Friday, April 22, 2016

Realms Toowoomba Recap # 58 [RPG]

In the western part of the Evermoors, a city fights for its very survival against an army of darkness. The city of Nesme has turned, in desperation, to clerics of Auril to defend them. In response, the Frostmaiden's servants have erected a protective dome of thick ice around the city. But as the days fall one by one, summer advances, and food supplies run low, the defenders' know that sooner or later, the army that besieges them will break through.

Turned into a foul abomination, the legendary paladin Arden Brightheart now leads the army of Myrkul as the Dread-Knight. Along with the master of the Blight Forge named the Witch-Queen, the Dread-Knight has thousands of undead minions at his command. His legions hack at the ice dome day and night, tireless and unrelenting.

The thousands of residents of Nesme have one last hope: frost giants sent by Orel the Grayhand have strived to erect fortifications in the Evermoors. The leader of their battle-party, Princess Gerti Olafsdotter, is herself a priestess of Auril and has responded to her allies desperate cries for aid.

Now, with the bulk of her forces pinning down the undead legions surrounding Nesme, Princess Olafsdotter leads a charge to slay the Dread-Knight and establish the Frostmaiden's reign over the Evermoors.

When the battle begins, the two opposing armies move slowly towards one another, deciding on the best way to maneuver around a great bog that separates them. The Witch-Queen casts several defensive spells and then magickally takes to the skies. The frost giant army splits into three groups, one coming around the bog to the north, one coming around from the south, and the third tentatively moving towards the bridge that spans the bog.

The northern group makes contact with the Dread-Knight's legions of skeletons first, and in seconds both armies have charged there en masse. The icy breath of the winter wolves has little effect on the undead, and the skeletons' flurry of whirling blades takes a toll. Princess Gerti Olafsdotter decides the time is ripe to summon her secret weapon: the fiendish white dragon Rynnarvyx! The dragon plummets into the midst of the battle and tries to snatch the Witch-Queen away. The two wrestle while the Dread-Knight summons his reserve: minotaur zombies hidden in the great bog! He orders his legions of skeletons to surround Princess Olafsdotter, but the frost giant leader cleaves them into pieces with her great axe. 

The battle slowly turns against the armies of the undead, as although they've inflicted wounds on several of their living enemies, they are unable to focus their efforts to vanquish any but a few of the weaker winter wolves. Eventually, even the minotaur zombies are destroyed, while the frost giant army remains mostly intact. Rynnarvyx continues grappling with the Witch-Queen, while Princess Olafsdotter takes advantage of her foe's distraction by landing several mighty blows. The Dread-Knight tries to summon eldritch fire on the vulnerable giants, but his attempt is interrupted and he takes to the air, spending the most crucial moments of the battle watching from above. The legendary bravery of Arden Brightheart has turned to cowardice during his transformation into the Dread-Knight! 

The Witch-Queen tries one last, desperate attempt to win the day by focussing all of her power into sucking the life-force out of Princess Olafsdotter in one deadly touch, but the frost giantess resists the attack and finally destroys the master of the vile Blight Forge. Seeing his ally defeated, the Dread-Knight retreats in full-flight, leading the scattered remnants of his army deeper into the Evermoors, vowing revenge on the frost giants, Nesme, and all living creatures who set foot in his domain.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Buffy Comic Project: "Viva Las Buffy! Act 1: Broken Parts"


Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 51

(Dark Horse) (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Scott Lobdell (plot); Fabian Nicieza (script); Cliff Richards (pencils); Will Conrad (inks)

Setting:  Between Movie and Season 1

T.V./Movie Character Appearances:  Buffy, Pike, Dawn, Joyce, Hank Summers, Giles, Quentin Travers, Angel, 

Major Original Characters:  None

Summary:  In the weeks after accidentally burning down her high school's gym fighting vampires (and facing the death of her Watcher, Merrick), Buffy continues the fight against vampires with the help of her friend Pike.  She intervenes when a group of vampires attack police officers and, with Pike's help, stakes several of the monsters.  When he drops her off at home late at night, she sneaks into her room to find that Dawn is sleeping in her bed.  She and Dawn argue until Joyce comes in to settle the fight.  The next day, Joyce, Hank, and Buffy attend Buffy's school (Hemery High) for a meeting on whether she can be readmitted.  The petition is denied, and she is expelled, causing Hank to lash out at Buffy.  Meanwhile, in England, the Watchers Council realizes that Merrick is dead and decide to find a replacement.  Quentin Travers says he is considering two candidates: William Bryardale and Rupert Giles.  Rupert beats up a demon to get a spell he can cast on a classmate.  Back in Los Angeles, Buffy watches her parents argue and then sneaks out to fight more vampires with Pike.  After dusting them, she gets a lead that they may be coming in from Las Vegas.  On the spur of the moment, Buffy accepts Pike's offer to head there.  Little does she know that one of the most feared vampires of all, Angelus, has also heard about vampires having a welcome invitation to Las Vegas . . .

