Some stories never die. Some are never finished or can be turned upside down and torn apart and told dozens of different ways. Some characters in these stories are just that compelling. They deserve hundreds of pages of examining their origins and adventures. And sometimes, well, I think writers lean on already established legends because fans like them and uh, they’re already established. It can end well – occasionally a retelling is spectacular – but more often it just hits the lines of okay. Not terrible, not oustanding or memorable, just sort of there.
The Tomb of Dracula is more than okay.
The prospect of reading yet another story about Dracula did not excite me. Take a moment to think about how many stories you’ve read or watched about the vampire; he’s the direct focus of many novels, short stories, plays, TV episodes, movies, and video game. I’m going to guess the number is in the hundreds. Even more if you count stories that he doesn’t appear in but still influences or inspires. We can’t get enough of reading about this immortal, this undead terror. Like, to the point of obsession – but that’s another post.
The point is, I didn’t care about filling my head with more vampire stories. I sort of resigned myself to reading it and certainly didn’t have high expectations. That was stupid considering Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan headlined most of the issues. While the stories that unfolded didn’t blow me away, the style in which they were told did.
The tale of Frank Drake being tricked and pushed into visiting his inherited home in Transylvania by his “friend” Clifton Graves and then having his fiancé turned into a vampire by Dracula – it’s entertaining, tragic, and spirited. It hits all the right notes. But the drawing style and the pacing is what captivated me. It wasn’t just about the horror, it was also an adventure. I think it’s all too easy for scary and supernatural factors to override storytelling, but it’s not as good. Especially for people like me who don’t love to be spooked. We want a fleshed out story with characters we care about.
Tomb of Dracula reads like a fantastic pulp adventure. It’s fast paced, direct, and though the language isn’t clipped – it matches. It’s a weird combination, but it completely works. And the art compliments it perfectly. I love Gene Colan’s style; the backgrounds are just as impressive as the people and really contribute to the overall mood. This page comes to mind:
Though I’m not typically a fan of black and white art, it suits this story. Who knows what hides in all the black spaces? It leaves a lot to your imagination, and that makes it creepier.
What I didn’t know about these comics is that Blade makes his first appearance in issue 10. That alone was worth the price of admission. I only know the character from the movies (I know) and had to look over the page twice when he made his entrance. It was not what I expected. He was a force to be reckoned with but his dialogue was very… stereotypical. The way he was drawn made me think of Shaft.
Something else I quite like about this Dracula is that occasionally, he gets to be on the side of the good guys. He doesn’t suddenly turn good – that would be silly – but he’s flexible enough to realize that sometimes he has to work with his foes against a common enemy. Villains and bad guys are more believable when they’re not completely evil. Few fictional characters are, even the undead ones and I think Dracula is too often portrayed that way.
Because of Tomb of Dracula I’m more likely to pick up other horror comics about characters from legend.