blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Stoker’s Dracula (2004) #3

Stoker s Dracula  3

Like all faithful Bram Stoker’s Dracula adaptations, Stoker’s Dracula has hit the point where the source material’s bad writing is causing problems. Or, at least, lazy plotting. But it’s not writer Roy Thomas’s fault; it’s all on Stoker.

The most obvious example is someone screwing with Van Helsing’s plan to save Lucy’s soul. Last time it was Lucy’s mom, who died almost immediately following as a comeuppance; this time, it’s a maid. Thomas leaves in Van Helsing’s being super classist about the maid.

This issue is entirely “new” material. Artist Dick Giordano no longer draws Dracula exactly like he appeared in Tomb of Dracula, though sticks pretty close. He does not play up the Count’s gauntness, which makes it odd when multiple people comment on it. This issue’s got Jonathan and Mina seeing the Count in London and fairly soon getting involved with the vampire hunting plot.

There are numerous plotting conveniences straight from the novel. The boys exclude Mina so she can go and have an offscreen arc with Dracula as his steady victim, Mina not reading Jonathan’s journal until after they see Dracula, not to mention Jonathan not being able to tell Mina about his experiences and instead demanding she read the journal. She also types it up when she reads it, which, fortunately, we don’t see. Stoker’s Dracula leverages the finest in cheap mid-aughts computer lettering, including the horrendous newspapers. There are some notes and telegrams; they also look terrible and anachronistic, not just for the nineteenth-century setting but also with Giordano’s artwork. The “new” Stoker’s isn’t as, well, slutty as seventies Marvel black-and-white magazines, but it’s pretty bloody. Slick, barely better than Comics Sans lettering doesn’t fit.

Other weak sauce plotting includes Van Helsing’s trips back to Amsterdam to keep him away from the story, Jonathan’s boss dying off-page and leaving him the business, and numerous other recently deceased characters. The adaptation also draws attention to how little impact Dracula has on London, other than having turned Lucy into the “Bloofer Lady,” something Thomas rushes through. Unfortunately.

Given the adaptation’s previous success with Mina and Lucy and not with the boys, one would’ve hoped Thomas might stick closer to her. He does not. She’s off doing her own thing; no girls allowed. Thomas also doesn’t fix frequent narrator Jack Seward’s weird obsession with Lucy. It’s nowhere near as bad as before, but it is concerning when it comes back to start off the comic. This issue covers Jonathan and Mina in England, Lucy’s resurrection and destruction, and Dracula’s (romance-less) pursuit of Mina.

In a fun twist—I can’t remember if it’s from the novel—Dracula seems very aware he’s messing with his former victim’s new wife and taking delight in being that guy.

Stoker’s is an admirable exercise, but the new material isn’t as good as the old material. It’s not just thirty years taking its toll on the creators; it’s the novel getting into its muddy parts. Back in the seventies, they got stopped at just the right point before the book got too busy and messy.

I expect the last issue to be an entirely acceptable, entirely underwhelming read.

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