In Ides of Blood, writer Stuart Paul presents a world where Romans and vampires co-exist, for the Romans conquered Transylvania and subsequently enslaved the vampire race. Julius Caesar is fairly well-obsessed with the bloodsuckers, collecting paraphernalia such as fake fangs and knick-knacks from Dracula's Tomb. He goes so far as to elevate Valens, a vamp slave, to a member of his esteemed Praetorian Guard. There's a rogue vampire killing off politically powerful mortals, and Caesar wants Valens to track it down. Meanwhile, the Ides of March loom...
Fiction of both a supernatural variety and of an historical variety is hot right now, as is evidenced by shows such as True Blood and Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It's a no-brainer, then, that some enterprising sort would combine the two genres. Unfortunately, the result is middling at best.
A large problem here is the dialogue, which is largely of the awkward MODERNIZED! variety. Take this exchange, which comes after the body of Caesar's right-hand man is discovered:
- "Strap on your sandals. We've got a floater down at the Capitoline bath."
- "Someone ought to tell Antony to quit taking a dump in the pool."
The updatening of metaphors and the such renders most of the conversations silly and juvenile, at a complete disservice to the purported political intrigue at play. Our "two-dollar hookers" are "one-denarius sluts". Just...give me some revisionist history and some solid characters, and fuck trying to make 'em sound like the cast of The Real World.
Meanwhile, the art also straddles two lines: serviceable and incomprehensible. While Christian Duce's work is solid in terms of anatomy and rendering, it's also weak in terms of layout and storytelling, particularly during action sequences. It doesn't help that characters too closely resemble one another- in fact, each woman is indistinguishable from the next: all of the vampire prostitutes look the same, and they in turn look just like Caesar's niece Octavia. The muddy colors and huge amounts of shadows (frequently obscuring faces altogether) only add to the confusion.
Perhaps Ides of Blood will find its footing in future issues as it delves deeper into political waters; right now, however, it only proves that two great tastes don't always taste great together.