Ides of Blood #1
Written by Stuart C. Paul
Illustrated by Christian Duce
Colored by Carlos Badilla
Lettered by Johnny Lowe
Cover art by Michael Geiger
Published by DC/Wildstorm
So here’s the premise behind Ides of Blood: during Caesar’s rule of the Roman empire, vampires are real and have recently begun to move from life as slaves to members of society, including the series protagonist Valens, head of the Praetorian guard. Amidst various political infighting, a vampire killer is on the loose and Valens must bring the murderer to justice.
Problem is, the first issue isn’t very good. Stuart C. Paul’s efforts to imbue the series backdrop with political intrigue fall short as none of the characters display much range beyond general and nondescript political chicanery. For every good line of dialogue, Paul offers a clumsy phrasing that doesn’t fit the story’s historical context. (For example, the commercial caption on page seven, ending with the line “Act quickly! Sale ends upon the ides of March”.) In the end, the issue reads more like a failed movie or TV pitch shoehorned into comics so that it can be repackaged and sold back to Hollywood.
The art, though detailed and solid in its anatomy, struggles with the basics of page layouts (the final four pages barely touch the fringes of coherence), and Christian Duce’s character designs need sharpening. It’s difficult to distinguish characters when switching from scene to scene. Granted, Duces’s line art is done no favors by the monochromatic coloring, which buries the details in murky reds and browns. Perhaps a more natural color palette would help the characters stand out a little more than they do.
Ides of Blood reads like an attempt to cross any of a thousand recently popular vampire stories with an HBO drama series (Rome likely being mentioned in the series pitch), but its still just a marginal horror fantasy riff that isn’t bringing anything new to readers.