Friday, October 03, 2008

Blood Feud! (Marvel)
X-Men Annual #6 When: 1982
Why: Chris Claremont How: Bill Sienkiewicz

The Story So Far...
It has been quite some time since the X-Men battled the lord of vampires, but when Storm dreams of Dracula's dark embrace, and the blood of her fellows, she knows the man who once possessed her soul beckons her.

In England, the wind-rider finds Dracula's newest lady, the recently turned Rachel van Helsing, and a master who still holds power over her once vampiric heart. Storm is recruited by the dark lord to steal the Montesi Formula from the sacred lands of Castle Pendarrow, giving Dracula control over the means to obliterate vampires everywhere.

Despite her expertise as a thief, Storm finds herself set upon by fellow X-Men, Kitty Pryde and Colossus, each with a murderous intent to stop her. Their battle leads a wounded Storm once more to the arms of Dracula, and the X-Men to her!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Dracula 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Dracula 5 (Tactician)
Speed: Wolverine 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dracula 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Nightcrawler 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Cyclops 5 (Lasers)

- The X-Men are: Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Storm.

The emergence of the mutant X-gene brings with it mixed blessings as humanity finds itself confronted by the next stage in human evolution. As individuals begin to manifest inherent superhuman abilities, two men; Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr; find themselves at a philosophical crossroads where education would be concerned. In contrast to his counterpart, Xavier uses his family fortune to found the Charles Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, using his knowledge and powers to train and educate mutant pubescents struggling with their abilities.

Xavier's original class consisted of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Bobby Drake, Hank McCoy, and Warren Worthington III, but would soon expand exponentially proportionate to team's activities as a covert paramilitary force protecting humanity from those who would misuse their power. Among the prominent new recruits; Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Havok, Dazzler, Gambit, Emma Frost, and for a short time, even Magneto.

They fight to protect the very people who fear and hate them, defending against the menace of alien invasion, cosmic crisis, and the mutants who would use their gifts for evil. Regular enemies include; Magneto, Apocalypse, Sentinels, the Hellfire Club, Brotherhood of Mutants, Juggernaut, and other.

DON'T TOUCH ME, WOMAN!!!- Born to Transylvanian nobles in the fifteenth century, Dracula truly began during war between the factions of Wallachia and the Ottoman Turks.
When mortally wounded by a warlord named Turac; Dracula was taken prisoner by the Turks who raped and pillaged Dracula's family and kingdom. A gypsy woman named Lianda took revenge upon the imprisoned Dracula for his mistreatment of gypsies, spreading the curse of the vampire, rather than healing him.

Dracula prospered with the enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and mystic abilities of the vampire. He turned and defeated Turac, before destroying Varnae and Nimrod, to succeed the latter as Lord of Vampires, and enhance his powers.
Among his strange abilities; hypnotism, metamorphosis (bats, wolves, mist), influence over weather and vermin, and rapid healing.

Among the many enemies Dracula has accumulated throughout the centuries of his long life: Abraham van Helsing, Apocalypse, Mephisto, the N'Garai, Dr. Strange, Frankenstein's Monster, the Werewolf, Blade, Hannibal King, the X-Men, and his own descendant, Frank Drake.

Math: X-Men (Ttl) Dracula (Avg) Ranking: Wolverine (#6)

What Went Down...
Recovered from the wounds of her mission, Storm finds herself at the mercy of Dracula! The Lord of vampires prepares finally to turn Storm once more and assure her subservience, but before he can sink his fangs in, a blast of energy staggers him away from the African mutant's throat -- an optic blast!

Cyclops and Wolverine march valiantly into Dracula's lair, but they do not find the vampire helpless! He pulls a sharp spear from the manor wall and tosses it with super-human strength! Cyclops, unable to move quick enough to avoid the weapon, is saved by the intervention of adamantium claws that swat just in time to knock the airborne missile away.

Led by a bamf, Nightcrawler appears to catch the spear in mid-air, disappearing only to reappear atop an unsuspecting Dracula! The nimble mutant drives the spear through the vampire's chest, teleporting away too fast for retribution!

As Dracula stumbles clutching at his chest, his slave, Rachel van Helsing, races to her master's aid! She rips the spear from her Lord's chest and charges Cyclops with inhuman speed. The X-Man is quick himself, reacting with a judo toss that topples the vampiress, but fails to slow her transformation to mist. Free of form she swirls around Cyclops to gain the upper hand!

