Friday, March 16, 2007

The Tomb of Dracula 3 (July 1972)

After two issues, The Tomb of Dracula finds itself with a new writer and inker. This is Tom Palmer's first assignment on the book and the difference in quality of finished art is immediately apparent. The misfire of the previous story's Vince Colletta inks is quickly forgotten; Palmer applies a slick and liquid look to the pages. Shadows look like shadows, fog looks like fog. The cast take on a more realistic and human (or inhuman) look.

The new writer is Archie Goodwin, a highly respected writer who had earned previous experience in the genre through his years at Warren. The effect his writing has is remarkable; after two issues of meandering we start moving forward. New characters are introduced along with motivation for their actions. The story is driven forward and seeds are sown for future developments. Unfortunately, despite the letters' page statement that Goodwin would be on the book for the long term, he's gone by the fifth issue.

This multie-part story opens in the American comic-book stereotype of London - all swirling fog, 'Big Ben', and the Thames. Distraught over the death of his fiancé at the end of issue 2, Frank Drake is looking to commit suicide by leaping in to the river. He's saved from this by a pair of characters who'll play a big role in the rest of this series - Raj and Rachel van Helsing. The focus moves to Dracula and Clifton. It's another cockney interlude (not a rarity in this title, though, to be fair to Goodwin, the language used isn't too far off the mark) by the end of which Dracula has attacked Clifton and turned him in to his 'slave'. The issue moves to wards its set-piece - another fight between Dracula and Drake, helped by Raj and van Helsing.

Naturally Dracula escapes. As the story moves on we meet a sceptical police officer from Scotland Yard - another truism of any story set in London it seems - who's persuaded as to the validity of Drake's story when one of Dracula's victims wakens in the morgue. Dracula and Clifton have escaped north, travelling to confront a Mrs Strangeway, the new owner of Castle Dracula, a woman with an interest in the occult. The issue ends with Mrs Strangeway inviting Dracula in to her house, with the promise of a mutually beneficial deal being discussed.

Although this is only the first of a two-part story, and therefore has no real conclusion, Goodwin acquits himself excellently. Despite having to follow two separate groups, the narrative never gets bogged down with (re-)introductions, and the plot (in terms of vampire comics) makes a lot of sense. Coupled with the art team of Colan and Palmer, Goodwin gets Tomb of Dracula back on track. The promise implicit in the premise is starting to be realised.

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