Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Next Dracula!

When we last left Lucas Brand, former motorcycle hoodlum turned hitman turned vampire turned corpse, he had been made into one of the undead by none other than Dracula--and, as part of Dracula's night of revenge on Brand and his fellow 'cyclists, he was sent to kill his employer, Jason Faust, by making him a vampire as well. As Dracula presumed, the night didn't end well for either man. Confined to an iron lung, Faust was helpless as Brand attacked him with the vampire bite; but Faust, who had involved Brand in his voodoo slayings of former friends he felt had betrayed him, flinched during the attack and pierced with a pin a voodoo doll he'd made of Brand (as a contingency precaution), killing his attacker. But the damage was done. Faust converted to a vampire himself--but helpless to slake his thirst while confined to his iron lung.

And with the rising sun, both vampires were burned to ashes. Or so we were left to believe.

Two issues later, writer Marv Wolfman begins a lengthy sub-plot which has Brand becoming a thrall of Doctor Sun. But, how does a pile of ashes become a thrall? Or does Sun want an urn of a dead vampire sitting on his mantel?

Well, if you're to keep your sanity, you're going to have to forget a few things you've seen in the past few issues. For one thing, pay no mind to the fact that, until now, people in Tomb of Dracula could be turned into vampires in a very short amount of time (Mr. Faust, for instance, who converted before you could say "voodoo," only to die at dawn). Also put out of your mind the fact that Brand was operating as a vampire that night, even to the point of sinking his fangs into his first victim--as well as the fact that he died again, when Faust stabbed his voodoo likeness, and was subsequently burned to a crisp at the same time Faust was.

Because if you try and reconcile all of that with Wolfman's new storyline for Brand--which begins with Sun's subordinates instead recovering Brand's body from the morgue and assessing his status--you'll probably end up flailing about in utter confusion.

Apparently, according to Wolfman's later narrative, Brand was "not fully reborn" as a vampire, an "explanation" which practically begs you as a reader to just accept that rationale and move on--because we've seen Brand certainly kill his victim like one, and giving Faust a nice set of fangs of his own in the process. In addition, in order for Brand to have avoided sharing Faust's fate at dawn, the city's morgue pickup men would have had to have been waiting outside of Faust's home for no particular reason, springing into action like the Keystone Cops to retrieve Brand and whisk him to the safety of a cold slab--taking the time first to dislodge the pin from the voodoo doll which had killed him, since London morgue attendants have undoubtedly run into instances of voodoo killings before.

Suffice to say that Brand's fate has been reset, and he's now a vampire-in-training in Sun's custody. But what does Sun want him for? Not even Brand knows that yet--and it looks like he's going to have to prove himself to Sun before finding out.

Thanks to Brand being drugged, Sun has a measure of control over him--otherwise, Brand, who isn't exactly the submissive type, would likely attempt to force his way out of Sun's complex. Instead, he begins the training that Sun has planned for him, which takes him through the next few issues.

As for Dracula, he, too, is crucial to Sun's master plan--and Sun puts the grab on him when he finds himself trapped in the Alps, weakened from not having consumed blood for several days. But in facing his captors, Dracula discovers that Sun has had the assistance of one of Dracula's former slaves--a man once the close friend of Dracula's descendant, Frank Drake, and believed to be dead.

Morgo, for his part, is a strict disciplinarian in Sun's service, but his arrogance will prove his undoing when he goes a step too far in attempting to humble Dracula. Nor will Graves fare any better, as Drake and his companion, Rachel Van Helsing, arrive on the scene.

Despite the odds against him and his weakened condition, it seems that Dracula might still prevail in this conflict. But his time runs out as, finally, Sun reveals himself--and Dracula learns why Sun has surreptitiously dogged his every step.

Well, unless science has developed a way for a floating brain to duel anybody, we get a sense of why Sun has conscripted Brand and put him through rigorous training. And Sun isn't quite through yet, in that respect. As Brand moves to feed on the immobilized Rachel, Sun frees Dracula from the beam as a final test for Brand. Dracula and Brand have met in battle before, of course, which resulted in Brand's living death; but Brand, now a vampire, has the edge here, due to Dracula still not being up to par and Brand's in-house months of training. Even so, you couldn't expect Dracula not to approach this fight as Brand's superior--and, as "Lord of Vampires," he seeks to assert his own control over Brand. But the tactic fails, and the fight quickly goes against him.

With Dracula once again helpless, Sun elaborates on his plans for both Dracula and Brand--which basically boil down to a means whereby Sun can gain access to the blood he needs to survive, and, from there, move on to world conquest.

With the procedure over, Brand now must slay Dracula in order to assume rule of the world's vampires--and with Brand in Sun's service, that will put Sun in virtual control of them. Only Dracula stands in their way; but if Brand had an edge before, you can imagine the edge he has now that Sun's procedure has given him Dracula's knowledge. Regardless, would you expect Dracula to be anything less than arrogant and defiant?

Before battling Brand in earnest, however, Dracula makes a quick detour to one of Sun's scientists, attacking and feeding on his blood in order to regain his strength. From that point, the fight between himself and Brand makes a shambles of the lab--and Sun concludes from Dracula's resistance that Brand is not likely to prevail. But you'd be hard-pressed to convince Brand of that, as he hurls Dracula into a wall of machinery which then explodes into flames. With Dracula apparently consumed by the conflagration, Brand turns his attention to Sun, and throws off his harness of servitude.

As the fire in Sun's complex continues to rage out of control, Rachel and Frank escape and board their waiting helicopter with the relief that, this time, Dracula has perished. But there is one other who escapes with moments to spare--and, rather than relief, his reaction is one of hard-fought victory.

Of course, now you have a disembodied brain out there with the knowledge of Dracula--and that can't be good.

Tomb of Dracula #21
(featuring events from issues 13-20)

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

This issue's cover--with an unknown, fretful woman who can't find her way into the story!


Anonymous said...

Great post!
And also, yikes!
Some really wild artwork here from Mr. Colan. I love that panel with Drac, Brand, and Dr. Sun in the middle of that huge sci-fi machinery with electricity shooting all over the place. Like something out of Frankenstein.
I had kind of forgotten that Dracula's fued with the not-so-good doctor would last a while.
You commented on the strangeness of a disembodied brain posing a threat to the lord of vampires, C.F., but I might point out that science fiction has long cautioned us that disembodied brains, whether floating, in jars, or in glass cases, automatically have EERIE powers. The same thing applies to heads, for that matter.
Of course, I suppose Dr. Sun could've just BOUGHT the blood somewhere, but that wouldn't have made for much of a story.
I really enjoyed this. Looking forward to more Drac!

Comicsfan said...

Glad you liked this look at the issue, M.P. And yes, Sun making constant and sizable purchases of blood would certainly have raised a few eyebrows, considering that donations are usually the method by which blood supplies are obtained. Though assuming he isn't particular as to what blood type he can use, he could have just made use of a hospital or medical facility as a front, with no one the wiser.