Friday, October 22, 2010

Van Helsing's Night Off by Nicholas Mahler

"Van Helsing's Night Off" is a series of short comic strips based on famous characters from all sorts of monster stories, from Dracula and the Wolf- Man to the Mummy and Frankenstein's Monster. Also featuring prominently is a Zorro-like character known as "The Masked Avenger" and a female werewolf known as the "Wolf Ma'am".

Mahler draws these characters in the midst of their nightly tasks and when they take time off. Each section is a small, contained story in itself. One concerns a vampire who rises from its grave to drink in a bar. But when he gets all bat-faced (so to speak), and goes back home, how will he figure out which grave in the cemetery is his?

Most of the stories in the book are kind of cute, but the book made me feel kind of like I'd eaten a load of cotton candy- not really full, and like what I'd consumed was rather ephemeral. The stories tend towards the mildly amusing, but didn't inspire any real laughs or amusement, just weak smiles. I thought the most amusing one was the first Masked Avenger story, in which he rescues three women from being killed, and each comes home to live with him.

At the end, he takes a night off and goes out drinking, and as he comes home, all three are waiting to kill him in turn, presumably for drinking (because none of these stories has dialogue). Again, it inspired a weak smile, and that was all. Others left me asking, "Is this supposed to be funny?", like the titular one where Van Helsing, on his night off, hangs a painting... from a stake. If I was a cartoon, there would have been a huge "?" hanging over my head at that one.

I suppose there will be some people who find this book the absolute height of humor, but sadly, I am just not one of them. I was left confused by many stories. Was I supposed to find them wildly funny? Or just subtly humorous? The art is fairly crude and sometimes you really have to sit there and think before reading as to what is going on. As a book of problems that monsters encounter, it's okay, but not great. On the other hand, with no dialogue, you won't have any problems reading what's going on. Not recommended, but YMMV.

No comments: