Vlad Dracul is dead. And one year later, the previously put-upon peasants are looking to a pleasant future in Transylvania. Blue skies, green hills, and children’s rhymes about the ‘omul negru’, the boogeyman. Until a Healer arrives in town, and then it’s a whole belfry full of terror. The hills are alive… with the sound of screaming. TKO’s Black Mass Rising is a horror story based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula character. Writer Theo Prasidis (Swamp Dogs, The Doomster’s Monolithic Pocket Alphabet, etc.) embellishes the quiet dread, the sudden shocks, the electric vibe of old-school scariness. It’s vampires, and it’s old school, but the fright factor is alive and well and ready for a new harvest.
Black Mass Rising requires little introduction to readers who are familiar with Dracula. And that basic accessibility is a good thing; we can be a little puzzled at the beginning of the tale, gathering clues that fall from the clutches of the characters. Who, what, where, and why are demons attacking the villagers? But we quickly ‘right’ ourselves and get our bearings: Young Aurelia jumps on her horse and decides to follow The Healer, a mysterious slim stranger with pale skin and long blonde hair. Aurelia wants to confront the evil, to battle, to win, to get justice for all.
But who is The Healer, and why does he make so many tragic mistakes?
UK-based artist Jodie Muir (covers of American Jesus and various Star Wars comics) brings forth a visual style that resembles watercolour but is possibly produced digitally. Not that it matters. The faces are clearly defined, the features sharp and accurate. The bad guys hang suspended in midair, casting shadows on our general disbelief, their fangs, limbs, and teeth looking disturbingly plausible. The colour is muted, as darkness is rendered through the book, then illuminated and snuffed out, a candle in the vampiric wind.
Hassan Otsmane Elhaou’s lettering gives a subtle voice to the characters, as some speak with serif fonts, and others don’t. The variety of these stylistic choices speaks of time and attention.
It’s a good read, dark and delicious. I’m not a massive horror buff, but the tale engaged me. It is classic and ‘classy.’ The twists and turns of the nature of good and evil, the twists of fate, the cutting of the family ties. And I liked how the story begins with a sense of newfound innocence, echoed by the characters’ youth and general naiveté, progressing through a journey of horror and self-discovery to a massive conclusion. It’s a classic quest and battle, nicely played.