Anno Dracula: 1895 Seven Days in Mayhem (#1) – Kim Newman

2 out of 5

…I went in search of reviews and was soothed to see that there was agreement: Anno Dracula is a stone cold mess.  Tolerances of that mess vary, but as to the base disarray we can agree.  I don’t always need such justification, but when a comic is so perplexingly constructed as Anno that you’re brought to wonder how a right-minded editor would give it a pass, questioning your own reading occurs: perhaps you’re missing some key POV that would make it make sense.

In the case of AD, the obvious explanation is that this takes place in the middle of a book series – by the same author – in which Dracula “won” and we get an alternate, monster-filled, vamp-ruled history wherein other famous or fictional characters pop-up in humorous or ironic supporting roles.  But: drop me in the middle of a DC or Marvel crossover, or episode six of a tightly plotted TV series, or book three of some fantasy epic and some bare minimums of story construction remain.  You might not know exactly what’s going on, but you should – and I realize that’s a loaded term – be able to intuit the general flow of events.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be confusing; I am saying you’d be able (generally) to find enough footing from which to say you want to check out what started things off or keep going or quit.  And with this issue – a first issue, no less! – I get none of that.  I do fully get the sense that Newman knows what’s going on, and artist Paul McCaffrey seems like he has a great grasp on what this world and characters should look like, but as we bounce from narrative to narrative, with neither words or art making it clear who’s speaking, or where / when scene A takes place in relation to scene B, all the world-building confidence can’t make turning the pages exciting.

This series is intended to chronicle an anti-Drac uprising, but from the first issue, I cannot tell you anything about anyone’s motivations, or what exactly is happening, and without an end-of-issue timeline I probably couldn’t even tell you that much.  Heck, I don’t even know if I could’ve connected who was narrating to whom without an intro page making it clear which were the main players.  The issue is structured like a “previously on…” supercut, but accidentally pieced together from all of the inbetween moments.

Yes, this is a one star review.  But I’m allowing for the slight wiggle room of “for fans only”, as well as the overall polish to the art and writing… even if stitched together into panels and pages it ultimately fails.