I’m trying to decide if this issue is lackluster or if I’m just peeved I’ve managed to outpace Tomb of Dracula in my Dracula Lives read-through. The first story refers to future issues of Tomb, which would be spoilers if the comics weren’t fifty years old and I hadn’t read them already. Well, except this Lives.
The first story is from Steve Gerber, who does a better job than his last story in Lives, but it’s just a Tomb of Dracula story. Complete with Gene Colan pencils. Inked by none other than Ernie Chan, who does… dare I say it… a fine job. It’s easily the best art in the comic, though they’ve only got one serious contender, unfortunately.
Dracula’s off in Rome, hunting a priest who knows a dangerous spell—dangerous to Dracula, anyway—except there’s all sorts of Christian imagery around, which Drac doesn’t like. Crucifixes don’t cause physical damage; Dracula just really doesn’t like looking at them. It’s a far more amusing distinction than it should be, especially since it just means they haven’t thought through the 616 vampire lore.
But it’s Colan illustrating the Vatican, Dracula in disguise; it’s a good read even if it’s just a “too extreme for Comics Code” story. No way they’d let Dracula off a bunch of priests in the regular series. So it’s rote, I’m reading it out of order, but it’s also perfectly okay. And it’s gorgeous.
The text pieces might be some of the issue’s luster lacking. Doug Moench contributes a lengthy historical Dracula piece, which is fine, but it doesn’t allow him to show much personality. Later, when Tony Isabella takes over the Hammer film criticism (Dracula Has Risen from the Grave), the write-up severely lacks Moench’s personality from previous entries.
Then Thompson O’Rourke writes a prose story with Chan art. It fills pages, not much else.
The only Atlas reprint is a quick one illustrated by Mac Pakula; four pages. A man is convinced his newly arrived brother is a vampire terrorizing the town and has to deal with it before the villagers get wise. It’s middling; Pakula’s art always seems like it’s going to get better but never does, then ends up working against the story.
The second original story’s the weakest in the issue, though for complicated reasons. Isabella writes, with John Buscema and Pablo Marcos doing the art. I read the credits thinking I was in for a treat. Instead, I got a decent French Revolution history lesson from Isabella and a meandering Dracula tale. All Isabella’s energy goes into the lesson, not into integrating Dracula.
The story’s a direct continuation from last issue—a different team—and continues the Dracula vs. Cagliostro stories they’ve been doing since Lives started. Only Cagliostro has almost nothing to do with this story, certainly not the rivalry between him and Dracula, and instead focuses on the French Revolution aspect. Fine, but it’s a Dracula comic… right?
I don’t know if it’s Buscema’s pencils or Marcos’s inks, but the art never delivers either. While some of the faces are good—not Dracula’s, ever—the figures are usually off, like Buscema’s drawing them too big for Marcos’s inks.
It’s a rather disappointing story.
Luckily, the second chapter in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula adaptation is fine. And has Jonathan Harker realizing Dracula was his carriage driver last issue, though he makes the connection in narration, not thanks to the art.
This entry covers Harker’s arrival at the castle—burning through at least a page on recap, which is interesting—and Dracula attending his guest. They get through the shaving scene, Dracula telling Harker to write home and say he won’t be back, and Harker getting lost throughout the castle. No vampire brides yet. The cliffhanger’s the wall walking.
I’ve read the adaptation before—they reprinted it in the early aughts—but reading it in the context of Dracula Lives is a little different. The details echo not just through the adaptation but into the new continuity; is this Dracula story the 616 Dracula story?
Harker’s not so obnoxious this issue either; he’s a victim-in-waiting, far outclassed by the count. The cliffhanger’s at a weird point; writer Roy Thomas is keeping straight to the novel’s narration now, so he’s too tied to Harker.
Dick Giordano’s art is good too, but I remember it being better in the previous issue. His Dracula looks a bit like an old guy playing dress-up. Hopefully, it’ll get better once they get to England.
So, it’s not a bad issue; it’s just not a particularly special one. Except for making me compliment Chan.