- Written by: Joshua Dysarthria
- Art by: J. Alexander
- Letterer: Michael Heisler
- Edited by: Scott Allie
- Photo Cover by: Keith Wood
- Designer: David Nestelle
- Assistant Editor: Matt Dryer
- Publisher: Mike Richardson
Despite the 2004 film, being critically panned, that couldn’t stop Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing from receiving a video game, a novelization, an animated prequel short film, and a one-shot comic to expand the world created by Stephen Sommers and inspired by Universal’s classic monster movies.
The film sought to bring together the Monsters of Universal’s classic movies that include Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf-Man, and others, and merge them into one universe where they are confronted by a secret organization known as the Holy Order, with their headquarters being located beneath the Vatican, but their reach expanding throughout the world, with their champion being the chosen hunter, who goes by the name of Van Helsing. Helsing has no memory of his past but has memories of battles centuries-old, which he hopes to find the answers to by redeeming himself with his work carried out within the name of the Holy Order.
The comic is a stand alone story set between the timeline of the film, taking place after the death of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, but before Van Helsing returns to Rome.
Van Helsing is smuggled out of Notre Dame, Paris by the Sepulchre Guards, who work for the Holy Order. However, whilst trying to rest from his battle with Mr. Hyde, Helsing is awoken by the sounds of screams, which lead him to a medium, a woman under attack by an invisible being. After Van Helsing is knocked out of a window, he pursues the invisible entity into a morgue, though eerily empty for a morgue, Van Helsing follows his senses and discovers a laboratory beneath the building, and a journal about the hideous experiments he can see in cages. The journal is signed by Dr. Moreau.
Van Helsing is confronted by the Mad scientist, who explains that he is creating works of art in the evolutionary world of science and nature, making creatures of his own beyond the comprehension of Darwin and even beyond the capabilities of God himself. However, Van Helsing grows tired of listening so instead he tries to arrest Dr. Moreau, but with no luck, as Moreau is a master of traps as well as science, as the cage that contained the invisible entity opens up, letting out the unseen creature causing a problem for Helsing.
The dead medium appears to Van Helsing as a ghostly apparition, to inform him that the creature he seems so eager to kill is not evil, but is instead the former medium’s husband, fallen victim to Moreau’s sick experiments, transformed into a creature with a struggling mind.
Moreau manages to escape his arrest, but at the cost of his laboratory. As he continues his retreat upon one of his abominations, he plans to restart his experiments on an island, away from intruders.
The story is obviously inspired by the works of H.G. Wells, specifically the 1896 novel ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’ with the titular character being used as the true villain of this Van Helsing story.
There are also references to Wells’ other popular story ‘The Invisible Man’ which makes sense since Van Helsing was set up to merge the Universal Monster movie characters into one universe, and in 1933 Universal Pictures adapted the story into a film that became part of it’s Universal Monster series alongside the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf-Man.
The comic perfectly portrays Van Helsing as Stephen Sommers created him, as a badass Knight of God, who separates himself from his facade by using his morals to decide if a creature is truly evil or a victim of its creation. We saw this in the film when he stops Anna from killing the Frankenstein Monster, but in the comic, we see him spare the life of the amphibious creature who is revealed to have been the husband of the now-deceased medium. Van Helsing knows that he alone stands between evil and the rest of the world, as he has always been able to sense evil within the creatures he confronts, but he knows not every creature is evil, and he must do what he can to help protect them by handing them over to the Holy Order for study.
The art by J. Alexander is very akin to Mike Mignola’s artistic style, using heavy shading and very compact line work that brings out the details of a character’s features. The color palette portrays the dull lighting and really adds to the atmosphere, as well as the overall tone of the book’s story.
The design of the creatures and characters, makes me feel like this could easily be crossed over with the world of Hellboy and that in itself is an exciting thought, but as a stand-alone franchise, I would love to see more comics set in this world to expand the Van Helsing universe.
As a fan of the film, I was eager to delve deeper into the world of Van Helsing because in my honest opinion, I feel like the 2004 film was the best attempt that there has ever been to merge the Universal Monsters into a single shared universe, and despite new failed attempts in recent years with the continuous efforts to create a ‘Dark Universe’, I honestly think that Van Helsing was cast aside far too soon.
I was happy to discover that there were stories and adaptations within other media for the 2004 film, so I went on a mission of my own to purchase the game, the comic, the animated prequel film and the novelization, in order to tempt others into seeing my point of view on the matter. I will be using all of these adaptations as examples to further my argument during my first podcast episode that will be coming soon, where I will discuss the Universal Monster Classics as well as the future of the ‘Dark Universe’, but my opinion will remain that Van Helsing was the best attempt, and this comic further proves that theory as it helps expand the universe just enough to make the audience realize what we are missing from this idea as a whole.