by Matthew Horowitz
On the back cover of Elvis Van Helsing, the titular character is menaced by a snaggletoothed, Hebrew-headed Golem, and our hero can brandish in defense only a Star of David and the frosted tips of his flippant hairdo. This is the story of a child, forced to face the monsters of his forefathers, using weapons he does not understand but determined not to make their mistakes.
Now, before I dive in here, I want you all to take a second. Stretch your legs, work out that crick in your neck, freshen up your drink, light your pipe.
Is everyone settled in to their comfort zone? Good, we won't be straying far. When I read this comic, written by Steve Kriozere and Mark A. Altman, I wanna feed the plot a sandwich, cause it is looking mighty thin. Elvis Yang is Plato's perfect ideal of a college buffoon, such that all college buffoons we have seen are but shadows thrown on to a cave wall. It's almost as if the major events of the story take place only to justify his existence. 6 years of college with no end in sight, no girlfriend, no job, his professors seem to think he is a genius, but all he exhibits is an ability to use the Internet. The dean presents him with a medal for nothing, and this is taken as a routine occurrence. He lives and dies by the words "dodgeball championship".
It's the slacker fantasy; the fervent hope that if you half-ass it long enough without making any real commitments and maintaining your hair volume, then eventually a smoldering magical temptress will appear in your totally sweet room (in your parents' house) and offer to take you away to an adventure of made up words and perpetual backflips. Of course these events do transpire, and it's revealed that young Elvis Yang Was born Terrance Van Helsing, heir to the Van Helsing tradition of killing monsters.
Terrance indeed! And after that it's all BANG! WOOSH! ZIP-ZALGO-ZOWIE!
The mystery woman? A succubus.
Werewolves? Why not.
In fact it's revealed that basically every hero or monster that could have been pillaged from a previously written work of literature has been. Except for zombies. Inexplicably but explicitly, shambling hoards of the walking dead just aren't sexy enough.
This should all sound very familiar to you, as you have certainly heard it before. The two lone glowing embers of character work in this book manifest as Elvis' adoptive parents. First generation Korean immigrants, they are depicted performing only three acts in perfect harmony: they serve their son traditional food which he openly detests, they sing Elvis Presley kareoke to each other in their living room, and when the callow ungrateful youth calls himself Terrance to their faces, they give him a motorcycle. Sometimes, the parents, they do understand.
But, having swam in the waters of this graphic novel, am I only to tell you that they are wet?
Perhaps I have grown distracted. It may seem that I have made much to do over the writing of this book. This is because the art, drawn by Jason Baroody, is sort of not worth mentioning. Kind of slapdash and uninspiring, I get the impression that the artists weren't terribly interested and thus left us with a sequence of storyboards. Ah well.
To say that what this graphic novel lacks in nuance it makes up for in charm would be to say that what a car lacks in gas it makes up for in air conditioning; cool at times but it ain't going nowhere. Good first try, but unless the insufferable protagonist suffers greatly in volume two, there are far better books being put out by AiT.
TL;DR A predictable romp through regularly rehashed supernatural themes, Elvis Van Helsing is fun, but not particularly memorable. I would skip it for now.
Elvis Van Helsing is written by Steve Kriozere and Mark. A Altman with art by Jason Baroody and published by AiT/Planet Lar. You can ask for it at your local comic book shop or you can buy it on Amazon.
A review PDF of Elvis Van Helsing was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher, AiT/Planet Lar.
Matthew is a lover of Comedy and Tragedy in all of their forms; particularly the forms of Comic Books, Theater, and Hip-hop. When not passing himself off as an actor or writer, he works with the mentally afflicted in New Haven, CT.
Fighting style: Swag-Fu Weapon of choice: Necktie (100% silk) Secondary weapon: Pocket Comb