Wednesday, March 04, 2009

On Dracula, Lord of the Undead:

In his recent appearance in Captain Britain and MI13 #10, Marvel's Dracula had a meeting with Dr. Doom, a castle on the moon, and blood-rocket launched vampire cannons. (You won't see the cannons, but check out the preview from Comic Book Resources!) So anything from this series is going to be a letdown now, but let's glance at his last series, Dracula, Lord of the Undead. Written by Glenn Greenberg, pencils by Pat Oliffe, inks by Tom Palmer. Palmer was the inker on the old Tomb of Dracula, a little link to the past there.

Dracula returns to his castle in Transylvania to discover it's been ransacked. Well, duh. Seems like a pretty tempting target for looters, but there's something more to this.
Oh, yeah, they blend.
More after the bump!

While Dracula investigates with his human and vampire servants; Dr. Charles Seward, descendant of Dr. John Seward from Stroker's Dracula, has been working on if not a cure for vampirism, a solution. His serum is designed to render vampires unable to drink blood, so they'll starve. Good idea, bad execution: it causes a plague, that can be spread from person to person. Seward, now compelled into action by his mysterious employer, knows something isn't right but can't act.
Not bad for a code-approved Marvel book.

Dracula tracks down his stolen possessions--including a portrait of his wife Maria--to an auction house in London. He busts in and hypnotizes the seller into cancelling the auction, but it's a pretty brassy entrance: apparently, every vampire hunter in the Marvel U. was on vacation that week, or they didn't get the email for "Dracula auction." Frankly, you'd expect at least a lot of gawkers, press, goth wannabes: maybe it was a private thing.

Although he's able to make the seller return his things (at her expense, Dracula stresses, although it might not be a great idea to return them where they were stolen in the first place) she didn't know who sold them to her. Increasingly furious, he leaves the auction house, and is promptly shot with a crossbow arrow. Even at bat size, the arrow didn't hit his heart, and Drac catches the shooter, who snaps his own neck rather than talk.

Dr. Seward, thinking his anti-vampire research to be at an end, gets to enjoy the start of dinner with his family before seeing the TV report on a plague and quarantine of the small town of Littlepool. Seward realizes this was probably his fault, as he watches a rescue worker, presumably panicked and delirious, break quarantine and infects a bunch of people. This is a great argument for cops having guns, right there. Seward calls his boss, then has to leave his family once again.

This panel sums up Marvel Dracula pretty nicely, I think.
Searching for a snack, Dracula passes over Littlepool, and is curious about the fenced-off city, corpses, etc. Not that he cares in any fashion about the people, except that it's messing with his dinner. While he's looking, the vampire that Seward experimented on tries to fill in his master, but dies and disintegrates once he finally gets Drac to listen to him.

Drac then finds Seward, who has already discovered he's immune to the plague since he made it with some of his own blood, and they discuss the virus. Drac's a little irritated that Seward recognizes him--most people in the Marvel U. still consider Dracula fiction--and points out that he's recently ended the Harker and Van Helsing families. Perhaps sensitive, Seward answers that he thought Dracula was younger-looking, and Drac realizes he's not just hungry, he's aging. He quickly jumps to some conclusions: he was infected by the arrow the other day, and Seward is the mastermind of this whole plot against him. Seward rolls over on his boss immediately, although I wouldn't necessarily feel any loyalty to a boss that hypnotized me, either.

Dracula and Seward return to the lab, and the mysterious employer is revealed to be Lilith, Dracula's daughter. They aren't close.

Lilith's mentioned in passing in the first issue: Drac's first marriage was an arranged one that did not go well, and Drac hated his wife and daughter, later kicking them out so he could marry Maria. Later, the wife killed herself and left Lilith with a gypsy. The gypsy's son was later killed by Dracula, and so she set up a rather elaborate curse where Lilith became her father's eternal adversary. Not a great deal: even though she'd rather not, Lilith keeps returning from the dead every time her dad does; and per the curse she can't kill Drac directly. So, her plan to fund Dr. Seward's kill-all-vampires virus. To her credit, Lilith is at least a little concerned about humans being infected--I had suspected she might not care as long as it gets Dracula--but Seward isn't having it, and breaks from her control, attacking with a syringe of the virus. Defending herself, Lilith accidentally snaps Seward's neck.

Dracula and Lilith punch it out for a bit, but Dracula weakens quickly. He manages to stake Lilith to the wall, just enough to hold her, and then has to stoop to drinking the blood from Seward's corpse. I know in some vampire mythos, that's bad, here it's just embarrassing; but Dracula hopes the blood will cure him, and it does eventually. In short order, Drac blows up the lab and the virus samples (and possibly Lilith), then flies to Littlepool. Summoning all his remaining power, Dracula controls the weather, creating a thunderstorm and flood to wipe the town, and the plague, off the map. (Yeah, Marvel Dracula can do that, although you don't see it very often.)

Lilith gives Dracula a final taunting, that this battle has proven that Dracula isn't invulnerable. For Drac's part, he doesn't bother to finish Lilith--she would just come back anyway--and returns to his now-refurnished castle for a drink.

Not a terrible little series, although as they say, your mileage may vary. I like Marvel Dracula, but (in this series, anyway) no one seems to point out that he really looks like a Dracula. Even if the general existence of vampires isn't well known, most people would be at least aware of, if not outright mocking of, the guy running around dressed like Count Chocula. Like the Curse version we saw the other day, MU Drac is also supposed to be a sexy, if you say so. Ladies, he doing anything for you?

I'm also not sure when the shift in other vampires happened either: previously, Dracula's victims remained relatively human-looking, until the fangs came out, like old Hammer Horror movie vamps. Now, other vamps were ugly, scabby grave-dwellers. Weird.

By the way, on the Bullpen Bulletins page of the third issue, Stan Lee answers my question in his Soapbox! Yeah, that'll make this a collector's item now...