TOMB OF DRACULA ISSUE NUMBER SEVENTEEN
"DEATH RIDES THE RAILS!"
Cover Date: February 1974
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils:: Gene Colan
Inker: Tom Palmer
Colorist: Tom Palmer
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas
Main Characters: Dracula, , Rachel Van Helsing, Frank Drake, & Blade
Synopsis:: Dracula enters the catacombs of Paris, ready to rest for the night, only to discover Blade waiting for him. Blade tells Dracula that Quincy Harker has destroyed all of Dracula's coffins in England and that Harker's agents are waiting at each of Dracula's four coffins in France. Blade tells Dracula that he has been waiting to battle him again. Dracula replies that he wishes to destroy Blade as he has killed far too many of his legions. The two battle but Dracula's centuries of battle prowess give him the edge and he defeats Blade. He drinks of Blade's blood and leaves him for dead. He tells Blade that he may still be defeated if he cannot find a coffin. Fortunately for Dracula, he has a fifth coffin in France, one unknown to Quincy Harker or his agents. One of Dracula's sleeper agents, Henri Verve, a farmer outside of Paris prepares a coffin for Dracula. Thirty years before, Verve fell to Dracula but was not transformed into a vampire. Instead, Dracula kept him alive as one of the many human slaves that he keeps for emergencies. The next morning, Dracula leaves on a train for Transylvania.
However, Frank Drake and Rachel Van Helsing are also aboard the train. Van Helsing is certain that Dracula will travel to Transylvania via train as an airplane is too cramped for him and would make him too vulnerable. She tells Drake that they will bide their time and search for Dracula's coffin. Elsewhere aboard the train, two men named Gruber & Granet carry a mysterious case, on the lookout for someone who is hunting them and their package. Gruber and Granet mistake Drake, Van Helsing, and Dracula as their hunters, overhearing part of Van Helsing and Drake's talk of hunting Dracula.
Meanwhile at a pagoda on the Irish coastline, Dr. Sun's minions prepare their vampire test subject Brand for his first ordeal- several of Dr. Sun's soldiers attack him with machine guns. However, rather than running as previous subjects did (and meeting soldiers armed with crosses and stakes), Brand attacks the soldiers, proving his bravery. Dr. Sun is pleased and orders Brand to cease his attack before his soldiers are killed.
Back aboard the train, Dracula discovers Van Helsing and Drake and tries to keep his presence secret. However when he attacks a young woman, he tips his hand. Van Helsing and Drake discover the woman (who they say should survive Dracula's attack), confirming Van Helsing's suspicion that Dracula is aboard the train. Grenet goes after Dracula, certain that he is the assassin after his companion Gruber. Dracula mistakes Grenet for one of Harker's agents and kills him. Frank Drake arrives on the scene and attacks Dracula only to fall before him. Fortunately Rachel arrives and gives chase to Dracula throughout the train. Dracula then encounters Gruber, seeking to solve the mystery of why Granet attacked him. Gruber still believes Dracula is an assassin and leaps to his death from the train. His mystery still unsolved, Dracula leaves the train for nearby Transylvania. Along the tracks, a mysterious figure retrieves the case from Gruber's lifeless body. The man is an agent of Dr. Sun, the man Gruber and Granet were fleeing from. He radios back that the package has been retrieved as planned.
NOTES: This is a neat self contained story that presents a new twist on the hunt for Dracula. In addition to the cat and mouse chase between Van Helsing/Drake and Dracula, there is the added element of Dr. Sun chasing the two men Gruber and Granet. This story adds in mistaken identities which cause all parties to hunt one another.
In addition, we see an interesting strategy by Quincy Harker for hunting Dracula- that of destroying all of his coffins (in some vampire myths, a vampire must rest in a bed of his native soil or die). Unfortunately Dracula's elaborate network of sleeper agents allows him to escape Harker's trap.
Jack Russell (aka Werewolf by Night) makes a cameo appearance here. As this issue indicates, we see much more of him in the next issue.