Review

This is good!  It nicely fills in a gap in Buffy's story by telling us what happened after the end of the movie and before the first episode of the TV show.  We were given clues to some of this (Hank & Joyce fighting, the expulsion, etc.) but seeing how it played out is very cool.  I think they should have played up more of Buffy's "valley girl" persona that was a big part of the movie, as she's a bit too much already like more down-to-earth TV series Buffy.  It's also going to be interesting to see more of the Watchers Council decision to send Giles.  A strong start to a new story arc.

Notes

*  Buffy gives Dawn the famous "Mr. Gordo" before running away

*  The letters page has some missives complaining about the delays with Fray, and it's clear editor Scott Allie is annoyed too.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dragonslayer (Marvel) (Ltd. 1981)

Dragonslayer!  An adaptation of a movie I've never seen or heard of, with Denny O'Neil doing the scripts and Marie Severin on the artwork.  The setting is solid: it's a sixth century England where the old ways of paganism, sorcery, and mystery are falling before the crusading monotheism of the Church.  These two issues are quite plot heavy!

In Issue # 1, one of the last of the great wizards, Ulrich, sees visions of a great monster rising in the land and sure enough, soon after, word comes of a massive dragon terrorizing the countryside.  Ulrich's apprentice, Galen, wants to slay the dragon, but Ulrich refuses.  When a representative of the king, an evil knight named Tyrian, arrives at the castle, Tyrian mocks Ulrich and doubts his power.  He arranges a test for the old wizard, which Ulrich intentionally fails and dies.  Galen takes an amulet worn by Ulrich and decides that, although he hardly has any magic power, he'll revenge himself on Tyrian and slay the dragon to boot!  After a rousing fight with the dragon, Galen thinks he's successfully buried it under a pile of rock.  But the king, instead of thanking him, decides that a wizard is too much of a threat to have running loose and throws him in the dungeon.  There's a subplot involving the king's daughter that I won't even try to shoehorn in here, but suffice it to say that she lets Galen loose--only to be confronted by Tyrian!

In Issue # 2, Galen escapes in an exciting scene: he tries to flee the evil king's castle on horseback, but the main gates are closed; so he turns back into the castle and leaps his horse towards a crumbled stone wall in the back and crashes through it!  Very cinematic.  Galen hides from the king and Tyrian by finding refuge with a girl named Valerian.  Valerian's father crafts him a special "dragonslayer" spear, and Valerian herself steals scales from the dragon's nest so her father can craft him a shield.  In molten caverns underground, Galen finally confronts the dragon (a good setting for an epic battle).  It's a stalemate until Galen realizes he can resurrect his mentor by opening the amulet and pouring the ashes onto the lava (apparently Ulrich's master plan from the beginning).  Although both Ulrich and the dragon are slain, the threat is ended and Galen emerges triumphant, but knowing that he is the last of the true sorcerers that will ever walk the land.  A new age has dawned, and the days of magic are withering away.

The theme of the comic--a last hurrah for magic that would dwindle to nothingness with the time of Christianity--was really well done, and made the story much more interesting than the standard fantasy setting.  There were some scenes that I could imagine would be pretty exciting on the screen, so I may actually try to track down a copy of the movie!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Buffy Comic Project: "Note from the Underground, Part 4"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 50

(Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza (story); Cliff Richards (pencils); Will Conrad (inks)

Setting:  After Season Six

T.V. Character Appearances:  Buffy, Pike, Angel, Faith, Xander, Anya, Dawn, Adam, Merrick (flashback prose story), Cordelia (flashback cartoon story)

Major Original Characters:  Robert Berman (flashback prose story)

