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'The Curse of Dracula:' Advance Hardcover Review

 

The Curse of DraculaMarv Wolfman needs no introduction to those familiar with comics. He made his mark with The Tomb of Dracula in the early seventies along with artist Gene Colan, and went on to become a mainstay in both Marvel and DC. Dark Horse presents the hardcover edition of Wolfman’s second stab at the Prince of Darkness, The Curse of Dracula.

Originally published in three issues in 1998, The Curse of Dracula tells a new tale.


The story takes place in San Francisco, a city renowned for its independent soul that, after nightfall, becomes a coven comparable to turn of the century London. Four vampire hunters lead the action: Jonathan Van Helsing, the descendent of Abraham Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel and owner of Sunlight Industries; Hiroshima, a blind, half-Japanese woman who possesses vampire blood in her veins and heightened Blade-like senses (another Wolfman character creation); Simon, a former criminal syndicate goon who hides his full identity to protect his family; and Nikita Kazan, former KGB security agent who watched vampires murder his family.   

The team rescues Sebastian Seward, the descendant of the same Dr. John Seward who fought alongside Abraham Van Helsing. A vampire slayer himself, it appears he’s tracked Dracula to San Francisco. The Count has taken an interest in the career of political primary candidate Charles Waterson, as well as a romantic interest in his beautiful wife Carole. The Sunlight Industries team hunts after the acolytes of Dracula in order to slay him before he claims political power in the Oval Office.

The vampire hunters interest me. They are not typical bad-boy, wise-cracking misfits who accomplish their mission in spite of their differences. Wolfman avoids what he refers to in his foreword as the “mathematical formula” of detective and superhero stories. He seeks to “create a nightmare from which the reader cannot awaken.” It is just so for the characters. They are wounded men and women. They are flesh and blood souls who solemnly bear the gravity of their mission. Van Helsing is a praying man, and even though Seward jokes that no prayers could rescue their souls from the hell of their bloody work, Van Helsing hopes it can at least rescue their sanity.

It is bloody work, indeed. As they interrogate one bloodsucker to learn of Dracula’s whereabouts, he hangs from a lone street light, his neck broken and dangling by ragged, undead flesh. He can either give them the information now and die quickly with a stake through the heart, or he can wait for dawn’s light to boil his skin into flames. This is just one of several scenes where Colan’s artwork shines in its darkness, if such a thing is possible.

I do wish a little more had been explored with each character to make them more distinct. Most of their backstory is only told through third-person narration, the kind that typifies stories from Wolfman’s heyday. Third-person narration has long gone out of vogue in modern comics. It comes across as a cheat to establish characters, but it works well for setting an eerie mood.  A good example is the beginning of chapter two. The narrator ruminates on the dual nature of the moon, beautiful from a distance but scarred and dead to the touch. Such is Dracula, the tempting devil.

And, what of the Count? Colan has the most fun with his appearance. No wrinkle in his flowing coat is left to imagination. His serpent-like grin, his grotesque metamorphoses, his knuckled, pale claws -- if there was anything romantic about vampires in the past decade, it’s undone by Colan.

Does the horror get under your skin? Not entirely. A lot of the action is the type of blockbuster movie action that Wolfman claims he wanted to avoid. The hunters fire exploding stakes from automatic guns, and the climax mixes the chaos of The Manchurian Candidate with the gore of From Dusk ‘till Dawn; however, the ending is an unexpected twist that will make you set down the book with a shiver. Maybe evil isn’t so easily destroyed. Maybe we aid its victory. Isn’t that what really scares us?

If you like classic horror and retro storytelling, then you might dig The Curse of Dracula.

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Sunday, 11 March 2018 02:21

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