines through in Dracula the Unconquered.  There is banter almost from the first page, and one of the major plot points in this issue is that London has magical guardians who act like Gandolf on a bad day--but aren't nearly so competent.  Dracula fights his way out of his prison in innovative ways, that show his potential for power, but, in a key point that I really liked, also show his position of weakness at this time.

This is very much a set-up issue, but Sims works hard to make it work within its own boundaries.  Like his comic writing heroes, Sims attempts to keep the action flowing while still doing exposition and setting up a larger plot.  You can easily read Dracula the Unconquered 1 and be ready for issue 2--but it's not like the two must be read back to back.  It's a lost art, frankly, and I like that Sims is striving to bring it back here.

Overall, I thought the comic was a strong one, but it does have a few weak spots.  In places, I think Sims is trying a bit too hard to give this a feel-good vibe, when his protagonist is a mass murderer.  We are asked to root for Dracula, but right now, there's a lot of baggage behind that idea.  Dracula is almost always cast as the villain, even in the old Universal movies where there's a ton of baddies, Drac is the one we are meant to hate.  I'm looking forward to seeing how Sims addresses this, but right now, it's a bit of a dangling hair that kept pushing its way into the front of the story.  There are also a few times where the dialog is just a bit too clever for its own good, but that's just the way he writes.  I'm okay with it, and if you are a fan of Sims, I doubt you'll even much notice it.

Steve Downer is a perfect fit on art for this book.  He gives it a cartoonish style that helps take some of the villainy out of the protagonist.  There's a bit of a Disney vibe to the proceedings, and I don't think that's a bad thing at all.  Downer's characters flow across the page in a backdrop that's dark, but not too dark, again dovetailing nicely with the plot and dialog.  I especially love the looks he puts on the characters's faces, particularly Dracula.  I am a big fan of reading character emotions when I am reading a comic, and Downer had that down to a science.  Given the flip, sarcastic words that Sims is putting in their mouths, I am really glad there's visual cues going along with the words.  Sterile faces would really hurt this book a lot.

Dracula the Unconquered might be my favorite Chris Sims comic I've read so far.  It's got great potential, and is definitely worth the one dollar price tag.  I read mine in PDF format, and the flow was just fine, with no resolution or text issues.  I'm looking forward to reading this for as long as Sims and Downer work on it. You should get in on the action, too.  If you've never read a Chris Sims comic before, this is a great place to start.  There's a six page preview here, if you want to take a bite.

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