Brothers Vlad and Radu are the sons of Vladimir Dracul, the ruler of Transylvania during the Ottoman invasion in the 1400's. Vlad Dracul surrenders to the Ottoman sultan, and the sultan asks for Vlad's sons. Radu tries to make the most of the situation, but young Vlad sees it only as imprisonment. Worse yet, Mehmet, the sultan's son, takes every opportunity to belittle both Vlad and Radu.
Calling Brothers Dracul the "good version" of Dracula Untold feels a bit like a disservice to the comic, even if it is a good reference point for the story Brothers Dracul tells. Plus, the comic would have been better if it separated itself further from Dracula Untold, but we'll get to that.
The brothers are good leads, with Vlad standing out more. His bitterness and rage towards the situation he and Radu find themselves in is entirely justified and relatable. Mehmet is a bit of a detriment, as he plays the role of the bully. Whether or not any of this is technically historically accurate or plausible, adding a bully to what is technically a POW story cuts down the tension somewhat.
Something interesting could still be done with Mehmet, and there are plenty of tense moments in the comic. So, this addition is far from fatal.
What did bother me leaving the comic is what I sort of suspected going in—the Dracula element. This will be a bit of a spoiler, but the Dracula legend rears its head towards the end of Brothers Dracul. While I'm sure it will bother me less in issues to come, here, it felt like adding an unnecessary supernatural element to a comic that already had me engaged on the merits of simple historical fiction. The story of Vlad and Radu as prisoners of the Ottoman Empire had me interested; this just felt like something that will ultimately distract the narrative from this engaging core element.
Mirko Colak's artwork is a mixture of high-detailing and restrained world-construction. While many scenes of violence are littered with gore and bodies, the overall aesthetic feels pleasingly understated. It helps the story maintain its grounded core, and it just looks damn good. Maria Santaolalla's colorwork is similarly restrained, with pale figures and skies contrasted by the bright colors of the regal dress of both the Ottomans and the Dracul family.
Brothers Dracul #1 is a tense and engaging read. With its compelling main cast and great artistic team, the book succeeds in keeping its reader absorbed regardless of the flaws the first issue bears. This one gets a recommendation. Check it out.
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