Van Helsing's Night
Off & Other Tales

by Nicolas Mahler
(Top Shelf, 2004)

Frankenstein's Monster. The Mummy. Dracula. Van Helsing. The Wolfman. All are characters with which most anyone would be familiar, and comics fans intimately so. Chances are, however, that you have never seen them as Nicolas Mahler presents them in his new comic, Van Helsing's Night Off.

Imagine, if you will, a famous vampire killer who struggles with keeping his hat on while hammering stakes. Or a piecemeal monster whose large feet make it difficult to get around without looking like a buffoon. Or an invisible man who keeps ordering drinks, only to see them served to the patron sitting next to him. Or a vampire who, following his trip to the local bar, is too baked to find his coffin in a crowded cemetery. This is some of the situational humor that can be found in Mahler's book.

As you may have guessed, these are not your father's horror characters. But Mahler hits a home run where putting a new twist on old characters is concerned. Additionally, he does so with no word balloons, a venture that is rarely pulled off well in comics, but Mahler does a better job than many.

On the negative side, Mahler's art style is simple, almost crude. Chances are the reader will have to stare at a few of the strips for a while to interpret the action; an undesirable prospect, at best, annoying at worst. I don't know whether or not Mahler is able to employ a more translatable style, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Overall, Van Helsing's Night Off is probably like nothing you've seen before and, in a medium overrun with cookie-cutter styles and story material, that's a good thing, and well worth checking out. The book is suggested for older readers due to some mature subject matter.

- Rambles
written by Mark Allen
published 31 July 2004

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