Monday, June 17, 2019

My Son... My Murderer!

When we last left Dracula, the Lord of the Undead... well, most people would finish that sentence with "...we were running for our lives!" But since we're merely readers reflecting on fiction, we can harmlessly cast our thoughts back to when we found Dracula in a grieving rage following the death of his infant son, Janus. That night, Dracula purged himself of a great deal of anguish and regret--and now, he heads back to the satanic church which was to become his power base in America, in order to rejoin his wife, Domini, and consider their future.

But Domini has her own plans for this evening--and she has returned to a cemetery in Cambridge, where she prepares a ritual that will wipe away her grief and sense of loss if it succeeds. Though there is one who will do his utmost to prevent it.

Upon his arrival back at the church, we see that Dracula is still wrestling with his mixed feelings regarding the more personal aspects of his life which have preoccupied him since he put into motion his scheme regarding the church--feelings mostly centered on Domini, and the events which have transpired since his marriage. On this night, Dracula cannot escape the apprehension that things are now beginning to coalesce in that respect--and when he finally realizes what Domini plans to do, he is filled with uncharacteristic dread.

To look behind the cause of Dracula's trepidation, we have to return to an earlier tale that introduces a mysterious golden-hued individual who engages in battle with Dracula in an amusement park--a story which recounts a number of instances in Dracula's 500-year existence where this individual has appeared and somehow prevented Dracula from going through with whatever plans he'd intended on seeing through to fruition at the time. Finally, as Dracula is making inroads in advancing his church agenda in America, this being reappears and, unexpectedly, challenges him.

During the battle, Dracula acknowledges that the power of the one he fights far exceeds his own, to the point of their struggle being no contest. Only through his wits does Dracula succeed in "destroying" his foe; but the battle's resolution takes a disturbing turn, back to the portrait of Christ which hangs in Dracula's church and which to date he has been unable to remove.

And so with Domini planning to resurrect their son, Janus, Dracula finally assembles the pieces of this puzzle which are scattered through centuries of his life. Unknown to him, there is still more to come--but tonight he is only concerned with one event which he strives to head off at all costs.

With the Tomb Of Dracula series nearing its end, it's begun to feel by now that writer Marv Wolfman is rushing a bit to play out a storyline which might otherwise never have seen the light of day (if you'll pardon the vampiric metaphor)--that of Dracula beginning to be receptive to a more faith-based point of view, which is in sharp contrast to the fact that he has unquestionably proven to be a fiend, a despot, a sadist, and a truckload of other vile and abhorrent nouns that would cast strong doubt on such a pivot.  Or, put another way:  while his life and un-life have progressed in a way that he may have found contentment with his new wife and son, it seems unlikely for him to veer away from a lust for power and control that had long since been ingrained in him.

And so in this issue we're asked to accept a number of leaps to fast-track Dracula into confronting a new perspective toward Christianity--and the jumping off point can be found in a scene which takes place shortly after his son's death, when Domini prevents him from slaughtering Quincy Harker and the other intruders in his church:

In spite of his protestations, it seems clear that Dracula is already wavering on the subject; and with even Harker acknowledging that Dracula is changing, the ball has been put into motion. Jumping back to the present, we find that, without cause, Dracula believes the reason for Domini's absence is because she's left to resurrect their son, which we can all probably admit wouldn't be the first thing we'd think a grieving parent would be out doing. Then we're told the reason he's rushing to stop her is his fear that his son will lose his innocence, as he himself did; then we're told it's because he believes Janus will be merged with the "angel" that he battled in the amusement park. The reader really has no choice but to go along with this runaway train that keeps pulling in motivations out of left field; but we do receive some excellent artwork from Gene Colan in the process.

With the veiled reference to this "warrior from the other side," the origin of Dracula's foe--now the new "Janus"--is finally out in the open. And while Dracula was able to prevail against this being by a hair's breadth in their last encounter, he'll have no such luck this time around. On the bright side, how many husbands have wives who know resurrection chants?

Colan's sequence of rebirth (abridged here) perhaps goes on two or three pages longer than necessary--and even so, the page count only reaches eighteen, adding to the impression that this story's plot is executed on somewhat shaky ground. (No fault of the book's editor, as Wolfman pulls double duty in that respect.) Though there is also a recent full-page note from Wolfman in the prior issue to consider, which gives a frank assessment of the need to reduce the frequency of the mag's publication in order to retain Colan's continued contribution.

As the issue reaches its final scene, and Janus survives in spite of Dracula's efforts to prevent it, there is a measure of symmetry between this story's closing panels and those of Dracula's prior meeting with Janus. In each, Dracula rails against an agenda he does not understand and appears powerless to stymie. But unlike the former scene, Janus is prepared to end the threat of Dracula...

...though even Janus may be only a link in that particular chain.

Dracula and son, as rendered by Gene Colan.

Tomb of Dracula #61

Script: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Gene Colan
Inks: Tom Palmer
Letterer: John Costanza


Anonymous said...

Colan's art is brilliant here, but that is one weird lookin' vampire bat up there. Looks like he escaped from a Muppet Halloween Special.


Comicsfan said...

M.P., I had similar feelings about that page! Perhaps the context of the moment makes it stand out as a little odd--Super Bat to the rescue! It's not often you see a bat merit full-page treatment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...