It’s only taken a dozen issues, but Tomb of Dracula finally lets the vampire hunters get the upper hand. They get there the same way Dracula usually does—the writer surprising both the reader and the targets. The move isn’t quite a twist—it comes as a hard cliffhanger—and it’s nice to see writer Marv Wolfman mixing things up a bit. Not sure how many times he’ll be able to do it before it’s a trope, but this first time it works.
The issue ends with a lengthy, exciting action sequence. The vampire hunters—recovered from Edith Harker’s death—have tracked Dracula to the little English town where he’s been hiding. He’s going into the battle with a handicap; it’s almost daylight, and he’s got tired brain. But he’s still got time to do away with those pesky vampire hunters.
Gene Colan and Tom Palmer are on art, and it’s a lovely issue in that department. The art’s always good, starting with the vampire hunters bickering immediately after Edith’s death. Except when they show a shopkeep a sketch of Dracula, which alerts the Count and seemingly mind wipes the shopkeep. That sketch is a hoot. Colan and Palmer’s art is quite successful in its verisimilitude, bringing together all the comic’s disparate elements—modern London, Blaxploitation star Blade, Dracula himself—but that sketch is silly. The comic’s going into its most thrilling portion, but the most compelling question is who drew that picture and was it with crayon.
It was probably Frank Drake, who starts the issue not consoling girlfriend Rachel Van Helsing about dead Edith, leaving it for Taj. Frank’s got to pontificate instead. Blade tells him to snap out of it, Frank yells at Blade, they calm down, then Quincy agrees with Blade. That pattern repeats itself a few more times in the issue. I get unexceptional white male leads, but events always showing they’re wrong, but they never learn from their mistakes is not good writing. It’s reality, but it’s not good writing.
We also get a flashback to Blade’s origin, though not the half-vampire stuff yet. Just his mom getting murdered while giving birth to him. The vampire they call is a doctor, which makes him the third vampire doctor in Tomb. At first, the most interesting part of the flashback is how they’re coding the mom giving birth in a brothel, but then it’s how could Blade possibly know most of the story since the only person in the room with the vampire is his dead mom. Exquisite art and all, but it goes on long enough for the incongruity to solidify.
More interestingly, we get some insight into Dracula’s plan. He’s been biting people, not turning them into vampires, but instead into sleeper agents. His first victim is another woman he saves from a rapist. I’m not sure the last time we’ve seen Dracula kill a random woman in Tomb; he’s done it off-page, but we haven’t done the hunting in a while. So my idea for a Gene Colan art book of his panels of the bat swooping in on an unsuspecting British girl on the countryside won’t work out.
The sleeper agent bit is cool, as is Dracula going to a boxing match and deciding sports are dumb, and so are the humans watching them. He says it more artfully. His hideout, however, is a little silly. It’s the village mortuary. Functional, sure, but weird Dracula’s going to screw up this small town’s only funeral service.
Oh, speaking of weird. The timeline is a mess. The story opens at the end of last issue, then presumably jumps ahead to the next night. Dracula goes to the boxing match, then goes home. It takes him a long time to get home, and it’s almost dawn, but he sees a carnival in town. It’s only important because a cop working the carnival duty knows Quincy and calls in the vampire bat. The vampire bats are apparently ginormous, so they’re noticeable.
The overnight carnival is just odd.
But, odd aside, it’s a good issue. Dracula’s a personable villain protagonist, the art’s phenomenal, and the end action sequence is aces.