If you’re sick of vampires as the go-to mode for the modern Bryonic protagonist, chances are you’ll want to skip the new Wildstorm comic, Ides of Blood. Set in 44BC Rome, the mini-series posits a past where Julius Casear includes a piece of Transylvania in his conquests — and its vampire citizens were brought back to Rome in silver chains. A few of these bloodsuckers have managed to lift themselves out of slavery in the years since, but the division between living and the undead remains.
When a series of Roman aristos start getting bumped off, Valens, the vampiric head of the Praetorian Guard, is brought in to investigate. His investigation takes him to the “blood brothels” of Fang’s Alley, but not before a soothsayer shows up to warn our hero to “Beware the Ides of March.” Yup, the events in this series are set right within the frame of Skakespeare’s play, though from the cover of the first ish (Caesar surrounded by his assassins, one of whom is sporting fangs), it’s clear writer Stuart Paul and Christian Duce are working to put a modern fantasy spin on things.
Perhaps they’re working a little too hard, however, as writer Paul’s dialog occasionally comes across more TV cop show than it needs to be. (“Drained him dry,” a surly drunken Marc Antony states as he examines the bloated corpse of a murder victim. “Must have been one hungry bastard.”) Still Christian Duce’s art, aided by Carlos Badilla’s scarlet/orange tinged colorings, effectively captures the alt world Roman setting: more believably than the 1953 movie version of Julius Caesar, say. Duce’s treatment of the desolate Fang’s Alley is especially convincing.
It all ties into a vampire rebellion simmering in the story background, which promises much bloody action beyond the inevitable Et tu, Brute in upcoming issues. How in tune you’ll be with all this pulp fabulism may depend on your fondness for vampire fiction or warped revisions of the Bard, though. I’ll admit I’m more intrigued by the latter. Do they still make students plow through that play in high school?