Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Ten

The Tomb of Dracula #49, “And With the Word There Shall Come Death” is an intriguing issue which nicely develops Anton Lupeski’s ambition to see the Church of Satan grow into a cult that could become a One World government. Of course, Lupeski sees Dracula as both his means of achieving this goal and an obstacle to remove before he vampire is firmly entrenched as the head of the church. Dracula returns home to his pregnant wife, Domini, but is almost immediately mystically spirited away to another dimension. The subplot with Blade and Hannibal King battling Blade’s vampire doppelganger ends with Blade disappearing into his undead twin leaving only the vampire Blade to confront King. Meantime, Frank Drake and Harold H. Harold are captured by Lupeski’s followers when they infiltrate a Black Mass. Rachel Van Helsing is seen about to attempt their rescue while Dracula materializes in the library of a woman named Angie Turner who possesses the apparent ability to summon literary figures to life from her library. The vampire lord finds himself encountering the likes of the Frankenstein Monster, Zorro, D’artagnan, and Tom Sawyer. Dracula is confused as to the nature of Angie’s powers. When she burns Bram Stoker’s novel, the real Dracula is returned home to Domini and the reader learns that Angie Turner is a mental patient locked in a padded cell in a nice twist ending worthy of Rod Serling or Richard Matheson at their peak. Marv Wolfman’s concept of comic book/literary reality vs. the real world the reader escapes from raises what would otherwise be considered mere filler to genuine delight.

#50, “Where Soars the Silver Surfer” is yet another crossover with a more mainstream Marvel character. The interconnected Marvel Universe concept is one I always enjoyed, but felt it never really worked outside of superhero books. Happily, Dracula’s meeting with the Silver Surfer comes off more satisfying than expected. The story gets off to a strong start with a predatory Dracula scared off by an angry crowd who come to his helpless victim’s rescue. We then switch to Anton Lupeski explaining to four unseen guests his plan to kill Dracula once Domini gives birth to his heir. From there we switch scenes to the ongoing fight between Blade’s vampire doppelganger and Hannibal King and then we view Lupeski and his four unseen cohorts performing an occult ritual to summon the Silver Surfer to their dimension. Dracula is finding life as head of the Church of Satan to be frustrating. Writer Marv Wolfman does well in portraying Satanists as regular folk and high-ranking politicians and not just stereotypical occultists. The ongoing subplot involving the portrait of Christ in the deconsecrated church is developed further. The Surfer enters and exits through the portrait as a portal between dimensions and understands that Christ has a plan for Dracula that involves both Domini and their unborn child. The decision to have the mystical Surfer possess an understanding of Christ is as effective as the suggestion that both the Church of Satan and God are using the Surfer for the same purpose. Wolfman was walking a tightrope in these portrayals and offended more than a few readers along the way. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide whether his bold experiment worked or failed, but I found his integration of mainstream religion with supernatural fiction to be a highly effective one that harkened back successfully to the vampire’s literary roots in Stoker’s Victorian classic.


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