Summary:  Buffy and Pike return to Sunnydale, and Buffy defeats a Scourge guard to gain entrance to their underground prison.  Meanwhile, inside the prison, Angel, Faith, Xander, Anya, and Dawn confront the reborn Adam.  Adam explains that although his body was destroyed, his essence lives on as a computer program with holographic capabilities.  Buffy and Pike sneak through the prison but then fall through a shaft that leads directly to the main chamber where everyone is; Buffy ends up plunging directly into the pool containing the soul drops, but instead of being killed, she pulls out the plug at the bottom of the pool and drains it!  Buffy inspires all of the prisoners to break free and riot, and without them to use as a power source, Adam's computer program shuts down.  The Scoobies return to the Summers' house only to remember that it was ravaged when the Scourge first attacked.  Angel and Buffy have a nice farewell, and after he and Faith are gone, the others ask Pike to tell them about Buffy in high school.  Much to her dismay, he starts to tell them about Las Vegas.

In a separate prose story, Buffy and Dawn are out getting ice cream sundaes after surviving the battle against Adam and the Scourge.  Dawn asks Buffy about the first time she fought a vampire, and Buffy explains that it was when they lived in L.A.  She was a cheerleader and had recently been told her destiny as a Slayer by her first Watcher, Merrick, when they went to patrol a cemetery.  Suddenly, the grave of a high school boy named Robbie Berman.  After staking him and returning home, Buffy looked up who Robbie was and found that he a good kid who liked comic books, role-playing games, and the X-Files.  The pain of knowing who the vampire she destroyed was as a person before dying was so much that she decided she needed from that point forward to avoid humanizing them.

In a brief cartoony story, Buffy runs into Cordelia at the mall and they're chased by by giant rats.  They flee into a locked door, but Cordelia uses a credit card to ease the lock open and they escape, slamming the door behind them.

Review

Not bad!  Buffy and Pike really have a fun dynamic, and I'm looking forward to seeing the flashback stories of their previous adventures starting next issue.  The explanation for how Adam is still around is plausible as these things go.  I thought Angel and Faith probably weren't used well after a fantastic entrance at the beginning of the story arc, but the epilogue was really well done, as we get to witness Angel telling Buffy about Connor, Xander explaining to Anya what happened after he slept with Faith, and more.  Funny, sweet, and well-written.  The prose story, written by Fabian Nicieza, was excellent and adds some more depth to Buffy in a meaningful way, which isn't easy to do after so many stories.  The idea that all of the vampires Buffy kills were once real people with real lives and families is an angle that's usually overlooked on the show.  (The idea that every vampire is a walking tragedy that cannot be rectified).

Notes

*  The usually bland credits page on the inside front cover was switched up for a cool, funky design (though admittedly, the font makes it hard to see who the credits actually acknowledge).

* I like that after the battle, the fact that the Initiative tunnels were never filled in with concrete as previously thought is rectified by Xander getting some of his construction buddies to home over with a cement truck.


*  The idea of Adam existing as a computer program brings in some echoes of Moloch the Corruptor from way back in Season One.

* Great panel with Buffy pulling the plug on the supernatural pool of soul drops with a genuinely funny line.

* It's a big unclear exactly what happened to Adam, and whether he'd be able to return if he found another demonic source of power.

*  The prologue to the main story was the perfect transition to the next story arc, with Pike and Buffy's adventures in Las Vegas.

*  I'm still not sure if the plot thread with the demons from the first issue in the story arc was tied up.

*  The inside back cover to this issue has solicitations for Dark Horse's output for the month, and they still list this issue with the title "Hellmouth to Mouth."

Next Recap

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mynock Squadron Recap # 6 [RPG]

[4.6.8 ABY]

After safely returning planetside after their final exercise in space, the recruits are told they have a few hours to relax and get changed into dress uniforms before a commencement ceremony will begin. Stavros compliments his wingman Szo-Dano on her performance, and even manages to appease the clearly seething Torgo. Kero spends a few minutes chatting with Gatara, and hears how the female Ewok couldn't wait to join the New Republic after witnessing the clash of starfighters over Endor. Kero inquires as to whether Gatara had faced any discrimination for being female and then makes a point of getting a group holopic of the female recruits. Meanwhile, Waric seeks out the base's maintenance droid, UR-90, and asks it whether it likes doing maintenance and whether it wants to be free. The droid is unable to process the questions.

