“IDES OF BLOOD” #1 (Comic Review)

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Originally published on August 28,2010 at Fangoria.com

Wildstorm Comics’ IDES OF BLOOD has debuted as a most inventive take on Roman history and vampire fiction. The first issue delivers a thrilling mystery encompassing politics, scandal and murder.

In an alternate universe, Julius Caesar and his unbeatable army have violently conquered the Transylvanian kingdom of Dacia. The ambitious ruler has become obsessed with legendary tales about the immortal undead, and as the Romans arrive as the conquering nation, the children of the night are shackled in chains and tortured with silver. Vampires who once ran free and wild are now the eternal slaves of this repressive society.

But something is stirring amongst the enraged captives. A disobedient bloodsucker, known as the Pluto’s Kiss Killer, has been rebelling against his masters, striking at prominent Roman figures. The murderer leaves a calling card for all witnesses to see: a bloody message on the walls reading “No More Chains” that can be seen as either inspiration to the slaves or a warning to their oppressors. Brutus, adopted son of Caesar, wants to ignite a full-scale war against the vampire lower class, as no one will be safe if the workforce becomes freed from their chains. The Senate, described as a room full of jackals, must decide if they should wage a massive battle against corpses who just happen to pay taxes.

Before anarchy ignites amongst the slaves, Caesar seeks the advice from the only “person” he can trust—a bloodsucker named Valens. For two years, Valens spent his service washing Caesar’s feet, and he has risen through the ranks, facing prejudice along the way, to become the leader of the unstoppable Praetorian Guard. Caesar orders him to betray and hunt his own malevolent kind—and Valens will do so to win the ruler’s favor, while secretly having an affair with his human niece. Now playing detective, Valens attempts to chase down the stealthy serial killer, rummaging through dark alleys, barging into underground hideouts and interrogating lowly snitches. The clues lead him directly to a violent confrontation at a blood brothel, a vicious brawl between flesheating wolves and giant flying bats.

Author Stuart C. Paul has crafted a period vampire detective story that offers a unique twist on the noir genre, and Christian Duce’s artwork creates a dark and grim world, with flowing rivers of blood amidst the ancient Roman environment. The panels are stylistically washed with red and orange tones. An intriguing start to the six-issue miniseries, IDES OF BLOOD #1 captures ancient history as it provides the allure of the supernatural. Be sure not to miss this bloody spectacle.