Random speculation? Informed spoiler? Who knows, but one thing is for sure – the idea that Dracula might end up killing a major Marvel icon during Fear Itself is just another reminder that the House of Ideas really, really wants us to believe that vampires are a big deal. (Spoilers, ahead, potentially).
Rich Johnston is suggesting over at Bleeding Cool that Dracula will kill the Hulk in the three issue Hulk vs. Dracula spin-off mini from Fear Itself that launches in September, offering up the cancellation of Incredible Hulks and “classified” Hulk poster due in late September as evidence (Me, I think it’s much, much more likely that we’ll see Dracula turn Hulk into a vampire, but that’s just me). Whatever’s going to happen, though, it’s likely that it’ll be another step in the long, meandering journey that is Marvel trying to make Dracula into a big deal despite everyone else’s complete disinterest.
It was more than a year ago that Marvel first announced that vampires were going to be The Next Big Thing, launching with the “Curse Of The Mutants” storyline running through X-Men and various tie-in series… a storyline that was met with seeming disinterest with readers (X-Men #1 launched with great order numbers, but fell dramatically with its second issue, and ended “Curse Of The Mutants” with orders behing the long-running Uncanny; the next issue, the promise of a different storyline raised orders 21%, while the mini that continues the vampire storyline – Wolverine & Jubilee languished at #70 in the orders chart).
Following attempts to convince fans that, yes, Dracula is important and exciting – “He’ll be in Fear Itself!” “He will leave the Marvel Universe a different place!” – orders for April’s Throne of Blood oneshot that, we were told, was the ground floor for all the vamp goings-on (Forget previous ground floors Death of Dracula and “Curse of The Mutants” from last year; everyone else had, after all) were embarrassingly low, coming in below Spectacular Spider-Man #1000 and the seemingly-canceled Heroes for Hire (but still above Wolverine & Jubilee, thereby proving, perhaps, that fans really don’t care about this vampire thing). But Marvel can’t quite admit defeat just yet, hence Fear Itself: Hulk Vs. Dracula, a book that seems to be pulling out all the stops in order to sell: Tying into Marvel’s big event of the year, fueling speculation of a major character death and… double-shipping in September for maximum impact? I don’t know, I’ve got nothing for a third one.
Here’s the thing, though: Dracula doesn’t work in the Marvel Universe, and everyone who isn’t Victor Gischler and his editors at Marvel know it. The fans definitely know it, hence their repeated disinterest in attempts to make it work. In a world filled with superheroes, gods and other mythical figures and anthropomorphized manifestations of abstract concepts, vampires just aren’t that impressive, or even unusual enough to really seem that interesting, and the latest incarnation of the character and the mythos offers little beyond “Yeah, but now he’s a badass” as a reason to care. The problem with that, of course, being that the Marvel Universe is already so filled with bad-assery that that, in itself, has almost become meaningless as a defining (or, again, even interesting) character trait.
And so: Will Dracula kill the Hulk? Will he turn him into a mean green bloodsucker? I have no idea, but more worryingly, I don’t care, because whatever happens, it won’t be permanent. But the more that Marvel keeps trying to convince us that Dracula is important through shock tactics (Jubilee’s a vampire! THE HULK IS A VAMPIRE AND/OR DEAD!) instead of taking the time to create stories that give us reason to be invested in the character himself – like the original Tomb of Dracula stories, remember them? – the less important, interesting or relevant he seems, and the cheaper Marvel’s hype looks. Leave the Hulk untouched, and make Dracula the focus of his stories, instead of whoever he’s fighting, please.