Fair Trade Comics is an ongoing series where Comics Bulletin looks at creator-owned comics that you can read without guilt or moral compromise.
Ian Brill confesses in the afterward that the concept was birthed from an almost constant worry of where the world was headed, reading the news on his phone as he waited in line for revival showings of monster movies. Somewhere in there, he came up with an idea so perfect that it seems to writes itself: Vampires are the one percent of citizens who control the bulk of the wealth and power, feeding metaphorically and literally off of the 99%.
Whether you agree with Occupy Wall Street or not, that's a pretty powerful message; it's so powerful that I actually worried that Dracula World Order might try harder to advance an agenda than tell a good story.
These fears disappeared by the time I hit Tonci Zonjic's last page. I hadn't seen his work before, but he owns the first chapter, bringing a style reminiscent of Chris Samnee. His impeccably clean linework fits the mad scientist vibe of the first half of the chapter while serving as a wonderful juxtaposition against the violence in the second half.
He does this wonderful trick where he forces your eye to follow the path of action as Alexandru, our protagonist, stakes one of his own, saving the life of a hunter:
In six pages, I've become a fan of a new artist, and Dracula World Order has even more in store. Rahsan Ekedal is in charge of the chapter that could easily be the least exciting in a comic: the origin. Delivering an origin story well takes tact and while Brill does load up the second chapter with more exposition than I like in my comics, he also manages to motivate Alexandru, introduce us to the villain and explain how Dracula tipped the scales even further in his favor over the course of a century.
Ekedal provides a consistent style while adapting for both the changing fashions of the past hundred years and beautifully illustrating both the vampires' political and military rise to power; he gives us something interesting to look at while Brill delivers the requisite history.
It's here that the remaining half of the comic took the turn from good to great. It really didn't surprise me that Dracula World Order would include takes on other iconic monster movies, but the way in which it was executed took it from cliché to entertaining. Chapter 3 also marks the entrance of an artist whose name I recognize, despite mysteriously managing to avoid reading anything he's illustrated! Declan Shalvey joins the ranks of Zonjic as an artist I'm going to have my eye on. Shalvey brought new life to the monster movie tradition of the transformation scene, with a style that reminded me heavily of Lucifer-era Peter Gross.
And then Gabriel Hardman delivers the killing blow of the issue in style, bringing Frankenstein's monster to the page in a way that makes him feel far more monstrous, far more disturbing than I've seen him before:
Chapter 4 also brought a smile to my face for a different reason: there was a font change into what appears to be a classic gothic-style for Alexandru speaking to the monster in German. It's the little details like this, the ones that may often go unnoticed, that elevate great comics to excellent ones.
The team of Dracula World Order has a series of excellent comics on their hands, assuming that this takes off. There's a wealth of ideas for DWO to explore beyond simply the disparity between the rich and the poor, but even if you don't care about subtext and allegories, you'll still be holding a damn fine monster comic in your hands.
My only complaint is that we live in a world where it isn't economically feasible for DWO to have been released as anything more than a single issue at this time and it feels like it really belongs as the first chunk of a graphic novel. Brill promises to keep going for as long as he's got it in him, but the final page left me thirsty for more much sooner than they'll probably be able to deliver.
For more Fair Trade Comics, check out our other features in this series:
- Introducing Fair Trade Comics
- Fair Trade Comics: Atomic Robo
- Fair Trade Comics: Pussey!
- Fair Trade Comics: Our Ever Improving Living Room
- Fair Trade Comics: The Bulletproof Coffin
- Fair Trade Comics: Dracula World Order
- Fair Trade Comics: Local
- Fair Trade Comics: Liz Prince Will Swallow the Key to Your Heart
- Fair Trade Comics: Monsters
- Fair Trade Comics: Cow Boy
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Gra
nt Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.