Graphic Classics #7: Bram Stoker
by Tom Pomplun, various artists (Eureka, 2007)

Sure, there are plenty of writers that have a defining work to which their name is forever attached, but they often have other darling story gems or at least adequate yarns to convey. If only this claim could hold true for Bram Stoker. While the illustrated version of Dracula has an engaging story to tell, the majority of the remaining stories in this volume are predictable and tedious. And the one story that isn't tedious, "The Wondrous Child," reads like a bad acid trip, but not conveyed in a remotely interesting manner.

I almost feel bad for the artists, especially those assigned to the non-Dracula stories, but some manage to make lemonade out of these lemons. Rico Schacherl's illustrating of "Lair of the White Worm" is a prime example. Despite being a mere 32 pages, the story is drawn-out and tedious; however, Scharcherl produces a remarkable visual narrative, so much so that the story might have been better served with less of Stoker's verbage. Gerry Alanguilan and his adept hand at drawing facial expressions makes "The Judge's House" worth reading, even if the ending can be seen by the halfway mark. Evert Geradts may provide a mere six images to accompany "The Wondrous Child," but also does a remarkable job of capturing the odd-to-lunacy characteristics of the story.

Some artists don't fare as well as others, though. While the visual style is initially intriguing (think Jack Kirby meets Carmine Infantino), J.B. Bonivert's work on "The Bridal of Death" ends up hurting the tale. Using tools from Kirby's arsenal, especially Kirby dots, can certainly make a story work; yet the over-usage can spoil it. Add in the unusual inking on the faces (they appeared to be shiny or metallic?), and what was once intriguing becomes jarring. Onsmith Jeremi is in the opposite boat: instead of too much, he provides too little. The comic strip panelized approach to "The Torture Tower" would have worked if Jeremi had employed different lineweights. Instead, the story is presented in a very flat manner with little articulation.

As for the main event of Dracula, Joe Ollman illustrates a fine rendition of Stoker's story, especially his lovely use of varying shades of gray washes. That style is so much more suited to a tale of horror than the straight black & white inking seen by other artists in this book. The only noticeable aspect worth of criticism -- the cartoonish big heads -- cease to be noticeable by the second or third page of the story.

The Bram Stoker installment of the Graphic Classics series will confirm any probable preconceived notions about the writer: Bram Stoker was indeed a one-hit wonder. Dracula not only put Stoker on the literary map, it's the only thing keeping him there. And despite the great artwork, it's difficult to say if this volume is worth picking up. (Mostly) good art can only carry lackluster stories so far.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

10 November 2007

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