Published on June 23rd, 2014 | by Steven Roman
Review: The Blood Queen #1
Dark-fantasy and horror fans are familiar with the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, the sixteenth-century Hungarian noblewoman who infamously discovered a unique skin-care regimen: bathing in the blood of virgin girls. In reality, no evidence exists that she did this; according to court testimony during her two trials, she was more of a sadist who got off on torturing her young victims before occasionally murdering them. Her reputation as “the Blood Countess,” and her later connection to vampirism, grew in part because one of her countrymen was Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Vlad Dracula, who went on to inspire Bram Stoker’s most famous novel, Dracula. (In fact, one of Bathory’s ancestors had fought beside Tepes against Turkish invaders in the 1400s.) Although she was never convicted of any crimes, her family sealed Bathory up in her bedchamber, where she died four years later.
Which brings us to The Blood Queen #1, Dynamite Comics’ latest entry in their growing list of female-led horror titles, joining the recently relaunched Vampirella and the upcoming reboots of the Chaos Comics femme fatales Purgatori and Chastity. (Hmm…with all this cleavage on display, you’d almost think Dynamite was trying to revive the 1990s notorious “bad-girl era” as a counterbalance to their many pulp-fiction titles. That would certainly be good news for loyal readers of Comics For Sinners!)
In “Reign of Blood,” we’re introduced to Sir Ferenc (named after Bathory’s real-life husband, Count Ferenc Nadasdy, I’d imagine), a knight on a mission to save the life of his king and queen’s baby daughter. He’s been dispatched to the spellcasters-in-training camp of the Daughters of the Line to fetch the elder, Winnifred, to see if she can succeed where King Trevian’s physicians and in-house wizard have failed. Winnifred instead sends back Elizabeth, a much younger woman whom the elder insists is far more adept at healing magic now than she. But there’s more than just concern for the child in Winnifred’s mind—she has a mysterious plan that requires Elizabeth to put into play. But first Elizabeth has to solve the mystery of the illness afflicting the royals’ baby, and find out who’s responsible…
My first thought upon opening the preview copy was, “Hmm… a dark-fantasy comic featuring a leading lady with…ample charms and a flirtatious nature. This sort of reminds me of one of those Grimm Fairy Tales titles published by Zenescope Comics.” That reaction made even greater sense when a little Google-fu revealed that writer Troy Brownfield happens to be a writer for Grimm Fairy Tales. Well, I’ll say this: he certainly knows his dark-fantasy tropes and how to use them. Blood Queen’s plot involves a virtuous, shining knight in armor; a king and queen whose only child has been bewitched; a grumpy old wizard; and a self-assured, sexy heroine from an ancient order of sorceresses.
The question is, with all these fantasy standards at play, will the story’s end result involve vampirism as the series title, and Brownfield’s admitted nod in interviews to Lady Bathory’s legend, would suggest? Perhaps; perhaps not. There’s a lot of talk of blood magic in this first issue, which leads me to believe that the queen of blood will be of a mystical, rather than supernatural, nature. We’ll have to see what happens as Elizabeth’s journey continues.
Brownfield’s creative partner, Fritz Casas, may not have the same Zenescope pedigree, but his background as an artist for Dynamite’s Red Sonja: Berserker one-shot (written by new Vampirella scribe Nancy A. Collins) and Queen Sonja series has amply prepared him for this latest sword-and-sorcery project. His action sequences are top-notch, his “camera” angles and storytelling keep each scene moving, even the quiet ones, and he certainly knows how to draw attractive women. My one complaint is that he’ll sometimes cut corners on his backgrounds, relying on his colorists to make up for the lack of details. Two scenes in the king’s throne room are missing walls, a floor, decorations, and tapestries—and, in the case of a panel on the last page, background characters in plain sight are missing feet!
Bottom line? If you’re a fan of fantasy, dark fantasy, or Zenescope-like leading ladies, then give The Blood Queen a try. This first issue is a slow build-up, but I have a feeling that when it comes to blood, the queen’s story will reach a Game of Thrones level of carnage before it reaches its conclusion.
The Blood Queen #1
“Reign in Blood”
Written by Troy Brownfield
Art by Fritz Casas
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
32 pages • full-color