"Apocalypse vs. Dracula Part 1 of 4"
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artists: Clay Henry (p), Mark Morales (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
(This title comes from the indicia and solicitations; the comic's cover indicates X-Men: Apocalypse Vs Dracula.)
Here you go, actual documentary proof that Marvel are pathologically bone idle; no one would be surprised to discover that Apocalypse Vs Dracula was shite, as the basic premise really doesn't inspire confidence, but that should have given the creators license to just bust loose and produce something really interesting. But they don't try to surprise us with a work of unexpected quality, something that makes wonderful use of the possibilities of the premise, like Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein. Instead, they seem content to produce a comic that's utterly generic and unimpressive.
I did like Dracula's motivation for upsetting Bobocalypse's plans; he's essentially just holding a grudge after the big blue clown kicked him in the face in the Fifteenth Century. There's something wonderfully personal about that, which contrasts effectively with the grand schemes of these ancient immortals and their cults. Tieri also rather shrewdly keeps Dracula himself "offstage" during the main part of the narrative, with his influence showing through the consequences of his actions rather than actual appearances.
Sadly, that's about it for high points. We get a clumsy script and a plot full of generic ideas; the opening sequence is lifted directly from Coppola's 1992 film, even down to specific imagery like Dracula's ornate blood red armour and the silhouettes of Ottoman soldiers impaled on pikes (although since it is Vlad the Impaler, I suppose the latter is bound to come up). It's one thing to homage or reference another work, but you've got to bring something new to it or it just comes across as lazy. And no, having a big blue clown come in and kick Gary Oldman in the chin doesn't really count as "something new." Similarly, the Victorian scenes are an identikit of stock bits and pieces, with no life of their own, as if they were put together by a randomised computer programme.
Clayton Henry's art is clear and solid, but also rather bland, with no real energy or character to it. Even so, Henry's style would be perfectly at home on any number of superhero titles; the problem being, of course, that this isn't really a superhero title. The issue starts out with bloody carnage on a mediaeval battlefield, then briefly presents an ancient Egyptian crypt before spending the majority of its pages in the foggy, filthy streets of Victorian London. Except they're not foggy and filthy, because Henry depicts London in the same clean and sterilised way he draws everything else. He's clearly a solid, dependable artist, but he's woefully miscast on this title, which should be going for a darker, more ominous look similar to Dracula's own solo title of years past, even if Bobocalypse the Super Clown is one of the main characters. I don't want to belittle Henry's efforts, but his art just doesn't work for this comic.
I know that I'm the victim of my own optimistic expectations here, and that an Apocalypse/Dracula miniseries was never going to be high art, but there's potential in the premise, at least for something fun, and it looks like that potential has been sadly squandered. Things might pick up in future issues as the two titular characters actually meet, but on the basis of this disappointing first issue, I doubt it.
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