This issue starts with the Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I read in reprint. I’m not going to check the original novel, but I’m not sure Stoker had Jonathan Harker be a shitty racist about China (complaining about how their trains ran in 1897). Harker writes in his diary about how after he and Mina get married, they can get screwing… well, maybe Stoker implied it. Never heard a lot of good about Stoker.
The adaptation covers Harker’s arrival in Transylvania up to Dracula opening the door. He goes from train to village to carriage to Dracula’s carriage; for those familiar with the novel (or faithful adaptations), there are good looks at the carriage driver, who’ll turn out to be Drac in disguise. I’m waiting to see if Giordano has visual consistency.
Harker’s far from a sympathetic protagonist as he Karens his way through Eastern Europe, but the goings-on are mysterious (Dracula’s marking the buried treasure blue flames, though Harker doesn’t know it yet), and the art is absolutely gorgeous. Giordano works his whole ass off on the art. It’s magnificent.
And the writing’s fine. Thomas does Harker’s narration well, does his snooty, British superiority well; so far, there’s nothing else.
Though it’s a relatively quick read, sort of half an act.
While that feature is pretty impressive, the rest of the issue is a less exciting Dracula Lives. And not just because of the text pieces. They apparently ran out of old Atlas strips to run and instead have more original text ones, including Gerry Conway doing a full story. Doug Moench’s Transylvania “travelogue” and Dracula: Prince of Darkness reviews are far more successful. Chris Claremont also contributes a book review (Raymond Rudorff’s The Dracula Archives) and there’s a new feature: “Coffin Chronicles,” upcoming Dracula in other media.
The second original story is also written by Conway, who again does much better in these Lives stories than he did in Tomb, though Frank Springer’s got some odd designs. He does full Bela Lugosi Count Dracula (albeit with an angular, gaunt face), but it’s set before the French Revolution. Dracula goes to France, where he tangles with magician Cagliostro for the first time.
The Cagliostro stories have been running in Lives for a while, only in the present. Dracula’s convinced his old foe’s still kicking and is trying to take him out. This story provides the backstory of their rivalry. Or at least the very beginnings of it.
After surviving an assassination attempt, Dracula bribes his way onto Louis XVI’s court. Cagliostro’s already there and already trying to do away with the Count.
It’s an okay but somewhat awkward story. It’s too short because it’s got a part two coming, and while Springer’s art is often good, his designs are not.
The one reprint is a reasonably solid effort with art by Sid Greene. A reporter goes to a village where they feed their local vampire farm animals, and the vampire’s nice to everyone. Unfortunately, some loudmouth in the village convinces everyone they need to get rid of the vampire, which has terrible repercussions. It’s five pages; maybe it could’ve been four, but okay.
The third original story is a disappointment. Not in terms of art. Gene Colan with Pablo Marcos inking. The art’s remarkable. The story not so much.
Tony Isabella writes based on a Marv Wolfman story. It’s Dracula on a plane. Some incel is going to blow the plane up to watch everyone die, only Dracula’s got to get back to the Big Apple and his waiting coffin. It’s a follow-up to his Hollywood adventure last issue.
While no one else on the plane can handle the terrorist (white guy), Dracula’s sure he can handle it. But apparently, Drac doesn’t understand explosives. He also doesn’t think to mist his way behind the guy. It’s not very well-thought-out by Dracula or Isabella.
But the art’s fabulous. The final gag is neat, though it breaks a bunch of vampire rules continuity, both within the story and elsewhere in the issue. But I was expecting a lot more from it. I wonder if Wolfman had the whole story idea or just the setup. Or maybe just the good punchline.
Then there’s a one-page “The Boyhood of Dracula” strip to close the issue; Isabella writing, Val Mayerik on art. It’s about when the Turks imprisoned young Vlad Tepes and tortured him. It’s a fairly tepid account and seems like filler. I was expecting more from it as well.
Still, the novel adaptation makes it more than worth the read, plus Conway’s writing is good on the too-short France story, and Marcos inking Colan is sublime.