Tomb of Dracula (1972) #16

Tod16

It’s a horror mystery starring Dracula. Some skeleton is coming to life and terrorizing people, only he’s after specific people, not just everyone. Based on writer Marv Wolfman’s descriptions, it’s more a zombie than a skeleton, but there’s still such a thing as the Comics Code, so it’s a skeleton in the art. The text adds the gore.

The issue opens with the skeleton murdering someone, then running away, so it starts with the mystery, including bringing in Scotland Yard inspector Chelm for the case. Chelm’s been in the comic before, maybe a dozen issues ago; he was support for the vampire hunter plots. So now he gets to do his own investigating one—including solving the case, which Dracula can’t do on his own.

Dracula will get involved because the skeleton steals some of Drac’s snacks—disposing of a couple graverobbers who Dracula had been watching with dinner time intent. Because Dracula’s a macho asshole, the next time he comes across the skeleton, he wants to fight. Only the skeleton’s not likely anything else Dracula’s fought.

There are some late contrivances—Dracula just happens to recognize a name relevant to the story, this person just happened to want to be a Dracula groupie (but presumably remain human)—and then the mystery solution is too rushed. But it’s a good, different kind of Tomb of Dracula story. Wolfman provides an elaborate setting for artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer to play in. The skeleton is terrifying. It’s absent personality in its face—the unmoving skull—so Colan uses movement to create presence. It’s great work and helps get the comic through the rockier conclusion. Not really rocky, just not as smooth as some of the earlier scenes.

The story seems to be a done-in-one unless something happens to Dracula immediately following the finish; he doesn’t worry about daylight any time in the issue, so it’s presumably imminent. Otherwise, there’s no character or plot development. Maybe Dracula and Chelm being chill—because Chelm calls Harker, who desperately wants to tag along, but Chelm doesn’t bring him in. Oh, and then we check in with the mysterious Doctor Sun to kick the can down the road a bit more.

It’s a standard horror story, but it’s just a little different thanks to Dracula’s involvement. Really good, except for the last couple of pages, but they’re forgivable, especially after the gorgeous art.

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