24 July.--There seems some doom over this ship. Already a hand short, and entering the Bay of Biscay with wild weather ahead, and yet last night another man lost, disappeared. Like the first, he came off his watch and was not seen again. Men all in a panic of fear, sent a round robin, asking to have double watch, as they fear to be alone. Mate angry. Fear there will be some trouble, as either he or the men will do some violence. (from the Captain's log, Dracula by Bram Stoker)
ZC Rating 4 of 7: Very Good
The doomed voyage of the Russian schooner Demeter, in Bram Stoker's Dracula, is one of the more horrific passages in the novel. Imagine being trapped aboard a ship with the blood-thirsty devil: there's nowhere to hide that's safe; no one strong enough to save you; no one living to hear you scream. Budgetary necessity forced the removal of this terror by night from Bela Lugosi's Dracula, and there's been no movie to date--although The Last Voyage of the Demeter has been in production limbo for years--that has chronicled the ship's encounter with the undead nobleman. Bram Stoker himself only provides a few tantalizing glimpses into the terrible fate of the crew through the Captain's log entries.
Now writer Gary Gerani and artist Stuart Sayger take over the ship's wheel to navigate those days of dread and death. There's a formidable challenge inherent in describing the Demeter's last days: we know how it ends. It's hard to build suspense when you know nobody survives. Or will they here?
Sayger's artwork takes much of it's power from the non-glossy paper, providing a rough, muted canvas for his water-colored hues that bring life to his inked lines. He has a knack for capturing the salt in the sea air, the splinter's in the mast's wood, and the terror stalking the deck. Gerani's characters are hardened men of the sea, a spirited captain, and one very young sailor still enamored by the wonders of the sky and the water when seen from the crow's nest. Then there's Anatole, a savage brute of a seaman who revels in his manliness. How will he handle the intruder onboard, one savage pitted against another?
This first issue's 22-pages bring the crewmen, the mysterious boxes of earth, and Dracula together for the last voyage of the Demeter in a promisingly dramatic way. Even though we know what should happen, Gerani and Sayger give us flesh and blood people to be concerned over--except, maybe, for Anatole--and Sayger's splash illustration for the vampire during one of his attack's, rendered murkily, as if seen through mist, indicates the white gloves are off. If the momentum begun in this issue continues, the power of Dracula over the living and the elements will provide a vivid and suspenseful confrontation; the one Bram Stoker alludes to in his novel.