Tomb of Dracula (1972) #17

Tof17

This issue isn’t my favorite Tomb of Dracula (though I’m not keeping track), but I think it’s the most impressively written one so far. Writer Marv Wolfman does an espionage on a train thriller, just with Dracula and his supporting cast. And tying into the big Doctor Sun subplot he’s been working on for five or six issues at least. So Wolfman’s finally answering some of those questions, albeit guardedly, and the pay-off comes in this exceptional done-in-one.

Wolfman’s got a three-act structure for the issue, which is always impressive to see in twenty pages of story, with the plot taking full advantage of Dracula’s increased range of mobility. The issue starts in Paris, with Dracula trying to find a coffin for the night, only for Blade to attack him and reveal they’ve been cleaning out Drac’s Parisian stashes.

There’s a fight with Blade, then there’s Dracula getting to a safe place, with Wolfman changing the perspective and sticking with this French farming couple. The husband’s been Dracula’s brainwashed lackey for thirty years. It’s a great mix of text exposition and brief, suggestive art. There aren’t any particularly big set pieces for artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer this issue; instead, they’re just doing this tense, impatient story.

See, Dracula’s going back to Transylvania. No explanation why. He doesn’t deign to reveal.

So he’s taking a train home. On the train are Frank Drake and Rachel Van Helsing, whose characters have been reduced to a vampire-hunting couple; while Frank doesn’t have the chance to be racist, he does tell Dracula they’re after him for scarring Rachel. Yes, sure, killing their pal Edith, but also the scarring was just as bad. It’s a very Frank Drake moment, and it’s hard to root for this asswipe.

But also on the train are a couple secretive guys with a briefcase who are convinced someone’s out to get them. The bruiser sidekick is convinced it’s Frank and Rachel; the other guy’s convinced it’s someone else. But we don’t get to see the someone else. Because suspense.

And it’s very effective suspense. It’s just not horror suspense, except maybe when Dracula goes out looking for a snack and can’t control his urges. Wolfman shows how genre doesn’t apply to Tomb of Dracula, not with such capable artists and such a strong protagonist. Dracula’s such a good lead.

So, yeah, maybe it is my favorite issue so far.

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