Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Could've Sworn I Was A Vampire

Well, you've seen the good Dracula story. Now it's time you got a look at a bad one. I think this image should get us started:

What's that, you say? This must be from a What If? tale? Because there is no "vampire-Storm" in the X-Men?

You're right, there isn't. And that's part of the problem.

Uncanny X-Men #159 has the team meeting Dracula, the Lord of Vampires, for the first time. And Dracula has started at the top--ambushing the team's current leader, Storm, and draining her to near-death. The issue practically trips over itself to make this all happen, and wrap everything up by the final page as if it never did--which sounds almost laughable, when you say that out loud. But let's take developments one by one--starting with Ororo being rushed to the hospital after the attack. Just look at how writer Chris Claremont stacks the deck as far as Ororo's chances of survival, all for the sake of drama. You'd think the hospital staff was already getting a toe tag ready for her:

First of all, I never attended med school, but it beats me how yelling out this woman's skin color is necessary to assess her vitals. At any rate, let's summarize: Considerable blood loss. Throat slashed. Low pressure. Near death. Not much chance of surviving the night. Got it. I have to assume this trained professional knows what he's doing, and not auditioning for a spot on "ER."

Now let's just toss that dramatic moment in the can, because it turns out to mean nothing once her attending doctor steps in:

Some blood loss. The victim is already conscious, and talking to the police. Good prognosis from the doc. Not even a blood transfusion--but apparently none is necessary, since Ororo is already on her feet and looking to be discharged:

Back home, Kitty notes Ororo's symptoms: Sensitivity to light. A scarf, which doesn't belong to her, wrapped around her neck. Flinches at religious symbols. Weak and haggard-looking. Kitty puts two and two together (while the rest of the X-Men, with their collective experience that's loads above what Kitty has, aren't even suspicious), but she's too late to prevent Dracula from making off with Ororo:

So now the X-Men are on the job. But Dracula doesn't think much of them, preferring to let wild animals and vermin deal with them:

And jeez, I wouldn't want Nightcrawler writing my team's press releases:

Yes, mull that sentence over a bit. The X-Men can't match Dracula's raw power. I had a bit of trouble believing that myself, even when this scene was trying to convince me otherwise:

Which would mean that Dracula, who can lift about 4 tons, can easily repel the attack of someone who can lift in excess of 100 tons. You'd think the Impossible Man did that math. Nightcrawler obviously doesn't know squat about his teammate's capabilities--and, more alarmingly, Claremont doesn't seem too up on them, either.

But let's move on to Ororo, because she's the one who's becoming a vampire--isn't she? Not according to Kitty's loopy logic:

Oh, Kitten. Warped mind or not, you won't find anyone alive--the key word here being "alive"--who sports fangs and red eyes, simply by believing that they're a vampire. This woman is Storm, not a shape-shifting Skrull. Claremont is giving us all the trappings of Storm being a vampire, while safely not committing to the deed. What's the point of that? Kitty could fight just as hard for Ororo to shake off Dracula's influence without trying to force-feed this pretense to us.

At any rate, Storm asserts her will, finally. And her battle with Dracula is on:

Of course, you've probably guessed that a lightning bolt--a lightning bolt, for cripes sake--isn't going to hurt Dracula any more than a punch from an armored guy who can lift over a hundred tons. But it's more important to pay attention to Dracula's words to Ororo in response:

That's the crux of this story. That's why there's no going back for Ororo, as much as Claremont wants it otherwise. That's why, until Dracula meets his end, Ororo, strong of will as she is, cannot break this kind of hold, short of paying a visit to Dr. Strange. But give Ororo credit, she'll still fight for her identity:

And Dracula, still holding all the cards in this battle--acquiesces, and departs. Does that sound like the Dracula you know? To be so close to possessing such a treasure, only to relinquish it? What does he care for strength of spirit? To him, that sort of thing is a prize to be subjugated. And what of Storm? She's vowed to end Dracula's reign of terror, and make sure that he doesn't harm another living soul. What's stopping her? Why, mocking words, of course:

Ororo. Darling. You've effortlessly formed and controlled a hurricane over New York City. You've whipped up a tornado--on the moon, no less--to restrain the Phoenix. You can disrupt weather patterns for miles. Yet we're to believe that one bat--taking the time to engage you in conversation, at that--is able to flee from you. Even if Dracula had turned to mist, you could easily, easily have overtaken him, snared him, and rendered him helpless, probably before he'd even finished his parting words. Maybe Nightcrawler was onto something about this team, after all.

But where does that leave Ororo? Well, if we're to believe Claremont Kitty, the taint of a vampire can be thrown off completely, and practically overnight:

And to add insult to injury, meet the world's first "psychological vampire":

Face -- palm.

On the other hand, if Ororo only thinks she was a vampire, we could be within our rights in thinking that this story never happened.  I don't find myself having a problem with that.


Edo Bosnar said...

Unfortunately, there would be more fun with vampires in X-men Annual #6. (And, unbelievably to me, this made the top 50 X-men stories in a recent poll done at the Comics Should be Good blog.)
Anyway, great dissection of this story. I never put that much thought into it - I just knew I didn't like it. Back when it first came out, I think it was the first time I audibly groaned while reading an X-comic (there would be more, as I remained a loyal X-reader for a few more years). But the writing was on the wall when Claremont began introducing vampires and magic to the X-universe...

Comicsfan said...

Apparently the vampire hook was considered a draw, since the annual occurs in the same year of the earlier story. I really only recall it because of how it brings to an end the character of Rachel Van Helsing, and tragically at that.

Anonymous said...

Where were the Belmonts when you need them? xD

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