Trade Pile: Curse Of Dracula, Batman Contagion & Prelude To AoA

curse-of-draculaOver the past three or four years, I’ve really started digging into the horror side of comics, especially the ones published by Marvel. A few years ago we did a week-long run-up to Halloween showcasing certain scare books, then last year we did the same, but for the whole month of October.

One of the many jewels I’ve discovered in my time reading through these books mainly on the fantastic Marvel Unlimited service has been Tomb Of Dracula. That series is just fantastic and I hope to dig into the whole thing at some point. I’ve also come to realize just how amazing of an artist Gene Colan was. So, while searching his name on my local library service, I was excited to see his and Marv Wolfman’s The Curse Of Dracula which came out from Dark Horse in 1998. 

As Wolfman explained in the intro to the trade, this isn’t a continuation of the classic Marvel series, but instead a darker, more realistic look at Dracula’s continued influence on humanity. This time around, Jonathan Van Helsing leads a group consisting of Simon, former KGB agent Nikita Kazan and the blind half-vamp Hiro as they not only come to realize Dracula’s still alive (Van Helsing thinks his predecessor killed him years ago) but also deal with his minions.

At four issues, this is a whip-crack of a story that blazes along at a fast clip. Note, that is not a complaint in the slightest. I’d rather have a book that moves as quickly as this one than one that feels like a slog. In fact, I read it in one sitting and immediately wanted to see more from these guys which means I’ll probably start that Tomb read-through pretty soon!

batman-contagionAnother one of my comic interests these days is reading through Batman crossovers from the 90s and 00s. I wanted to dig into No Man’s Land, but realized that I should actually go back to Contagion and then Legacy and Cataclysm first. Luckily, there’s an awesome collection of the whole event plus a variety of extra issues that was waiting for me at the library!

If you’re not familiar, Contagion found the people of Gotham facing a plague with roots going back to the Order of St. Dumas, the group that brainwashed and trained Azrael. The crossover itself went through all the Bat titles as well as Robin, Catwoman and Azrael, bouncing between Batman’s efforts to keep the people in the city safe and the search for survivors of a previous outbreak whose blood might help synthesize a cure.

I’ve got to say, I was a little surprised at how this one was handled because there’s a lot dedicated to side characters hunting down a cure that wind up going nowhere. And then the ending itself seems to just come crashing in out of nowhere. So, I don’t think this will be a good collection for new readers to jump into, but it’s a fun look back for longtime fans like myself.

On the other hand, boy this book has some amazing artists. Kelley Jones, Mike Wieringo, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jim Balent, Dick Giordino, Barry Kitson and others contribute, so maybe it’s worth at least a flip through!

I did want to bring something else up: this book might have TOO much material. Don’t get me wrong, I love how this one features all 10 parts of the Contagion story plus Batman Chronicles #4, but then it gets into a few extra Robin issues, the Deadman story from Batman and even a few extra Shadow Of The Bat entries. On the one hand, I appreciate adding more content, but on the other I’m not sure if those stories wouldn’t be better served in another collection. However, having that Deadman story as a bonus is rad! But, would the price of the book been lower if those extras weren’t included? As you can tell, I’m of several minds on this topic!

x-men-age-of-apocalypse-preludeHey, speaking of big crossovers, I’ve always been curious about reading all of Age Of Apocalypse because I love alternate reality tales. And guess what? All five volumes are in the library system! Also? I got all five at the same time! Ahh, gotta get reading!

I tackled the Prelude volume first as it chronicles Legion’s path from gaining clarity to traveling back in time and accidentally killing his dad, Professor X. That’s what kicks off the whole Age of Apocalypse thing, if you didn’t know.

Truth be told, you probably don’t need to read these issues to enjoy the larger story, though I do appreciate seeing the lead up to these kinds of things. Even I did a lot of skipping around because, like, I don’t care about whatever’s going on with Rogue and Gambit at this point because they’re going to be completely different in the AoA storyline. That being said, if I was a longtime X-fan (as I am a Bat-fan) I probably would have been down with those moments.

That brings up an interesting thing about crossovers. Contagion pretty much exclusively sticks to the matters at hand while the AoA prelude takes a LOT of tangents. Then again, Contagion’s more of a straightforward crossover whereas Prelude is a collection of what was happening leading up to a larger event.

I’m probably going to skip over the first volume of the complete AoA series because it’s mostly Chronicles and a Blink miniseries that came about later, but I’m still excited to dive into all those bonkers four-issue minis and see where they lead!

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