Great monster stories never unfold directly from the point-of-view of the monster. Rather, great monster stories are almost always told by the people surrounding the monster – its victims or its hunters. That’s because those people – humans, mostly – have a greater stake in the story’s outcome; if they fail to bring the fiend under control or to some greater justice, then they’re responsible for the inevitable deaths or atrocities. Because the audience can identify with them, their stories are more riveting and impactful than, perhaps, any told by the vampire, creature, or wolf-man. Their risks are greater, their motivations are more personal, and their chances for success are looking pretty grim, indeed.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I suggest you skim down to the final two paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re inclined to accept a few hints of ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The story of Dracula – the definitive charmer of the undead – began with Bram Stoker’s tale, but what would a contemporary take on the bloodsucking vampire look like? Necessarily, it could involve persons of power being drawn into a modern web of intrigue … and what better stomping ground than that of politics? After all, politicians – the evil, seedy type – are the ultimate parasites feeding off an entire civilization (or voting constituency, at least). Using Stoker’s tale as an inspiration, it would also involve a vampire hunter – or, even better, an entire team committed to putting the final stake in the Count’s unbeating heart, freeing humanity of his machinations once and for all.
Senator Waterson seeks his party’s nomination toward America’s highest elected office – the Presidency of the United States – but who knew how far the man would go to hypnotize an entire nation? Waterson’s taken up in league with Dracula, and, with the help of the count’s legion of the undead, he’s about to secure the nomination. But can he keep his own house in order when his lovely wife has fallen under the vampire’s spell? And can he do it in time to keep the descendants of the original Van Helsing and his teammates from thwarting the nefarious scheme?
THE CURSE OF DRACULA takes the saga of the world’s best known vampire in an all-new direction, bringing him successfully into the modern age. With some wonderfully dreamy artwork by (the late) Gene Colan along with some craft panel breakdowns not normally etched in comics, CURSE starts out with some great action, maintains a consistent pace throughout the three installments, and wraps up successfully at a political rally that looks like a bizarre ritual gone awry.
Additionally, as this is not the first printing for this previously collected tale, the reader is treated to not one but two “introductions” by writer Marv Wolfman himself – the foreword is dated from 2012 while the introduction to the earlier release of 2005. Reading them back-to-back is terrific because it gives Wolfman the chance to chronologically place the book in context for the times in which it was written. Also, it gives the creator the unique chance to pay homage to horror (in general) and to the ongoing work with his long-time collaborator (Cowan) who had recently passed. Plus, it’s always a plus to get a little insider’s history of the medium of comic books, and Wolfman (having been a part of it for several decades) is a great weaver of graphic dreams, not just nightmares.
The biggest detriment to a tale like THE CURSE OF DRACULA is that, sadly, it’s an incomplete journey. Oh, it has a discernible beginning, middle, and end, but, so far as I’m concerned, it’s very clear that this was only the very first ‘chapter’ in another ongoing vampire saga that Wolfman clearly had planned. How can I be so sure? Well, it ends with a virtual cliffhanger – a clear set-up for events that undoubtedly he intended to follow – and who knows? Maybe someday it’s a history that’ll be discovered. For now, it’s great to have another peek into a compelling vision at some quality horror-mythmaking. Sure, I’d love to see it finished … but, in the meantime, I’ll leave it all in the realm of my own imagination.
THE CURSE OF DRACULA is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Marv Wolfman; art is by Gene Colan; colors are by Dave Stewart; and lettering is by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. The release is a compilation of a three-issue series previously released. The volumn bears a cover price of $14.99 (US).
Marv Wolfman, by his own admission, knows more than a thing or two about great monster stories. Specifically as his resume relates to vampires, he’s had a hand in the creation of the Blade, the Vampire Hunter (a comic book creation), played by Wesley Snipes in the popular series of films. Under his direction, THE CURSE OF VAMPIRE is a modern-day adventure featuring a troupe of hunters dedicated to ridding their world of the undead. Dracula’s still around, and he has his sights set on one of the most dangerous games afoot today: American politics!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital copy of THE CURSE OF DRACULA for the expressed purposes of completing this review.