“CHRONICLES OF VAN HELSING” #2 and #3 (Comic Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on August 13th, 2011

Uniquely minimalist and eerily stylish, CHRONICLES OF VAN HELSING (Darkslinger Comics) creatively experiments with storytelling and artwork. What does it actually take for a person to become a monster hunter? How much sacrifice must be made before insanity finally takes over? These are the questions Robert Van Helsing must ask himself as he wages a violent war against creatures of the night. With a “less is more” approach, what isn’t exactly said with words is delivered in thousands through pictures.

In issue #2, Robert wakes up from a peaceful dream to find his quiet home under attack. With the monsters outside their bedroom door, Robert and his older brother hope they can survive until daylight. While sneaking around the dimly lit hallways, the two brothers suddenly discover their father dead, with his throat ripped open. With no one else to turn to, the brothers can only count on each other to fight against the vicious vampires.

In order to protect themselves, Robert and his brother just have baseball bats as weapons. But these aren’t the usual kind of wooden bats you see used in games. These baseball bats have crosses carved into them. With just one strong swing at a vampire, the bloodsucker’s head explodes. Robert wipes away chunks of brain matter from his face as he walks outside, only to find more vicious vampires waiting in the woods.

Issue #3 flashes forward, after the horrid attack at his home, and finds Robert training himself to fight. Images of his dead father haunt him in his dreams. Robert cannot drink or smoke; they’re nasty habits frowned upon by his cranky grandmother. Though she is old and tired, Robert’s grandmother has fought against the bloodsuckers since she was quite young. In order to live as a vampire hunter, she understands that you’re never as good until you’ve learned your lessons.

Using simple and short sentences, Adam Watson’s sharp writing allows his characters to be portrayed through actions, not words. Not everything is explained to the readers, which allows the revelations to have more meaning. Robert is growing up to become a headstrong teenager, full of angst and pride. Just because Robert put a stake through one vampire, doesn’t mean he can do it again. In a shocking cliffhanger, he will understand the true meaning of his lessons, when the vampires attack his grandmother.

The black-and-white artwork by Stefano Cardoselli creates a modern setting mixed with the western and horror genres. In a world drawn in shadows, the vampires are everywhere and their attacks can come at anytime. In the urban city, Robert holds a decapitated head in his hands, while the vampires run away, screaming for help from the police. In just one panel, this image is hilarious and eye-catching at the same time.

Because of its minimalist approach, comic book fans are in for something distinctively different with CHRONICLES OF VAN HELSING. At certain times, you’re simply gazing at the gritty artwork, especially when there’s very little dialogue. Because pride will be his downfall, will Robert survive as a vampire hunter? Eager readers can order both of these issues through the official website www.darkslinger.com!