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.

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