The commencement ceremony begins with a brief speech by Major Dei, thanking the recruits for their effort and promising that, even if they don't make it into Mynock Squadron, they have bright futures in the New Republic military. He then reads the final leaderboard scores:

Stavros: 87
Kero & Waric: 75
Tazo-Rhi: 57
Keth: 55
Torga: 54
--------------------cut-off
Torgo & Szo-Dano: 46
Slaprat: 45
Gatara: 43
Dosh'Tu: 42
Stahlog: 33

The Cerean Tazo-Rhi seems stunned that she made the cut, and Torga looks sympathetic, but not surprised, that her brother did not. Major Dei then proceeds to award Torgo, Torga, Stavros, Waric, Kero, and the mysteriously absent Keth with the Superior Service Medal for "excellent performance while on duty in helping to uncover and capture the spy and saboteur Moldva Vanir." Stavros and Waric are promoted to Ensign, while Kero is promoted to Warrant Officer.

After the ceremony, Stavros teases Kero on her new, higher rank. The recruits discuss what could have happened to Keth, and learn that search parties are being formed to look for him. Stavros, Kero, and Waric receive authorization to take a landspeeder and return to Vanir's hidden cave on the theory that Keth may have returned there for some reason. Waric expertly pilots the landspeeder at high speeds through some very treacherous terrain, but a search of the cave turns up little of interest. 

But on the return trip, despite darkness having fallen, Waric's prosthetic eye spots a small bundle laying against a boulder: it's Keth! The Zabrak recruit is clearly dehydrated and moans incoherently about the need to stop Vanir and warn the base. Kero is forced to sedate him as he struggles violently when they try to help him. Her analysis of his injuries and symptoms leads her to believe that Keth may have suffered a serious concussion from the explosion of the charge he hurled away during the fight with Vanir, and that that concussion left him increasingly confused about reality. The recruits hurry Keth back to base for treatment.

[4.6.9 ABY]

The next day, the recruits who successfully auditioned for Mynock Squadron, including the unconscious Keth, are taken via shuttle to a recently commissioned Mon Calamari cruiser named the New Dawn. They are told that while the other members of the Squadron are on maneuvers, they'll have a few days to orient themselves aboard ship. During this time, Kero keeps a close eye on Keth's condition and checks in on Torga, Waric offers Tazo-Rhi some additional instruction in the sims to help ameliorate her anxiety, and Stavros makes a nice haul gambling with crew who will be far more guarded in the future.

[4.6.11 ABY]

Two days into their stay on the New Dawn, the new members of Mynock Squadron are suddenly summoned to Deck 5, Corridor C. There, they see the ship's captain approach with an entourage of staff. The captain is giving a host of orders as he strides quickly through the corridor, and it's clear the ship is being readied for hyperspace and a potential battle. When he spots the pilots, he tells them that the New Dawn is headed to protect Kuat from an Imperial splinter fleet, but that the New Republic Intelligence Service is demanding action on a trivial matter. He says that Mynock Squadron will have to handle it and he delegates a new officer to brief them.

The officer, a ginger-haired Lt. Bruddles, offers a confusing and scattershot mission briefing. On the planet Nishr in the Outer Rim, a New Republic agent has infiltrated a pirate group known as the Nishian Independent Force. The NIF is allied with the former Imperial Governor of Nishr who has declared the planet independent and under his control. The agent, known only by his current alias as "Kors Tanzent", has sent a coded short-burst transmission requesting immediate extraction. Bruddles says that he quickly scoured the relevant field reports and intelligence data to come up with the following plan: Mynock Squadron must force down an NIF freighter that makes periodic supply runs from the pirate group's asteroid base to the city Drushar and back. If the group can intercept the freighter while in the atmosphere, the Squad can then board the freighter and rescue Tanzent. Because of the limited time and lack of EVA boarding equipment, the freighter can not be taken once it reaches space. Bruddles says that intel reports the supply freighter is escorted by a few TYE-Wing "uglies", but that they should pose little challenge to elite pilots like those in Mynock Squadron.

After the hurried briefing, Mynock leads the group to the armoury so that they can requisition the equipment they need, and then to the hangar where they see a trio of old Y-Wings. "It's all we had available," shrugs Bruddles. Kero takes command and leads the three Y-Wings out of the hangar, with Waric taking a moment to make a flashy maneuver. "Great kid," says Stavros, "but don't get cocky!"
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Director's Commentary (January 30, 2016)

The big thing this session, and the culmination of the first big story-arc, was the release of the final Leaderboard tallies.  I was serious that only the top six scores would make the cut, and I played it straight with no special bias for PCs over NPCs.  Still, apart from Keth (who squeaked in), all of the PCs made it in handedly.  It was fun for me to see which of the NPC recruits would make it into the squadron and assume a much bigger role in the game.  Tazo-Rhi was a big surprise, but I liked the character and developed her along a Vulcan sort-of personality.  Torga was a bit harder, but we'll see in a few sessions that something ends up taking her off screen.

