A hero, a sidekick, a quest, and an implacable enemy. What we have here are the ingredients for a classic adventure story, and the creators of Van von Hunter oblige, stirring up an action-laden concoction that satisfies and amuses.
A hunter of demons and other Evil Stuff™ the title character in Pseudome Studio’s Van von Hunter has been dispatched, in typical fashion, to rescue a fair maiden from her nefarious captor, the vampiric Count Disdain. When he finally confronts the Count, however, he shows himself to be… less than intimidating. This little shortcoming doesn’t stop von Hunter, though, and he has quickly defeated the Count and rescued the fair maiden, only to be placed under arrest. Unfortunately for von Hunter and the fair maiden, the Count was a citizen of the Kingdom of the Undead, which doesn’t take kindly to having the non-dead making the un-dead, well, dead again.
A legal technicality sets them free, however, and von Hunter and the fair maiden (who remains nameless) flee from the evil land of the Undead to the evil land of Dikay. I know, tough choice. When the ruler of Dikay hears of von Hunter in his kingdom, he assumes that he has come to kill him, and pledges to destroy the hunter before he can be destroyed himself. So, we have the hero, the sidekick, and the enemy. Now, where did we put that quest?
Well, after outwitting the Flaming Prince of Dikay, and a short detour through the Accursed Valley of the Twelve Severed Heads, our heroes are approached by a wizened old man, and given their quest: Destroy the ultimate evil that the Flaming Prince is prepared to unleash upon the world in his attempt to destroy Van von Hunter. So, now von Hunter and the Flaming Prince are in direct competition, and race to find the Ruins of Ru’en, wherein lies the Ultimate Evil™.
If the above examples give the reader the impression that Van von Hunter is a silly strip, that’s because it is. As the creators themselves mention, the strip is meant to be practice, "[It’s] designed to be a test for us, not only artistically… but from a writing perspective, as well." They’re not necessarily taking Van von Hunter too seriously, and warn the reader against doing so. Regardless, they’ve come up with some pretty funny stuff, from bad puns, to bathroom humor (literally), to anachronisms, to misjudgments of scale. At only one strip per week the story is slow to develop, particularly when there are some diversions along the way, but that’s fine, since even the creators admit that the story isn’t much.
The art of Van von Hunter is manga-styled, and of high-enough quality that it won First Prize (that is, second place), in the 2003 Tokyopop Rising Stars of Manga contest. It solidified quickly, too, as a look at the first and eighth strips will show. The progression and improvement in form, composition, linework, and shading can almost be seen from strip to strip along this eight-strip path. By the twelfth strip, computer shading has been introduced, and by the fourteenth the strips are in full sophisticated grayscale. In comparing the first and 14th strips, a reader might be hard-pressed to say they were produced with the same pen. This is astonishing to me, and a tremendous accomplishment on the part of the artist.
Van von Hunter is a light-hearted parody of vampire-hunting manga, the conventions of fantasy literature, anime, movies, and just about everything else it can get its hands on. It is a delivery vehicle for puns, humor, and silliness of every description. Reading Van von Hunter will make you groan just as often as it makes you laugh. Mike and Ron, the two creators that make up Psuedome Studios, may not have cooked up something that is good for us, but they have cooked up something good.
Matt Trepal is a staff contributor for Comixpedia. More Details.