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“Von Bach” Uses Humour To Deliver Hard Truths

The first two people I think of when someone talks about resurrection are Frankenstein’s monster and Jesus. It never occurred to me that someone could write a new story about resurrection, but I was wrong. Von Bach is a graphic novel that combines a resurrected doctor, Hollywood film studios, and unlikely scenarios. Written by Owen Hammer with art and color by Mariano Navarro and Hernán Cabrera, Von Bach is a 21st century approach to the gothic genre.

The plot is simple with meta elements. Our protagonist is Minna, an intern who works for a film producer in Hollywood. She grew up reading and watching everything that had to do with Von Bach, a brilliant German scientist from the 19th century. The scientist died after a duel and gets resurrected by one of his inventions. The Von Bach story originally came from a novel written by Elsa Jaeger, the scientist’s former lover. Minna gets the chance to write a new Von Bach film adaptation. But it’s not an easy task as she has to deal with one problem after another.

Von Bach is funny and a little absurd, kind of like a 21st century Penny Dreadful. The author takes various aspects of old fashion Hollywood and horror tropes to create satire about film copyright. The dialogue is excellent; the graphic novel is a play adaptation written by Hammer himself, and we all know that playwrights are the masters and mistresses of the written word. This novel takes that to heart and relies heavily on the witty exchange of dialogue. Still, it remains balanced and does not overpower the visual storytelling of the graphic novel.

Earlier I mentioned that this gothic story has its own modern spin. Well-placed use of humour can overturn any story from typical to original. In this case, it’s a plot twist that subverts expectations. I have thorough understanding of storytelling so I can usually guess the direction of upcoming events in fiction. But I am definitely wrong in this case.

Von Bach begins like any other romantic comedy. We have a woman who has the chance to fulfill her career dreams, and a spunky male character who’s interfering. They hate each other, but their chemistry is undeniable. They might have to join their forces and then—something utterly absurd happens and the story completely changes. That’s Von Bach for you.

While the story comes across as comedic, it’s not just humour for the sake of humour. None of the characters take themselves too seriously and there’s lots of sarcasm directed towards societal norms; there is underlying critique with every line they say. Every country has a different style of humour. American comedy writers are sometimes considered over the top in the UK. But I think their writing style is actually layered, and never intended as a way to force a specific message onto their audiences.

There is only one unnecessary line. In Von Bach #3, Connor Krupa, the initial antagonist makes a rude remark about Minna’s body. I understand the point of that line; it’s to make sure the audience knows he feels attraction towards her. But it is not witty – on the contrary, it is pretty weird and predatory. It does not match the overall comic’s style of dialogue and character. Apart from that line, there is nothing else too out of place.

The artwork is beautiful and well-executed. I am very impressed with the comic’s vibrant warm colours. But what is really interesting is the eye for detail and ability to recreate light. In fact, you can distinctively see a change of lighting in places where we would see them in real life; outside, indoors, reflected on someone’s glasses, and from a tablet’s screen.

I liked Von Bach and I would recommend it. With the upcoming fifth issue this December, I’m curious to know how the story is going to develop.

Do you find Von Bach intriguing? If you do, Von Bach #1-#4 are now available here, and Von Bach #5 will be available beginning December 2nd. Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Beatrice Bove