Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bram Stoker's Dracula Manga, adapted by Michael Mucci, Ben Caldwell and Bill Halliar

Dracula is a wonderful old book by Bram Stoker, and now it has been brought to teens in manga form by a company called Sterling. Is it a successful adaptation? Yes and no.

For those who have been living in a cave for the past 100 years, the story involves Jonathan Harker, a real estate agent who has been sent to Transylvania to meet a reclusive nobleman called Count Dracula. After a number of unnerving experiences on the way there, he is met by a black coach driven by equally black horses. An old woman attempts to convince him he is in danger, but Jonathan is a rational Englishman and though he takes her cross when she presses it on him, he goes to the Count's Castle.

While in the Castle, Jonathan has the count sign papers so he can take possession of his new properties all over England. But a number of experiences in the castle convince Jonathan that something strange and uncanny is going on with the Count, and he knows that when the Count has no more use for him, Jonathan will be served up to the Count's vampire brides as a snack. Unwilling to let that be his fate, Jonathan tries to escape, only to end up falling into a river. His last thoughts are of Mina Murray, his bride to be.

Back in England, Mina is staying with her friend, Lucy Westenra, who has gotten an unprecedented three offers of marriage: one with the local doctor of the madhouse, Dr. Seward, a wealthy Texan named Quincy, and a nobleman, Arthur Holmwood. This being England, Lucy has accepted Holmwood's offer, but that day, a storm comes up, driving a Russian freighter to crash at the docks. Soon after, Lucy begins sleepwalking and acting strange, and Dr. Seward is called in. When he isn't able to help her, he writes to his old teacher, Abraham Van Helsing, who comes to see Lucy as well. Lucy is dying, her blood somehow being syphoned away, and despite numerous blood transfusions, she eventually dies.

But Van Helsing knows what caused her death, and leads the others to Lucy's tomb, where she has also become a vampire and must be staked through the heart and beheaded to end her evil. Mina had left to go to see Jonathan, who had been found ill in Budapest, and marry him. Now they have returned, and Mina thinks he may have been driven mad by his experiences. Van Helsing reads his diary, and tells her Jonathan isn't mad, and just hearing that, and the fact that Dracula is in the area leads him to helping Van Helsing and the others track down Dracula's holdings, driving him out and back to Transylvania.

But Mina was attacked, Dracula making her drink his blood, and she will eventually become a vampire as well if her maker isn't stopped. Dracula may be able to see through Mina's eyes through their connection, but she can also see through his, and hear through his ears, allowing them to track him back to his castle, in hopes of getting their first to deal with his evil.

After a long journey, they do eventually track him down, and the curse of the vampire is fully, finally laid to rest.

To start with, I didn't particularly like the art for the book, which reminded me a bit of grafitti or hip-hop-style art. While there is certainly a place for such art, and I don't have anything against it on its own, I don't feel it was the best choice for this particular story. On top of it, I found the lettering somewhat difficult to read, and that made understanding the story harder at times.

The story is abridged from the original book, but that is all to the good, as a more faithful adaptation would end up being huge in graphic novel format. The character designs are also a mixed bag, and the older characters look more cartoonish (Van Helsing especially) than the other characters in the book.

So my feelings on the comic are mixed. The words are difficult to understand because of the font, and the art is pretty ghastly to me, so I can only give it a so-so rating. It could have been done a lot better with different art, and different, clearer lettering.

1 comment:

cj said...

Thanks for this, didn't know it was out. Mind you, doesn't sound that great. Need it for Gothic Lit class this Fall.
Maybe will stick to staright text for this one. Shame.