Dracula: The Company of Monsters has been flying under the radar for most of the past year. In a few ways, it reminds me of Marvel's Tomb of Dracula, which was also an ongoing series back in the '70s. With some tweaking, this could very easily have been a sequel series to that book.
But instead Kurt Busiek and Daryl Gregory have brought it to Boom! Studios, where it more than stands on its own. Depending upon your expectations, you may be surprised to hear that Dracula isn't the main character in his own book. Instead the protagonist is a man named Evan, who was goaded by his Uncle Conrad to resurrect Dracula. And once Dracula was in their control, Conrad essentially blackmailed Dracula into turning him a vampire. However, Dracula had his own ideas about being used as a pawn and escaped their grasp before seizing another company and making a bid for Conrad's financial empire.
Issue nine actually starts off the third story arc in the book, as Evan basically decides that he's had enough and begins playing Conrad and Dracula against each other. In a flashforward sequence, we see that Evan has turned over a captive Conrad to Dracula and seemingly accepted his role as Dracula's apprentice. Or maybe his Renfield. But in the present, Evan feigns loyalty to his uncle while making plans with the vampire hunter Marta and her men to eliminate Dracula and Conrad.
One thing to keep in mind is that Busiek and Gregory have really tightened the screws on Evan. His (probably ex) fiancée willingly became a vampire to serve Conrad and even his mother was turned by Conrad as a way to maintain his grip on his company. There's almost no way out for Evan without losing everything that he ever had. So in that regard, he manages to get the readers behind him. Evan is also one of the rare heroes who can't physically fight at all. His mind is his only weapon.
I'm actually hoping that Evan is planning some kind of triple cross on the three different factions, including the vampire hunters. The flashforward sequence hints that Evan went forward with his betrayal of Dracula as well. But so far, the vampire hunters have treated Evan like he's expendable too. In this issue, Marta expresses some romantic interest towards him, but that may be her way of controlling Evan as opposed to everyone else who simply tries to intimidate him.
This is a comic that's actually gotten better with each issue as the story has come into focus and it's been near the top of my reading pile every month. My only reservation is that I don't think that it can sustain this momentum as an ongoing series. It may have been better served as a 12 issue maxiseries, but if we pass that mark and there isn't a resolution to most of these plotlines then I'm going to be a lot less pleased with the book.
For the most part, the artist, Damian Couceiro does a good job of staying consistent with some strong figure work. His best pages are early in the issue, when Dracula reminds Conrad why he was called "The Impaler." However, Couceiro stumbles badly late in the book during a scene between Marta and Evan. In a couple of panels, Marta inexplicably looks like she has a Pinocchio nose, which doesn't help her semi-seduction of Evan come off as well as it could.
Overall, Dracula: The Company of Monsters is putting some bite back into vampires. It's also one of the best horror titles in comics.