On Dracula vs. King Arthur

Last week, at the Baltimore Comic-Con, as I was walking past a table, I heard, out of the corner of my ear, the words, “King Arthur.” And my interest piqued, I had to see why I’d heard those words. I stopped, turned, and then the guy behind the table said, “Dracula versus King Arthur!”

He had me at King Arthur. 🙂

I’d heard of the miniseries, and said as much. Ten dollars picked me up a trade paperback of the story, plus an unrelated one-shot entitled For Life.

Yesterday, I read Dracula Vs. King Arthur.

Here’s the premise. As the Turkish armies close in on Vlad Dracul’s castle, Lucifer makes him an offer — Lucifer will save him from his fate at the hand of the Turks, if Dracul agrees to be his agent in his war against God. And the battleground Lucifer has chosen? The realm of King Arthur, a thousand years in the past.

Dracula is sent back in time. He’s turned into a vampire by Lucifer. And he sets about capturing Arthur’s knights and turning them into vampires. He turns Guinevere into one of his brides. And while Arthur and his other knights are on a quest for the Grail, Camelot begins to fall to Dracula’s malignant darkness….

Let’s get one thing out of the way.

The premise is goofy as hell. I’m still trying to figure out the rhyme or reason for sending Dracula back in time to fifth century Britain.

However.

Once you accept the premise, what happens actually makes a lot of sense. This is basically the final chapters of Le Morte d’Arthur, with added vampires. Lancelot’s betrayal, Mordred’s desire to kill his father, even the battle of Camlann itself, are cast into new roles in Arthur’s battle against the vampire hordes, and it works surprisingly well.

It was a fun read. The artwork was especially nice, and it grew progressively darker and more brooding as the story progressed. It gives Arthur more of a High Middle Ages feel than a Dark Ages feel, though, but that’s probably to the story’s benefit — audiences are more familiar with Arthur as the archetypal myth of a generic medieval fantasy than with the quasi-historical warlord of the post-Roman period — and it grounds the story in something familiar. There were some nicely done parallel scenes — the prologue contrasting the rise to power of Arthur and Vlad was well done, as was a later scene where Dracula and Arthur plan their strategies for the coming battle at Camlann.

I’m not sure that Dracula was strictly necessary for the story. Simply having Arthur battle vampire hordes in the waning days of his reign would have been sufficient. But Dracula doubtless gave the story a marketable hook.

Anyone wanting a fun comic read — and isn’t that what comics are about, fun? — will enjoy Dracula vs. King Arthur. It has a goofy premise, but it’s done with obvious love and genuine understanding of the source material. Vampire fans won’t find anything new, but Arthurian fans will find a generally well-done treatment of Arthur’s final days that tracks well with the familiar legends.

Recommended.

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