Friday, 5 November 2010

Tomb of Dracula #55. In the church of the poisoned mind.

Tomb of Dracula #55, Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman
I think we've all of us pretended to be Satan at some point in our lives. It is after all a great way to prevent people from sitting next to you on the train. Dracula, however, has his own reasons for such a subterfuge.

Seeking to extend his power in this world, the prince of darkness has taken to posing as Lucifer in order to gain control of a Boston-based Satanists' Church. Not only that but, thanks to the act, he's managed to acquire a wife, called Domini, and produced a new-born son called Janus.

Dracula might not be the one who has to change the nappies but that doesn't mean he's happy. You see, there's something odd about the boy. He's got golden skin and glowing red eyes. As if that wasn't enough for our villain to worry about, knowing full well that Dracula isn't really the Devil, Anton Lupeski - head priest of the Satanic Church - is plotting to kill the Transylvanian terror and install Janus instead as the cult's figurehead.

I once read an online overview of Tomb of Dracula that said the strip lost the plot after its first 25 or so issues. If so it hid that decline brilliantly because this issue's simply gorgeous. Gene Colan's art's as messy and awkward as ever - people're simply not put together the way that Gene draws them - but, with its use of light, shade and camera angles - not to mention Tom Palmer's moody inking - it looks sumptuous, as sophisticated a piece of visual story-telling as you'll ever see.

Marv Wolfman's slow-burning script's equally compelling. There's no action in this tale, no fights, no immediate peril, just intrigue, as a kind of supernatural soap opera's played out, with the various characters manoeuvring themselves into the positions they need to be in in order to achieve their ends. Everyone has an agenda, and everyone's out to fulfil it.

If I've not said it before, I'll say it now; Tomb of Dracula is, along with The Defenders, my favourite title of the Bronze Age - one that somehow seems to transcend its medium and, more than any other strip, hammer's a nail into the coffin of the notion that comics are inherently juvenile. The Devil might not be in my train seat and he might not be in his church but, if he's in the detail, the detail of this comic is at least a work of diabolical beauty.


Karen said...

Howdy Steve,

for whatever reason, Tomb of Dracula was not on my radar as a 70s kid. But I've heard so much about it that I picked up the two TPBs Marvel put out and read through them. I feel like the story is just getting interesting , and that's in the early 20s of the series! I'm hoping for more trades soon. The Janus story sounds good.

Steve said...

Hi, Karen.

Sadly, at the moment, there are big gaps in my Drac collection but I had practically the whole run as a kid and loved it. I'm glad to say the issues I've re-bought as an adult have been as good as I remember them.

John said...

This was the first issue of Tomb of Dracula I bought, I think because it must have followed the cancellation of British Marvel's own Dracula title, which allowed the American original to be distributed over here.

I'd like to read it again, so I'm going to have a look on eBay now.