Silver Surfer vs. Dracula (#1) – Various

3 out of 5

Huwha? What is this, exactly? I know the 90s was a long time ago, and things were different and we had rotary phones and ate from cans, but was Marvel in the business of dropping random one-shots that have zero explanation? I mean, you can sort of piece together from the editorial column that this was the start to a series of standalone issues featuring Dracula versus-ing other dudes, and that this was likely done to capitalize on one of the ever-resurging trends of vampires and Midnight Sons, but this column is buried randomly in-between stories 3 and 4 of this all-reprint issue, and it doesn’t outright come and state any of the above. It’s more just, like, “hey, here are some reprinted stories, and here are some (then) current Marvel books that feature the same characters.” (Also, let’s forget to mention one of the reprints at all, and it doesn’t have any creator credits, so…) (Also, if the goal is to hype Dracula, why list him second in the title credits?)

But let’s just accept the oddball presentation as having made sense at the time, any maybe whatever era-appropriate newsgroup or whatnot was all abuzz with announcements of the book, and so fans were clued in; it’s definitely not a bad bang-for-yer-buck issue, though the backups that aren’t announced on the cover are a lot better than the lead-in story, which is Tomb of Dracula #50, by Marv Wolfman. I don’t find this issue to be too great of an example of Wolfman or artist Gene Colan, and though it ends up fitting the kind of offbeat vampire stories that follow, it’s still a rough way to start things, as it feels like it requires context of the time and perhaps other issues in its series. That editorial bit tries to fill in some gaps, but that just supports this being a strange reprint decision, since 3 – 4 paragraphs of explanation suggests this ain’t too new reader friendly.

However, the Bill Everett “Venus” story that follows – Venus being some type of reporter / investigator type, who combats a strange, mind-controlling delivery – is great fun, with wonderfully energetic art and (if you weren’t aware all stories were going to feature vampires) a great twist. The uncredited story that follows seems like a backup from some pre-code horror mag or something, and it is delightfully bizarre. The initial page art quality looks a bit rough, but the following pages are cleaned up, and I cannot claim to have ever seen a tale quite like it: Siamese twins, only one of which is a vamp! And lastly, a jewel: Howard the Duck’s Hellcow mini, from one of the Giant-Size Man-Things. Although I think this was maybe previously reprinted in the HTD treasury or annual, it certainly hadn’t had a spotlight on it since, and man, the color looks really, really good in this printing. Like, this should be the place I go to read this story if and when I have the hankering going forward.

So a questionable reprint product in general, just in terms of the Whys of its creation, and a rough opener, but the remaining material definitely makes up for it.