It perhaps sums up how much Hammer Films were floundering in the early 1970s that when Brian Clemens delivered Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter for them – a film designed to reinvent the flagging Hammer format without frightening the horses too much, and designed very much as the first in a series of films – they stuffed it away on the bottom half of a double bill with the tired, end-of-the-line effort Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell in 1973, with Hammer head Michael Carreras subsequently expressing his bafflement at the film.
Kronos refused to die, though – Dez Skinn’s House of Hammer magazine revived the character for a new three-part comic strip adventure in 1976 (the film itself was adapted in 1978), and over the years, Kronos has built quite the cult following, its mix of rollicking adventure, gothic horror and Avengers-style quirkiness making it a fairly unique and very entertaining experience. Ideally, the revived Hammer should be pitching Kronos as a TV series – it’s an idea whose time has come – but until someone has the vision to do that, we have this new comic book series, part of a new Hammer line from Titan.
Written by Dan Abnett, this first issue sets up a new story, re-introducing the characters from the first film (this seems to be a direct follow-on from that story) with some tweaking – at the end of the film, love-interest Carla is left behind (for Kronos to pull new squeezes along the way, like Bond I assume), but here she is part of the team – and narrates the story – alongside hunchback and vampire expert Grost. She’s also transformed into a kick-ass action hero, albeit one who still gets to show off a lot of cleavage as the trio battle a horde of vampires in the opening pages. Thinks certainly start with a bang, and we’re some fourteen pages in before the plot proper begins, with Kronos and crew welcomed to a town beset by the vampire Slake and his army of the undead.
The comic sticks with the ideas first promoted in the film – that there are many kinds of vampires, and many different ways to kill them – and uses the freedom of the format to open up the story and give it a grand scale. Of course, this first chapter in the story ends on a tease, before Kronos and Slake lock horns, but it sets things up nicely.
The artwork by Tom Mandrake fits the mood nicely – slick but not too smooth, it brings real atmosphere when needed. If the characters are not quite as we remember them, then that’s fine – this is, after all, a new version.
Monthly comic books are a bugger to collect these days (this first issue has three variant covers, including the Caroline Munro glamour shot – ironically from Dracula AD 1972 – we’ve obviously chosen), and there will be a collected edition of the story down the line for those of us too distracted to keep up. But monthly or collected, this looks to be an impressive series.