I had planned on opening bemoaning Dracula Lives only having two issues left just when the series has found itself again, but then I did some research and discovered it’s worse than the series just canceling. They’re not going to finish the Bram Stoker’s Dracula adaptation here; there’s no more Lilith (more on her adventures in a bit). I wish I hadn’t looked ahead. However, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known where to go for the next (and temporarily final) Stoker adaptation entry.
There’s a reason reading monthly comics is a pain in the ass, even fifty years later.
This issue’s great, and I’m super duper sad there are only two more issues.
The magazine aspects of Lives are gone this issue; letters column, but no features—lots of ads. But the stories are all good. The art on the Lilith story’s a disaster, but if Lilith had been well-executed back in the day (writer Steve Gerber’s finding his legs fast), we’d remember it.
We’ll go in reverse order, starting with the Lilith story. It’s a long story, and Bob Brown’s pencils are terrible. They’ve got Frank Chiaramonte inking him, which is a choice, but then Pablo Marcos also has a credit, and even though I’m lukewarm on Marcos (or do I like him, it’s been so long since Lives had top-shelf artists), I was expecting the art to not be terrible.
But it’s terrible. Oddly, Brown’s pencils look like they were meant for digest size, not a magazine page, like seeing them smaller would improve things. Like the frequent lack of faces. Though the story’s all about there not being a face. Lilith’s human half runs afoul of some incel planning to do a mass shooting—no shit, in 1975–and Lilith takes over to stop him. Except there’s only so much she can do. It’s intense.
There’s some character development for Lilith and her human half. It’s good. The art’s an incredible problem, but the story’s good. I had wondered what was wrong with Gerber on the previous story, but he’s got it here.
The middle story is the Bram Stoker adaptation, and it’s a good argument Dick Giordano’s career should’ve been spent illustrating journals with accurate scenery. This portion of the adaptation is Mina and Lucy still at Lucy’s mom’s house, no suitors around, just Lucy sleepwalking around the English countryside. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s when werewolf Dracula assaults Lucy. Only there’s a whole thing about there being a stone chair and gravestone, and it’s the girls’ favorite spot, and it’s lovely. Gorgeous art from Giordano eighty-five percent of the time. It’s a delight.
It’s also where writer Roy Thomas (and, obviously, Giordano) get to do some adapting. Because they’re not doing werewolf Dracula, they’re doing (close to) Tomb of Dracula Dracula, and it adds some very interesting layers to the adaptation. Presumably. Dracula is just around this issue in the background.
I’m positive I read this adaptation (Marvel finished it in the aughts), but I don’t remember it being so impressive. Probably my bad (or it falls apart).
Then there’s a two-pager from Doug Moench and Win Mortimer, done sort of in a fifties horror style. Some European city’s problems with vampires over the years. It’s solid, with Moench finding a good tone for the exposition.
The first story is also Moench; he and artist Tony DeZuniga finish their “husbands vs. Dracula” story, which started in the last issue. Dracula has just thrown some widower into a pit—possibly the pit from Tomb, but also possibly not—and the guy quickly discovers it’s where Drac’s been keeping his latest vampire brides.
Including the hero’s wife.
What follows is horror action, with the hero coming up with a scheme to avenge himself while also saving the town or something. He also has a plan to save his wife’s eternal soul, which seems to be entirely in his head and the dialogue because Moench goes nowhere with that aspect (souls). The exposition’s a little overwritten, but who cares, the DeZuniga art is gorgeous. Great Gothic good girl art, fantastic horror trappings.
The finale’s a little bit of a miss, especially given the build-up, but it all works out. Especially since the comic goes uphill as it continues, with the Lilith finish graded on a different, Bob Brown-related scale, of course.
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