Count Draco Knuckleduster (#1) – Peter Goral, Joseph Schmalke

3 out of 5

Im trying to extract a response from this completely setting aside it’s background, but I feel like our world is so thoroughly steeped in nostalgia – whether direct, inherited, or “learned” through referential media like big ol’ Star Wars movies – that even doing so means it’s clear that ‘Count Draco’ is pulling from a particular style / era for its look and tone. So when I explain that Peter Goral created a purposefully retro toy figure series, one of which is the titular character of this book, and crafted backstories for them, and was then approached to expand to a comic by artist / writer Joseph Schmalke… you will nod, because that makes sense.

But again, even ignoring that, the Darth Vader and He-Man vibes run strong in this book, and Schmalke does a fun balance of 80s-style Marvel art + 80s cartoon colors, both given a modern indie comics smear, to drive that home. And all of that is fun, nostalgia bells absolutely blaring, but our origin story perhaps may suggest one of the problems: this is all very frontloaded with lore, and it’s frontloaded with lore initially designed for a different purpose – to completely set up a standalone toy series. Surely work was done to reconfigure that for a floppy, but nonetheless, every dang page – if not panel – there’s a new cheeky term or magical spell or fantasy trope thrown our way, and our secondary lead is named Starkiller, for goodness sake, so… yeah. If we were all in on making a silly one-off, you could lampshade it even more, but because of the pre-installed backstory, Goral and Schmalke are juggling shtick with trying to build a legit story, and the juggling is certainly skillful, but also not a new trick, regardless of how many flaming chainsaws are there.

It is a good looking book. It absolutely entertains. Am I immersed in the Knuckleduster universe? Not quite.