We also got to see the first use of the Rank & Privilege rules put into place, another one of the rules subsets that I was looking forward to using and perfect for a military campaign.  Kero's player was quite focussed on being an outstanding soldier by formal measures, and ended up getting command of the Squadron.  She'd keep this role throughout the campaign, though occasionally giving way to Waric on some missions where his Imperial background gave him an edge.  Keth always languished near the bottom, and barely rose above Private the whole campaign.  The interesting thing about the Rank & Privilege system is that higher ranks gave characters special abilities they could use (like calling in an air strike or giving a subordinate an extra move action once an encounter).  The system also tied in nicely to the Requisitions rules subset which saw its first appearance in this session.  This system worked really well for the campaign as well, because the group had to work together to decide what sort of weapons, gear, and vehicles they needed for each story arc within a limited budget.  This meant that, unlike a traditional adventuring party, the group didn't end up relying on a single set of gear but could better prep to different types of missions and take advantage of some tactical planning.  Just like good soldiers ought!

The whole bit with Keth being AWOL and then suffering from concussion symptoms was one of those off-the-cuff improvs that directors sometimes have to make, as the player was late to the session.
Stavros tops the Leaderboard

In retrospect, I should have done a lot more prep on the gambling rules and did a better job with a gambling encounter for Stavros, as that was a major theme of his character.  Unfortunately, the player only stayed in the campaign a few more sessions.  His last line at the end of the session was a good one, as I had made a House Rule that PCs who naturally integrate a well-known line from the movies into role-playing would get a Force Point (but each line could only be used once).

The idea with having the PCs start off with Y-Wings was part of the traditional notion that they'll start off at the bottom with the clunky, outmoded vehicles and then slowly work their way up to the good stuff during the course of the campaign.  The idea for the TIE-Uglies comes from some of the Rogue Squadron novels, and they represent vehicles that are even easier to shoot down then standard TIEs.

All in all, I was pretty happy with the first story arc and looking forward (though nervous) about getting the group on to actual missions.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Realms Toowoomba Recap # 57 [RPG]

[3 Flamerule 1372 continued]

After barely an hour's ride on the incredibly fast phantom steeds, the adventurers reach the west bank of the River Til.  The river looks to be at least a mile wide and poses a clear obstacle.  Syd considers summoning a water elemental to carry everyone across, but decides that it will fade from existence before its task is complete.  The adventurers decide to ride north along the river in the hopes of finding a shallow ford.  After a few miles' journey, they see a small band of lizardmen fishing along the bank but are able to ride past before the lizardmen can even react.

Near mid-day, the group approach the southern edge of the Yuirwood without having found a convenient spot to cross the Til.  The adventurers' discussion on what to do next is interrupted by the appearance of a solitary half-elf bowman emerging from the forest.  The newcomer bluntly asks the adventurers to explain their purpose, and warns them not to enter the Yuirwood.  When the travelers explain that they are headed to Thay to rescue a kidnapped companion, the half-elf, who gives his name as Theyler, says that few who are taken by the Red Wizards ever return.  He tells the adventurers that they may continue their journey as long as they do not enter the Yuirwood, and warns them that they will be watched.  Before departing, he advises the group to avoid entering Phynys Muir, "The City of Lost Hope."  The name clearly means something to Fargrim, still trapped in Dolcetto's body.

Although it means leaving the phantom mounts behind, the decision is made that Syd should once again transform into a giant eagle to ferry the adventurers across the river.  As Fargrim and Mellia are being carried across, Mellia shares that she has been in occasional magickal conversation with Cain, but that the cleric of Kossuth has been terse and unhelpful.  She says that once they've rescued him, she still plans to return to Startop Mountain and look for the Crown of Horns.  When they join Dolcetto on the far side, Fargrim says he is coping fairly well with the body shift, while Dolcetto (in Fargrim's body) says she misses the magickal arts and has no desire to remain a dwarf.  Meanwhile, back on the west bank, Myst (in Ralkin's body) tells Ralkin (in Myst's body) that he feels some of his connection to arcane energies starting to return.

