Time for another round of heavy metal horror as 2000 AD regulars Alec Worley and Pye Parr reunite for the prequel to their 2016 horror comic Realm of The Damned: Tenebris Deos!
It’s the early 15th century. Athena is struggling to defend her ancestral home from the predations of the Ottoman Empire when she learns that House Petrova has struck a fateful pact with the Church of Rome. Desperate to save her land and driven by demons of her own, the pagan vampire commits the ultimate blasphemy: Athena forges a living weapon with which she will rout the enemies of Transylvania. But this is a weapon that cares for nothing but blood and butchery, and Athena may realise too late that she has started a fire that will consume both herself and the world.
Anyone who read Tenebris Deos will know exactly what to expect – gore filled horror with a heavy metal aesthetic. This time though, the focus is on one of the most memorable characters of the previous instalment, the vampire queen Athena. The story is mostly told in flashback and reveals how she came to be a vampire and eventually the ruler of her clan. Like the protagonist of the original instalment Alberic, Athena has a somewhat religious background. But where Alberic’s shaped him into a force for good, Athena’s experience is far more negative, leading her to accepting the chance to be a vampire. Worley does not give us much chance to be sympathetic towards her though as she quickly adapts to the vampire way of life in a ruthless fashion.
Once again, there is an incredible amount of horror lore to be delved into – reminiscent of the classic Transylvanian vampire tales, whilst at the same time looking like the cover of a Slayer album. Parr is once again on top form in all aspects. The monster that populate the story all look terrifying with the monstrosity Athena creates to aid her battle topping the list in that regard. The monochrome colouring (with a generous helping of red) is once again highly effective and gives the whole story a grisly tone for maximum impact. The opening sequence, when Athena discovers a traitor in the midst of her clan, is particularly strong and sets the tone for what to expect next.
Signum Draconis is, like its predecessor, a great throwback to classic horror stories whilst fully embracing the heavy metal culture that the genre helped inspire. Fans of great horror comics (with a healthy dose of gore) need look no further.
Realm of The Damned: Signum Draconis by Alec Worley & Simon Parr is published by Werewolf Press on 6 September (9780993415821, p/b, £16.99)