While Colossus and Kitty burst through the wall to confront Dracula, Cyclops continues to grapple with van Helsing, who now takes the form of a wolf! Despite the immense strength advantage, it gives a solid target for Cyclops to hammer with the unrelenting power of his optic blast!

Meanwhile, Dracula attempts to pit his own enhanced strength against the powerful Russian, Colossus. He tosses a coffin that passes harmlessly through the phasing Kitty Pryde, and crumbles beneath the impact of Colossus' fist!

Overwhelmed by their growing numbers, the vampire Lord flees the X-Men, disappearing into a hidden passage leading to his underground catacombs.
With the comfort of a tighter arena, Dracula anticipates picking his opponents off, recognising an uncharacteristically violent Kitty Pryde as his greatest threat.
Kitty Pryde phases through the wall and beckons Colossus, as if confirming Dracula's suspicions.

The Hammer...
As if to prolong the value of this giant-size issue, we've got to call this instalment of the battle a draw, folks! A brief pause follows the battle, before the action resumes in the catacombs below, and it's likely there that we will revisit the issue sometime in the future! Whatta slap in the face, huh?
[NOTE: No stat for Storm due to total inactivity. Kitty Pryde is possessed by Dracula's daughter, Lilith.]

It's October, so we're dwelling in the depths with the dark and deadly in the lead-up to Halloween!

X-fans will know the 1982 annual marks a rematch between the X-Men and Dracula, who met previously in the year in July's X-Men #159. While we have not featured this confrontation, the results of a world where the X-Men were unable to defeat the Lord of Vampires was the subject of What If...? #24.

The integration of literary characters into superhero universes always holds some fascination for me. Modern comics fans might have managed to remain oblivious to Dracula's presence in the Marvel Universe, and it wouldn't have been difficult. Even in the character's prime as star of Tomb of Dracula the character largely remained segregated to his own world, clashing chiefly with Marvel horror characters, and his own regular antagonists, like Blade and Frank Drake.

It makes a lot of sense to include available iconic characters into a superhero comic. DC have assembled a brightly colored army of assimilated properties and continue to do so, establishing a fairly obvious example of precedent.
Literary classics like Dracula have much the same instant recognition and unique trademarks that make them as justifiable an addition as any other superhero property. The lure of 'Dracula V the X-Men' is as intriguing a prospect as 'Superman V Captain Marvel.'

Yet, for some strange reason, I find these characters always stick out.
Perhaps it's the fact that the translation to comics often brings with it similar alterations to those experienced in the adaptation of comics to film. The familiar, often with good intentions, becomes a distorted betrayal of what initially made the property what it is. In the case of Marvel's Dracula, the decision to include a wide array of abilities from various pre-existing mythologies, and the communication of some of these abilities in superhero terms, somehow feel odd.

Also betraying Dracula is the longterm commitment of characters in an on-going design managed by multiple persons, and generations. The subject of this annual, the Montesi Formula, was eventually unleashed in the pages of Dr. Strange, living up to the promise of obliterating all vampires in the Marvel universe. Unfortunately, this included Dracula, who was unsurprisingly resurrected sometime later, along with Lilith, and other popular characters.

When this additional layer was added to a character already designed for resurrection, it feels as if a uniquely comic book device has undermined the character. It is an unnecessary second-guessing of facts that all too often litters comics, even in the modern era.

I've never been a big reader of Marvel's Dracula, despite being as enthusiastic about monsters and mythology in my childhood, as I was superheroes.
Occasional crossover battles like this one have aroused my interests to moderate results. The annual reads unmistakably like a classic Claremont issue of X-Men, and for that it cannot be failed. Though far less remembered than the original confrontation between Dracula and the X-Men, it's a fun oddity to remember in the X-Men's decades of adventures.

We're in a rush, so I'll leave further conclusions to you, good readers!
Bill Sienkiewicz is dated, but competent with his artwork. Small experimentations are visible, as are tone sheets, which is fine if you like that sort of thing. It all feels slightly seventies, but I guess you can't begrudge an '82 annual for that.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

Despite her absence from this particular battle, Storm fans will want to hunt this issue down for a Giant-Size exploration of an important part of her history. Alas; it'll be the back issue bins for thee, as far as I know. If you're looking for more X-Men purchases, you might find something of interest in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe, where collections of most issues reviewed on the Infinite Wars are available for online purchase! By using purchase links provided, you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars, which is good! Yay!

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