I fear Dracula Lives has reached a turning point and not for the better. While this issue retains the same page count as previous issues, there’s a lot less content. Comics content. There’s still text content, including Tony Isabella finding his voice in his Taste the Blood of Dracula review, but there’s a little bit less of it. Lots more ads. No reprints, just the three original Dracula comics… including the Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano Bram Stoker adaptation. It’s a far cry from three fifties Atlas reprints, three originals.
And the art’s not great. The art’s usually pretty good, but it’s never great. Giordano’s is the best and even he’s clearly rushed, slowing down when he can but he’s never not visibly in a hurry. There are some good panels; they’ve reached the point in the novel where Jonathan Harker runs afoul of Dracula’s brides. It’s good work from Thomas and Giordano.
Though they include two pages from the previous issue’s entry at the start, which isn’t the worst idea for reminding readers, but with this specific cliffhanger, doesn’t work.
Still. At least there’s the Thomas and Giordano entry. Because otherwise, the high point’s Isabella’s review.
The first story is the most disappointing because it seems like writer Gerry Conway’s excited at the beginning. It’s Dracula in Washington D.C., getting involved in political intrigue. Or at least politics-adjacent intrigue. A bunch of people are getting killed in mysterious ways and Drac’s invested because one of them is a Dracula stooge.
Vicente Alcazar’s art is okay. Lives’s turning point includes not getting inkers, so Alcazar’s looks like high contrast pencils. Lots of work in the pencils, but still… it feels unfinished. It also can’t save from Conway not having a plot. Turns out Dracula playing Woodward and Bernstein with a disposal guest star doesn’t the Parallax View make.
The second original’s worse but not more disappointing. Dracula versus pirates only seemed so interesting to begin with. At twelve pages, it’s also the longest story in the issue, which is strange. Just what a boring story needs, two more pages.
The script’s from Mike Friedrich, who does an okay pirate story. Shoehorning Dracula in doesn’t do any good, especially not since Friedrich doesn’t write Dracula well. Or, at least, he doesn’t have a handle on Dracula Lives Dracula. If it were a pirate story about raiding Dracula’s castle (traveling across land to do it) and Dracula guest starred, it’d be fine. But Friedrich opens with a retcon involving Dracula’s dead human wife’s necklace, tying it to Lives’s Dracula origin stories. They’re usually so much better.
George Evans does the art. It’s competent, never anything more. In a good issue, this misfire would be the lacking outlier. In this issue, it’s way too close to the norm. It’s also misogynist, which just makes it more unpleasant as it goes on too long.
Throw in another chapter of the Dracula text story (written by Thompson O'Rourke, illustrations by Ernie Chan), a recap of Dracula in other media, and the issue’s done.
I hope it gets better next time. But I’m scared it won’t.