Page 45 Review by Stephen
Let's lobs some labels at this, shall we, and see if they stick with you?
Steampunk, neo-gothic vampire comic with elements of Fu Manchu and Giant Monster Movies complete with Kraken. It's all here, I promise you.
A brand-new story written by the author of the Anno Dracula novel along with its successors set during subsequent eras, this - like its original - takes place during a Victorian England whose crown, through connivance, now belongs to Vlad the Impaler along with Britain's glorious far-reaching Empire. Not everyone is happy with this (though I'd have thought that one blood-sucking aristo was just as bad as another) so there's a multinational European naval force assembled just off the Frisian Islands' North Sea archipelago which is all set to invade / liberate our Sacred Isle depending on your perspective.
Think of them as The Allies. It's kind of like WWI and WWII except in reverse.
On top of that there are various clans with secret plans bent on revolution from within, so if skulduggery is your thing you'll be well-in here. They all seem pretty privileged too, and wear ever such flouncy clothing, plus a great many of them are vampires. This is a certain sub-section of society for whom this is the best wet dream ever.
The series is populated by historical figures, literary characters and those from film and television, so in that regard a bit like THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (except that everything there was fictional including the environments) and you might have a great deal of fun spotting them.
Now, before we go any further, I should emphasise that HELLBOY's Mike Mignola is the most enormously enthusiastic fan and provides the introduction in which he is at pains to point out that he's a purist about Bram Stoker's Dracula and therefore one of the least likely to succumb to the undoubted charms within, but succumb he has. Plus Neil Gaiman wrote "Compulsory reading... glorious!" and I have the most unequivocal respect for Neil to the extent that I know full well that I have never typed - and never will type - a single paragraph that could match his hastily scribbled weekly Sainsbury's shopping list.
What I am trying to impress upon you is that they are almost certainly right and I am almost certainly wrong. Seriously.
But I cannot read a book in which someone cries "Egads!" or mumbles "'Ow do, lass?" then an anthropomorphic walrus declares, "The jig's up, socialist rabble." The first dozen pages made me squirm with embarrassment, so I set it aside and moved on.
For steampunk fans I recommend instead graphic novels like LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, CASTLE IN THE STARS, GRANDVILLE, CLOCKWORK WATCH or SCARLET TRACES.
P.S. Words like "skulduggery" and "turpitude" should only be deployed with an arched eyebrow as well.