They do briefly mention Dracula Lives’s impending demise; very, very briefly. It’s an excellent finale, with a couple surprising successes, but—outside a three-page Russ Heath portfolio (two Draculas and a Lilith, with lots of nipple bumps the Code’d never allow)—it’s a very different kind of issue. Besides the letters column (which doesn’t seem to reference the imminent cancellation) and the “Marvel black-and-white magazines coming soon” (which includes all the canceled titles still), there aren’t any text pieces in the issue. Lives has had a bumpy ride, so at least they go out strong with the comics.
The first story is a Western set in Transylvania. An Old West sheriff has-been goes bounty hunting Dracula; some rich guy’s son fell for a vampire bride, and now there’s a bounty to collect. Tony Isabella writes, Tony DeZuniga on art. It’s gorgeous, slightly experimental art from DeZuniga, playing to the situation’s unreality. Isabella splits the story between the bounty hunter’s Old West forced retirement story and tracking Dracula through the castle. It’s absurd, but thanks to the art, it more than works.
There’s not good art on the next story—George Tuska pencils and Virgil Redondo inks combine into a bland Dracula outing, but the peculiar story more than makes up for it. Rich Margopoulus gets the writing credit, and it’s an ambitious tale. In the present, Dracula meets a hippie artist chick who reminds him of a vampire bride he had a lot of fun with a few hundred years ago. This hippie chick’s a New Yorker moved to Paris, where she finds dudes are really more interested in bedding her a few times than staying with her. On the further negative, they’re also shitty to her about her art.
Unfortunately, there’s never a scene where Dracula likes her paintings, but it’s a fine, bittersweet tale deserving much better art.
Then comes the surprise of the issue—Tom Sutton. He writes and arts the story of a swamp mutant and how the local normies abuse him. It’s a devastating seven pages, with shockingly good art and narrative sensibilities. It doesn’t feature any vampires, much less any Dracula; not sure if it’s coincidentally great filler, Sutton’s flexing (or just his personal work), but the story’s an incredible, devastating success. It doesn’t reinvent any wheels, instead perfects them.
The last story is a Gerry Conway “History of Marvel Dracula” tale, with art by Steve Gan, set relatively soon after Dracula’s conversion, which means anywhere from ten to 100 years. Dracula’s still playing local despot, defending his serfs against outside aggression. He saves a village girl—collaterally, he’s trying to kill the enemy soldier—and she becomes enamored with him. Dracula’s not interested in school girl crushes, however, he’s got the other local warlords to argue with. They don’t seem to realize the vampire bit is for real.
Conway’s always done a little better in Lives than Tomb (despite being the first Tomb writer, I think), and even though he lays it on a bit thick—the story’s about how Dracula decided to free his serfs—there’s solid character development and excellent Gan art. It took them a while, but Marvel eventually figured out these origin tales.
It’s an outstanding late period Dracula Lives; mostly strong art, all solid or much better stories. I’m going to miss this book.