The latest installment of Kim Newman and Paul McCaffrey’s Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem brings a lot of action and excitement to the Tower of London. McCaffrey’s cover is a stunning juxtaposition of refined beauty and a creepy x-ray—which is very fitting for the atmosphere of this series. The variant covers are great, too. Martin Stiff’s is simple but eerie, as a skull appears to emerge out of the Tower. Tom Mandrake’s cover nicely captures the action of this issue and creates a heroic scene with the heroines ready to battle a horde of crazed vampires.
Several superb illustrations fill the pages of this issue. In one panel, decimated bodies hang on public display, looking as if they were literally ripped apart by some sort of flesh-eating beast. The ladies row past along the River Thames without batting an eye. This sort of gory bloodshed is common in this version of London where Dracula is the Crown Prince. But it is the kind of gore that makes me chuckle rather than feel squeamish. I continue to appreciate McCaffrey’s subtle nuances within each panel, especially the flag of Britain—which is the traditional flag with a black bat symbol on top. It is also fun to play ‘Where’s Graf von Orlok?’ in this issue. McCaffrey sneaks him into several panels. He is like an omnipresent, bucktoothed overseer.
Christina Light’s character is dynamic in this issue. Her electrifying hair and killer fingernails extenuate her intense nature. Her eyes transform from blue to red, and her skin turns a shade of green when she goes into super-angry vampire mode, making her kind of resemble the Graf. Christina is a remorseless, violent vampire who is a driving force behind the council’s attack plans. I had been on Team Council up until this issue, but Sunday’s plan and Christina’s craziness has made me rethink who I am rooting for. I’m actually a big fan of the Daughter of the Dragon. She has impressive acrobatic skills and seems to always be around at the right time to help Kate.
The most brilliant part of this issue is “The Famous Tin Jubilee,” a cleverly comedic poem supposedly penned by William McGonagall in 1895. Newman made this poem a tribute to Dracula and a celebration for life (and undeadness) under his rule. It is a declaration that Prince Dracula’s leadership has created a land where humans and vampires can successfully live together. (True Blood tried this, too…I’m not sure if we could say it was more successful…) And I suppose those who resist become half-eaten, hanging corpses.
As time runs short in this issue toward the anticipated explosion, the action is riveting and intense. With escapes, chase scenes, and betrayals, issue 4 is the most thrilling yet. But we still haven’t seen Dracula. I really wonder what he is doing while all of this chaos is happening around the Tower. I think it’s safe to assume there will be more bloody attacks in the final installment. But who will survive?