The lurking vampire at the Tower (who I incorrectly assumed in my issue #2 review was Dracula) has actually been introduced now as Graf von Orlok, the Master of the Tower of London (and recognizable from Nosferatu). On Paul McCaffrey’s amusing cover, the Graf looks like a dopey-faced alien donning a Victorian gentleman’s coat. He casts a shadow that has a life of its own, smiling and waving in pure comedic fashion. In the issue, the Graf is covered in rats, and flies swarm around him while he chats with Penny. He is a perfect specimen of a vermin-infested monster. He’s actually more silly than scary, with slight exaggerations of monstrosity to make him amusing without being over the top.
McCaffrey has also proven to be quite an impressive artist of blood spatter. The panels at Penny’s place illustrate the beautifully explosive potential for blood to spatter. Drops and streaks create a brilliant red kaleidoscope like a Jackson Pollock painting. The explosion in this issue is another example of McCaffrey’s pure mastery of gory comedy. I also appreciate all the minor humorous details (like a random frog) that he slips into the panels. Penny wears a broach that resembles a Batman logo, perhaps a nod to another great creature of the night. The small, subtle details such as the broach and the strange shape of the moon help maintain an atmosphere that cleverly blends comedy and the Victorian Gothic.
Kim Newman’s plot continues to unfold at an easily digestible pace that builds suspense while still moving forward to the anticipated celebrations and attack. I especially enjoy our access to the characters’ inner thoughts. Penny’s confrontation with the nonspeaking Graf von Orlok contains both her one-sided dialogue and her hilariously entertaining musings about him. Later, Kate’s interiority also provides light humor and helps us learn more about the other characters. This is especially useful since some characters’ loyalties are in question. Ultimately, it will come down to the jubilee to see who is really on Team Dracula.
So, where is Dracula then, anyway? I keep expecting to see him (and thought we had last issue!), but he has been behind the scenes so far while others complete his dirty work. Is he busy with state affairs or in hiding from potential threats? It seems likely that he will not make an appearance until the jubilee. We’ll see how many rebels actually survive to make it to the big event and attempt to carry out their assassination plan. Tensions are high in London, blood is spurting, and more explosions are imminent. Dear Dracula, did you have any idea this is where things were headed when you called upon a solicitor several years ago?