Graphic Novel of the Month: Realm of the Damned by Alec Worley & Simon Parr


Like classic horror? Heavy metal? Comic books?  Then look no further than Realm of the Damned as regular 2000 AD contributors Alec Worley and Simon Parr bring all these things gloriously together.

The world has been overrun by the supernatural and the worst kind of monsters and humanity is defenceless. And with the Vatican’s last line of defence – The Congregation – overrun by the supernatural forces of darkness, all hope has been lost. Former vampire hunter Alberic Van Helsing now spends his life fleeing across America from the creatures he once hunted whilst struggling with an addiction to blood. But when a delusional death metal frontman resurrects the evil demon lord Balaur in Norway, Van Helsing is forced back into action to prevent total destruction of human and monster alike.

If you’re in any way squeamish, this might not be the book for you, as the comic opens with an extremely violent resurrection ritual that is not for the faint of heart. If you have no such qualms, then there’s plenty to enjoy. Worley crafts a great tribute to iconic horror tales whilst putting his own spin on them. Realm of the Damned harkens back to several different great takes on modern horror ranging from Rob Zombie’s body of work to the manga series Hellsing, but at the same time brings plenty of new ideas to the table. Alberic makes for a compelling protagonist coming from a religious background and leading a happy family life until several unfortunate events resulting from his demon hunting endeavours destroys everything he had. He is introduced as broken man who is struggling with addiction and fleeing from his former life. Worley does a great job of throwing him back into his past role while at the same time fighting his own demons and trying to overcome his past trauma.

It’s not a stretch to put horror and heavy metal together as the two have gone hand in hand for quite some time, but it is not often that you see the two married together in comic book form. Being as this comic also functions as a back story to the Oslo black metal band Sons Of Balaur, it is natural to expect some crossover (and also some sample lyrics teasing their debut album), but beyond the band appearances and front man Tomas acting as Balaur’s servant and secondary antagonist, the comic evokes plenty of classic death metal imagery whether it be the demons, the gore or heavy metal blood ritual combos.

This is all aided by Simon Parr’s great art. He not only excels at drawing great monsters and violent sequences but is able to adjust to any pace required, whether it be more suspenseful moments like Alberic’s introduction as he stalks a vampire at a club, or the traumatic flashback sequences that Alberic endures when he is forced to relive his past. Worley gives Parr plenty to work with from traditional action sequences to more out-there moments such as Alberic’s rather shocking first encounter with the Vampire Vatican commander Petrova and a great take on mummies as he encounters the mummified ruler of the slums of Cairo, Queen Nemetari.

Horror fans will love this great take on classic monsters and those looking for a great celebration of death metal and an introduction to a new name in the Metal world will be more than satisfied.

Realm of the Damned will be published by Werewolf Press on 13 May 2016 (£16.99, p/b, 144pp, 9780993415807).

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