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The stylish horror of Dracula, Motherf**ker! will hypnotize you

The stylish horror of Dracula, Motherf**ker! will hypnotize you 2

Just in time for Halloween, Dracula, Motherf**ker! offers a gorgeous, psychedelic take on the familiar legend of Dracula. If you’re looking for something creepy that’ll make your eyes pop out of your skull (with admiration!) then you are in luck.

Who is making Dracula, Motherf**ker!?

This book is a two-person team up, with Eisner Award-nominated Alex de Campi handling the writing and lettering, and Eisner Award-winner Erica Henderson doing art, color, and SFX. Comics fans will recognize de Campi as the author behind series like Smoke and No Mercy. Henderson’s vibrant work can be seen in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Jughead, and Assassin Nation; her work here is just as expressive, though notably more horror-tinged.

What is Dracula, Motherf**ker! about?

Quincy Harker is a crime-scene photographer in 1970’s Los Angeles, and he’s in a position to make big money now that Dracula has been resurrected. With beautiful women being slain right and left on the street, he has no shortage of jobs – but he’s already attracted the wrong kind of attention for his work. He has the dubious help of Dracula’s exes, the three Brides that originally assassinated the king of the vampires, but that might make him even more vulnerable.

Dracula’s three wives stab him with three spears, reminiscent of Saint George and the dragon. “All things must end,” say the captions, “Empires. Reigns. Marriages.” in Dracula, Motherf**ker, Image Comics (2020).

Image: Alex de Campi, Erica Henderson/Marvel Comics

Is there any required reading?

Enough Dracula lore has seeped into the mainstream that you don’t need to have read it to understand this comic, which is an alternate take on Dracula’s downfall anyway. Knowing that Quincy Harker is named for original Dracula characters Quincey Morris and Jonathan Harker won’t do you any favors here. That said, it is Halloween-time, Dracula is a classic, and reading it will provide some background for the story.

Is Dracula, Motherf**ker! good?

I wish I had a spare closet that I could paper with pages from the book as a shrine to how vibrant and gorgeous the design is. Large swaths of black are punctuated with vibrant, ultra-saturated colors. Forgoing the standard black outline, Dracula is outlined in a bold red such that he pops off the page. For horror comic fans, it’s reminiscent of Emily Carroll’s work, but with an additional garden’s worth of colors to add complexity to the palette.

The eponymous motherf**king Dracula is truly horrifying, a far cry from the sensual supposedly-charismatic version we more often see in modern representations. Never do we see him fully – only black panels loaded with red eyes and sharp-toothed mouths, more chthonic than charming.

His design hints at some of the grander themes of the book – about power, and who wields it, and how we can be tricked into thinking we have it when we are really at the whims of more powerful people. It’s an interesting, complicated, and timely concept, but one that is given short shrift. The (unnamed) Brides are powerful, dedicated to putting down a great evil – but they themselves are leveraging the master’s tools to develop their own power. They’re less victims who have triumphed over their abusive creator and more villains who don’t want any competition.

It’s an interesting balance, a Dracula story full of anti-heroes. It flies in the face of the good-evil lines of the original novel. But the story is short in a way that almost feels perfunctory. Without much development of the Brides themselves, there isn’t much to rest the balance on. Like Dracula, they are just monsters battling in the arena of human life, and even our main character has so little development that the stakes (if you’ll forgive the pun) are low. The story is pared down to only the elements needed to progress the plot, and it means that the interesting thematic issues aren’t given enough weight.

Although the story might have pack more of a lasting punch if it had been better developed, the lack of textual flourish does allow Henderson’s hypnotic art to shine through unadulterated. It’s the greatest strength the book has and entirely justifies the time you’ll spend ogling the line art.

One panel that popped

Hunched, cloaked, and outlined in red, Dracula slinks down a snowy street. A text box reads “And Death was also in love with Vienna.”

Image: Alex de Campi, Erica Henderson/Image Comics

Every page of this book is the best page in this book until you get to the next page. That means it was very easy to find a great panel but almost impossible to pick a single one.

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