blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Tomb of Dracula (1972) #5


Oh, good grief. When I complained ad nauseam about Archie Goodwin’s writing, it didn’t occur to me Marvel would’ve found someone worse to do an issue. Gardner Fox scripts this issue, and, yikes, is it a bad script. While not every line of dialogue has fifty percent exposition—Frank Drake mentions Dracula’s ancestor every time he says Dracula, someone mentioning Taj is mute, some kind of call back to the last issue—many of them do. It’s a jumping-on issue with nothing to induce anyone to keep reading Tomb of Dracula. Except, obviously, the art.

Though Fox doesn’t do the obnoxious second-person narration. He does a profoundly purple, mostly adjective instead; if there were more of it, I’d say the second-person’s better, but it’s relatively sparse. Rather, the terrible dialogue’s endless. There’s no winning.

The issue begins with Dracula and Taj going into a netherworld where demons attack them. Dracula’s pretty sure it’s a Satanic dimension—he tries invoking Satan’s name to send the demons away—but he has to fight them anyway. Plus, he realizes he can’t feed on them, so he’s got to keep Taj alive.

Meanwhile, back in 616, Rachel Van Helsing and Frank realize what’s happened and set out following into the black mirror. Now, when I say “realize what’s happening,” I mean they figure out the exact events from last issue on a series of baseless guesses. What’s even more inexplicable is how it all works out. Dracula got the code for the time-traveling, interdimensional mirror from Ilsa, who intentionally didn’t tell him how to get anyway, just into the mirror and the demon dimension. Dracula then finds his way through another mirror, which takes him back to Transylvania just after Bram Stoker’s novel. He’s dead; Van Helsing is out of town. Dracula wants to off him, so he’s got to wait around.

So, Ilsa initially tried selling her deal on Dracula being able to go to his own past, and he said, hell, no, I won’t go. Rachel and Frank immediately assume he’s going to the past Transylvania, which is a big assumption.

When Dracula gets to the past, he locks up Taj, who he didn’t need to save, as it turns out, and heads to his castle. There he’s got a female vampire locked in a bottle. He’ll release her before the end of the issue so she can attack the vampire hunters while he’s busy doing other things. Not the point. The point is the time-traveling. He doesn’t find his own body in the castle, where it should be, and the lady vampire in the bottle isn’t there in the present either.

The story would make more sense if Fox’s job was to lay this asinine plot out on Gene Colan and Tom Palmer’s existing art. For instance, Abraham Van Helsing has a one-panel cameo; if they were doing a big-time travel story, shouldn’t he be in it more? There’s nothing about time travel in the visuals, just the mirror transporting people. Sure, the castle’s destroyed in the present, but it’d make more sense if it wasn’t Dracula’s castle, wouldn’t it?

Or maybe Fox’s writing is just terrible. The disconnection between the art and the writing is real, though; there’s a story. There’s got to be.

The first few pages with the demon dimension are surprisingly iffy art. Not sure I believe Palmer was inking Colan on those pages because pretty soon, it looks great again. Even if it’s rushed and ill-suited for the story.

Such a strange book. Writing-wise, it keeps falling on its face while the art’s consistently fantastic.

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