(Submitted by our Superheroscifi Guru, Mr. Prince Adam. Thanks, Super friend! 🙂 xoxo)
“Liesel Van Helsing has dedicated her life to keeping the streets of New York City safe from the otherworldly threats that lurk in the night. However, when she teams up with a hunter who is every bit as cunning as she is, the very nature of the hunt is thrown into question. With the tables turned, and Helsing now on the run from an unstoppable foe, she must unite with the creatures of darkness if she wishes to survive.” (Zenescope)
After reading the first Van Helsing mini-series, I was eager to get back to her world and stories. After fighting and beating Dracula, where do you go from there? Well, wrier Pat Shand decided our vampire hunter’s next hunt would be Frankenstein, the most famous living dead man-monster. Before we get to that, let me be clear, that I skipped several stories in the Grimm Fairy Tales line of stories to get to this one. So the opening scenes where Liesel is at a bar hanging with her fellow monster hunters. The only one I recognized was Robyn Hood. It wasn’t two confusing though, as Mr. Shand gives you enough information on the others that are pertinent for this story. I do love that the bar scene is included though because it put extra ordinary people, in ordinary everyday situations that colleagues and friends would engage in. It gives another layer of humanity to a story full of monsters. While Van Helsing’s lover Hades, the Greek god of hell is present, he’s only in the story briefly. However, I do like that Pat Shand deals with the main hurdle in this relationship. Liesel is concerned because she is a mortal, and he is immortal. She worries how their relationship could last when she will get old and he will not. I love that this is an issue, because in such a relationship, this would be a concern. It also reminded me of a similar story arc in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Truthfully, anything that calls to mind the Lois Lane/Superman relationship is a win for me. Come to think of it, that’s a conundrum the Buffy/Angel and Buffy/Spike relationship faced, which makes it even more prevalent for me. She is so worried about this, that while Hades is away at a family meeting on mount Olympus, Liesel believes she has discovered an experiment and formula, which would allow her to transfer her memories and consciousness to another body. This plot point transitions the story into Frankenstein territory.
To keep her mind off of her relationship worries she teams with two members of her bar friends for a hunt. Those characters are Franklin and Taylor Shelley. Taylor is a cryptozoologist and she provides all the info on the monsters they fight, what their weaknesses are etc. Her husband Franklin, is the legit monster hunter of the group, although, Taylor does her fair share. What I love most about this couple is their last name. It’s a great nod by Pat Shand to the creator and writer of Frankenstein. The monster they are hunting is Mothman, a giant sized monster that is exactly what his name implies. It very much comes off as a B horror movie villain, which is by no means an insult. What I also loved about this book is the origin of Frankenstein. It all starts when Franklin is killed by the Mothman. He is brought back to the Shelley lab where Taylor creates a temporary body for Franklin’s mind, which is actually preserved by Moth Man’s venom. The cool thing for me, is that Taylor creates the body from discarded monster parts they’ve hunted. However, in addition to preserving his brain, it’s also making Franklin incoherent and crazy. What I notice is that this Frankenstein monster was created out of necessity, from a place of love. In the original and in most variations, the creation of the monster is done out of hubris, because the doctor felt like he could play God. I love how powerful this new take on Frankenstein is. He went on a destructive murderous rampage and beat Van Helsing within an inch of her life, Liesel even makes mention of that fact in their final confrontation. The last time I’ve seen comic book villains this imposing were Bane in Knightfall, Doomsday in The Death of Superman, or The Joker in The Killing Joke. The fact that I actually feared for the main characters life, albeit briefly, is a testament to the intriguing and intense storytelling. Given what unfolds and the death and destruction that has occurred, it’s understandable that Liesel deems it necessary to kill Franklin. I also understand Taylor’s opposition to Liesel’s decision. Love makes you do crazy thing sometimes, so I completely understood Taylor physically trying to stop Liesel from committing the act. The ending was a little iffy for me. Without spoiling anything, the ending was very weighty, with significant loss, which was somewhat lessened by what I thought to be a forced “happily ever after” moment. However, I’ll give the ending credit for tying back in to Van Helsing’s concerns about her relationship with Van Helsing and putting them into perspective.
The artwork for this story is done by Leonardo Colapietro, His style is very current with comic book trends. It’s actually quite similar to the artist of the previous volume. I loved the Mothman design, it reminded me a little bit of the movie The Fly. Especially, the eyes and even the mouth area a bit. The most gruesome scene was seeing the Mothman rip out Franklin’s throat. The design of Frankenstein really stands out in his first splash page reveal. He’s got the trademark stitching. He’s got bolts on his body but he has metal attached to his arms and hands, his jaw is even metallic, and he is connected with wires and such. It’s a nice mix of classic yet new. In fact, he’s’ got a little Incredible Hulk mixed in with Cyborg Superman… To quote Aquaman in the Justice League trailer… I dig it. What I don’t dig is the look of Van Helsing’s costume, Gone is the top hat, the steampunk goggles, bustier tops, shorts and fishnet stockings. In its place are leather pants, a leather Harley Quinn colored crop top and a black trench coat. Her original look made her stand out and was unique. This design was not. It reminded me of when DC put Wonder Woman in a leather jacket and pants, to appease more sensitive folks…and I hated that!
This story certainly took Liesel Van Helsing in a bigger and bolder direction. It had far more action, yet never forgot to keep things personal. With her father dead, the personal connection came in the form of her relationship with Hades, as well as her interplay with her fellow hunter colleagues. Not only am I interested to delve deeper into the world of Van Helsing but I’m more convinced to back track and read about the other Grimm Fairy Tale characters too. If you liked the first mini-series, this is a MUST READ!