Some of you may have noticed that while my previous focus during Spooktoberfest has been directed towards more witchity matters, this year’s had a pretty heavy emphasis on vampires. From Hellsing to Tomb of Dracula, from Becky Burdock to the Man From Transilvane, things have been downright Nosferatish around here all month, and believe it or not, there’s a reason for that.
Along with carving the Jack O’Lantern and plotting to get my Christmas tree up as early as is socially acceptable, one of my Halloween traditions is a marathon play-through of the greatest side-scrolling, platform-jumping, vampire-whipping video game saga of all time: Castlevania.
Of course, given that the original NES title spawned something like eight thousand sequels, I don’t play through all of them, but with the classic Symphony of the Night available for PSP and XBox Live and the best generation of Castlevania happening on the current generation of handhelds (largely because they’ve been using SOTN as the blueprint to build on since the GameBoy Advance), there was more than enough to keep me busy in the run-up to this month’s release of the latest title, Order of Ecclesia.
But sadly, like so many things I love, their brief union with the world of comics was… well, not very good.
Released with a resounding thud in 2005, IDW’s Castlevania: The Belmont Legacy came courtesy of Marc Andreyko (of DC’s Manhunter) and E.J. Su (of TechJacket), and I think it’s safe to say that it’s not their best work. Which, when you think about it, is pretty odd.
Admittedly, licensed horror comics based around video games probably aren’t going to be anyone’s ticket to the Eisner Awards, but when you consider just how much there is to work with in Castlevania, owing to its firm roots in Nintendo Logic, it’s surprising that they didn’t just go all out with it. I mean, this is a series that had to have an entire game built around explaining why the main character fights Dracula with a whip (aside from the fact that it was easier to draw a straight line of pixels than anything else, and the kids love Indiana Jones anyway), so trust me, there’s plenty there to explore.
Me, I would’ve gone for Castlevania III in an attempt to explain how a vampire hunter, a pirate and a witch hooked up with Dracula’s kid in the first place, but instead, Andreyko tells the story of Christopher Belmont:
As the protagonist of the GameBoy titles, Christopher’s probably the least-known hero of the series, which makes him a pretty strange choice to build a series around, but that also means that he’s a essentially a blank slate. Plus, he’s got one of the best titles of the series, Belmont’s Revenge, from back when everything had to involve Symphonies and Arias and Harmonies and Rondos and the Cha-Cha of the Damned or whatever. And yes: You do see his sex face. So really, everything should be good to go, except for one glaring problem.
There is no Goddamn castle in this story.
Okay, well, that’s an exaggeration. There is a castle, but Christopher’s only in it for a grand total of three pages, and everything of any importance takes place either in a village or in a cave. Seriously, dude fights Dracula in a fucking cave. Which would be fine, if this were Caveavania, but it’s not.
Look, I might be a bit of a purist here, and I’ll admit that I’m probably a little more emotionally invested in the series than the average guy, but I imagine that the target audience for a tie-in comic is going to be the same way, and there are certain things I expect to see from a Castlevania book. The series is essentially a Haunted House story writ large, and it oughtta reflect that. I want an entrance hall with zombies in it. I want someone to fight their way from the ground up to confront Dracula. I want a damn Clock Tower where you fight Death itself.
In short, I want a Castle, and considering that this thing is called Castlevania, I don’t think that’s too much to ask, now is it?!
Whoa. Sorry about that, guys. I know I get a little carried away sometimes, but c’mon: We’ve all played Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. We know how bad things can get when there’s no Castle involved.
So what do they do in lieu of looking for save points and grinding for swords in the Inverted Library? Well, considering that this thing is a five-issue mini-series, not a whole hell of a lot.
In fact, aside from a graveyard full of zombies that’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds, there’s not a lot of monster-fighting at all. Instead, the first issue is devoted mostly to Senor Belmont’s wedding to future kidnapping victim Illya, which is the source of some consternation to Lord Bartley and his daughter Sona, who will be playing the role of the Buxom Harlot this evening:
Coincidentally, that is exactly what Christopher wants, but that’s beside the point here.
With her affections are sternly rebuked and Illya going off to get hitched, Sona does what so many broken-hearted young girls have done in her situation: She goes to resurrect Dracula, the Ultimate Lord of Evil, who is once again given flesh and then steadfastly refuses to wear clothes at any point for the rest of the series:
Thus, Belmont goes off to kill Dracula, Mrs. Belmont sneaks off to help and is immediately taken hostage by the forces of evil, a couple of supporting characters whose names I didn’t catch get turned into vampires, everybody fights in a cave, and it all somehow works out okay.
Seriously, that’s it. There is even less plot here than in the original game, but it goes on for five issues without even a single Medusa Head.
And yet, it does have this.
The Dracula Fetus.
Why they put a question mark after “The End” there, the world may never know.