Tomb of Dracula (1972) #24

Tomb of Dracula  24

The issue opens with original series protagonist Frank Drake whining about being an unexceptional white man to his extraordinary vampire-hunting girlfriend, Rachel Van Helsing. The only thing the scene is missing is Rachel telling Frank she needs him because no one else will love her with her Dracula-inflicted face scars.

It’s a beautiful scene—art-wise—with penciller Gene Colan and inker Tom Palmer heading back to the London bridge where Frank met the vampire hunters back in issue two or whatever. From Big Ben, Dracula watches the tender moment, amused the vampire hunters still don’t know he’s alive. They thought he died a few issues ago, though they do know Lilith is back. Nothing about her in this issue.

Instead, it’s actually a Blade issue. Almost entirely, because Dracula doesn’t want Blade to know he’s back yet either, so Drac stays in bat form for their fight.

After the introduction with Frank and Rachel—which comes back at the end for some emotionally inert closure—writer Marv Wolfman moves the action to Blade’s apartment, where a random vampire attacks Blade’s “woman,” Saffron. There’s a brief fight scene, then some padding, then Saffron’s fellow “showgirl” Trudy running into the apartment. She’s just had a terrifying experience, and since Saffron mentioned her man’s a vampire hunter, Trudy thought Blade could help.

We then get a flashback with terrible narration from Trudy. Wolfman’s really bad at writing it. And it’s interminable. You know Tomb’s masterfully paced because Wolfman can have a sixty-two-page flashback in a nineteen-page story and have it be immediately forgotten and forgiven when the action gets going again. There’s a magnificent running fight sequence between Blade and Dracula (in bat form) through the streets of London, with Dracula’s wonderfully petty and spiteful narration accompanying.

There are a couple other diversions, both problematic as hellfire. First, Taj goes home to India to visit his wife and smack her around a bit because, you know, wives. Then Shiela Whittier, Dracula’s new familiar, moons over him while he’s out eating, making excuses for his professed evil plans.

I mean, great art on those scenes—Colan’s so good at the visual pacing, which is essential with the moody style—but it’s clear why Wolfman doesn’t understand he’s writing Frank Drake as a dipshit white guy.

And, yet, Tomb succeeds. Despite its definite failings, Tomb succeeds. Wolfman’s Dracula writing and Colan and Palmer’s art, how can it not?

One Comment

  1. Vernon W

    Like many mainstream comics written at the speed of sound, art pulls the weight here. Someday it may be possible at home to digitally remove the words and just enjoy the flow and beauty of the art- and you may not miss them. Easily a favorite of my childhood, Tomb of Dracula’s outstanding artwork alone was always worth the investment of my time and the 25 cents it cost. Skip the candy bar or pack of cards, comics were always the better value.

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