Warning: spoilers ahead for Avengers #48!
In the latest issue of Marvel Comics’ Avengers, the vampire lord Count Dracula is continuing his quest to obtain the blood of various superheroes. While recent issues of Wolverine have seen him determined to get his hands on the extremely powerful blood of the X-Men’s resident brawler, it seems as though he’s also looking to obtain She-Hulk’s, believing her gamma-infused blood to be a major asset as he prepares his new nation of vampires for war.
In Avengers #45, Dracula created a nation of vampires in Chernobyl, demanding its recognition as a legitimate country after his forces helped repel the symbiote hordes of Knull during Marvel’s King in Black event. While Dracula got what he wanted – with his nation being officially recognized – his new political status meant that the UN and Avengers were able to appoint Blade as Chernobyl’s sheriff to make sure the vampire nation conducts itself accordingly. However, that seemingly hasn’t stopped Dracula’s darkest plans, and his agents have converted entire towns into vampire hordes to expand his army. Now, it turns out he’s also searching for superhero blood to give his soldiers new abilities.
Avengers #48 from writer Jason Aaron and artist Javier Garrón reveals that Dracula made a deal with the Russian Winter Guard, who recently kidnapped She-Hulk and took her to their Red Room to be brainwashed and reconditioned. In exchange for draining Jennifer Walters and breaking her down so the Red Room could remake her as the Winter Hulk, the vampires got to keep her blood. However, as soon as the new Winter Hulk was unleashed, she went straight to Chernobyl, where she destroyed all of their blood stores (leaving Blade to survey the carnage and report his findings to Black Panther.) Similarly, Dracula’s vampires recently went after Wolverine, seeing as how his blood amplifies their abilities and allows them to survive in sunlight for extended periods – something Blade is aware of, as he’s apparently in touch with the former Avenger and current X-Force member.
Clearly, whatever Dracula has in store for the Marvel Universe can’t be good, especially if he’s trying to stockpile superhero blood. While Jennifer’s Winter Hulk manages to destroy all the samples of her gamma-blood the vampires had taken from Russia, it’s somewhat ironic that this was the Winter Guard’s plan all along. Making it look like their new Winter Hulk has escaped and is acting of her own free will, it is instead revealed that She-Hulk is taking out a list of targets created by the Red Room itself. Once the Winter Guard got what they needed from Dracula’s vampires, the Red Rood made sure the blood the vampires took couldn’t be used against them in the future, as the idea of Hulk-powered, daywalking vampires was rightly too dangerous to allow.
Sadly, the issue confirms that rather than just targeting Wolverine, Dracula is now actively pursuing multiple avenues of superhuman blood he can use to empower his army of the dead. While Avengers-level heroes like Wolverine and She-Hulk are difficult targets with a lot of back-up, Dracula’s vampires were successful in acquiring their blood, only to be defeated at a later date. What that means for more vulnerable heroes with equally useful powers isn’t yet clear, but it’s possible something truly momentous is happening in the shadows of the Marvel Universe, as Dracula turns his sights on Earth’s heroes and sees even the Avengers as a means to become stronger.