When everyone has been ferried across, Fargrim tells the group what he's remembered about Phynys Muir.  He says that many centuries ago it was a beacon of learning and wizardry in this part of Faerun.  However, its most skilled explorers of the mystical realms delved too far, and unleashed a force that doomed the city.  Those who survived the initial cataclysm erected a massive, four-sided gold statue of a figure with a hand held up in warning in each cardinal direction, so that none would seek to enter the city.  Nonetheless, Fargrim says, the city is known to disappear and reappear all over the Wizard's Reach, and many foolish treasure-seekers have disappeared inside.  A few, however, have returned with tales of great riches.

The adventurers find a defensible spot for a campsite and decide to continue their journey in the morning.  Ralkin focuses on learning the best ways to manipulate the magickal energies coursing through his present body, while Dolcetto fishes and Mellia expertly starts a fire.    The afternoon wanes, and as it begins to get dark a small hawk lands near Syd and hops around as if it wants the halfling to follow it.  Syd, able to communicate telepathically, discovers that the hawk is actually the shapechanged form of a protector of the Yuirwood.  The newcomer explains that a band of gnolls have penetrated the forest and reached a sacred site, which they are pillaging.  Syd agrees to a request for help, and persuades his companions to go along with him.

The adventurers move carefully, though not particularly stealthily, into the darkening fringes of the Yuirwood.  They soon reach the overgrown remnants of a ring of standing stones, many of which have fallen over.  The stones are laced with a strange, silver-colored inlay, some of which has been clearly chipped away.  No one is present, but Ralkin spots a doused torch on the ground that is still glowing with heat.  Arrows suddenly whistle through the dark towards Mellia and Fargrim, while a pair of gnolls wielding massive swords emerge from hiding and charge Dolcetto.  Syd reacts quickly, but perhaps rashly, by calling down a pillar of fire on both the gnolls and Dolcetto!  Even worse, several nearby trees are set ablaze.  The heavy fighting continues.  Fargrim, in Dolcetto's body, transforms into a winged humanoid body and flees.  Myst, in Ralkin's body, expertly shoots one of the gnolls in the eye with a bone bow.  Syd transforms into a large lion and charges into battle, while Mellia fires rays of flame.  The gnolls are quickly dispatched, including one that almost escaped but was incinerated by one of Fargrim's spells.

Syd conjures water to put out fire before it spreads, and Myst searches the bodies for treasure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dr. Strange vs. Dracula (Marvel) (one-shot, 1994) [COMICS]

I'm no art critic, but that's an ugly cover.  And the blurb is stupid, as I've seen far uncannier battles than this.  Anyway.   Dr. Strange vs. Dracula was a 1994 one-shot that reprinted the Sorcerer Supreme's battle against the Lord of Vampires from Tomb of Dracula # 44 (1976) and Dr. Strange # 14.  The indicia doesn't even note that it's a reprint, but Gene Colan's moody interior artwork is iconic 1970s material.  The reader is thrust directly into the story, as Strange realises that his man-servant and friend, Wong, is missing.  Firing up a crystal ball, Strange realizes that Wong has been attacked by Dracula.  There's some subplots that don't make much sense in this context (involving Blade and a guy named Harold whom I've only ever seen in the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead), but in any event Strange quickly tracks down Dracula at his HQ and attacks!  The plot's a bit fuzzy here, but it sounds like if Strange kills Dracula, then Wong's life will be saved.  Anyway, there's an exciting battle and a bit of an origin for Dracula (as Strange forces him to relive his past), but in a scant few pages Dracula gains the advantage and sinks his teeth into Strange until he dies.  Doctor Strange is never seen in the pages of a Marvel Comic again.  Until later that month.  Doc's body might be dead, but his astral spirit is free to float around and do stuff.  Strange forces Dracula to experience hallucinations to weaken him, and when Strange's body animates as a vampire three days after death, his astral body re-enters the form.  Now it's vampire vs. vampire!  Doctor Strange calls upon a mystical power he acknowledges he rarely invokes (Jehovah) and burns Dracula and cleanses Wong's and his own body of the taint of vampirism.  It's not exactly clear what happens to Dracula, but he un-lives to fight another day.  I think the reprint holds up well, as Marv Wolfman's writing and Gene Colan's artwork are some of the best things from the era--at least if the reader's in the right mood.

A text page by comics horror maven Mort Todd explains that this was one in a series of four vs. Dracula one-shots, and provides some brief bios of contributors.  There's also a short, but clever story reprinted from Vampire Tales # 9.