No mention of Dracula Lives!’s forthcoming cancellation in the letters page, nor any explanation for the Bram Stoker’s Dracula adaptation skipping a month. Instead, the issue seems committed to origin stories; how Bram Stoker’s Dracula became the Marvel Universe’s Dracula. Or, in the case of Doug Moench’s three-part feature, how Marvel’s Dracula became Bram Stoker’s Dracula became Marvel’s Dracula.
Moench’s story is set in 1597, which is only important compared to Gerry Conway’s set in 1465. Moench’s Dracula is a sad, solitary sort. He hangs out in the castle, writing in his diary, whining about how he can’t find any good human blood these days. The villagers have gotten wise to Dracula being a bloodsucking vampire, though it turns out there’s plenty about vampires they don’t know yet.
While Dracula mopes, a stranger comes to town and offers to ride the village of Dracula for a thousand gold coins. He’s going to wait until Dracula comes to the village to feed, then head up to the castle and try to find some way to kill him. Except on this particular night, Dracula’s really, really pissed the humans are staying inside instead of coming out to be fed on—don’t they know he can’t enter a domicile without an invitation!
They do not, of course, because they don’t even know Dracula’s afraid of the sunlight yet. Or his aversion to crosses. Drac’s got a few surprises up his sleeves for the villagers, not just near the castle but also in a second village where he goes to feed the next night. But the stranger is somehow one step ahead, preparing those villagers for the attack; dejected, Dracula commits to his new role as lord of the undead and gets busy raising an army.
There’s a different artist for each chapter. Sonny Trinidad does the first; he and Moench have done some nice Lives stories. Trinidad’s work is quite nice this issue as well. Yong Montaño does the second part, which features Dracula and the new villagers, but also the first villagers getting too cocky. Montaño’s decent enough, but more on the people than the vampire. He’s got a comedic sensibility, and it doesn’t work here.
The third artist is Steve Gan, and it’s full Gothic horror. Beautiful stuff. However, his Dracula’s not as good as Trinidad’s. You’d think they’d have just ordered everyone to ape Gene Colan at some point.
Moench’s very intentional about Dracula’s character development. At the story’s start, Dracula’s a withdrawn, self-loathing monster. By the end of the story… well, he’s in a different spot. It’s an excellent feature and Moench’s best writing on the series. Does it make up for the missing Dracula adaptation chapter? Sure, fifty years later; at the time, I think I’d have been concerned.
Moench also contributes a text piece about Christopher Lee. It’s long, detailed, and enthusiastic because Moench’s a fan. It’s unclear why, however, since he seems to agree Hammer movies stink and Lee mostly made Hammer movies. The article’s disconcertingly spread throughout the magazine, presumably to make room for more advertisements.
The second story is the Conway one. Set six years after Dracula’s transformation to vampire and over a hundred years before Moench’s, this Dracula still has vampire orgies. He decides to go on a culinary trip and messes with the wrong German, who vows to avenge his sister’s death at Dracula’s hand.
So Hans goes to kill Dracula in Transylvania, but times it wrong for vampire-killing success. Still, it’s warm and sunny, and Hans falls for a fetching local girl. Will Hans’s thirst for vengeance ruin their romantic bliss? Will it somehow tie into Tomb of Dracula? Will Conway bull in a china shop his way through the subtleties? Will it even matter?
Just to answer the last—no, it won’t matter, none of it will matter. Tom Sutton does the art, and it’s terrible. The story’s ten pages, and he manages to get worse every page. It’s indescribably bad art and a lousy way to finish an otherwise outstanding issue.