“THE STRANGE CASE OF MR. HYDE” is a graphic novel that does a remarkable job of taking a disturbing subject like Jack the Ripper and giving it the good ole horror show treatment. It also has managed in take a couple of characters we may have taken for granted, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and breathed new life into them. Written by Cole Haddon and drawn by M. S. Corley, this Dark Horse Comics book sets you on an unexpected adventure.
For those of us to have read the original novella by Robert Louis Stevenson or seen the landmark movie versions (John Barrymore in 1920; Fredric March in 1931; and Spencer Tracy in 1941), there’s a healthy skepticism about any new Jekyll and Hyde projects. What sets this book apart is its determination to take things in a new direction, to see what might happen AFTER the story we think we know.
In this book, Mr. Hyde did not die. He was secretly saved by the authorities and kept locked away right below Scotland Yard. Five years later, a new killer is in the spotlight, Jack the Ripper, and a young man, Inspector Adye, is charged with breaking the case. It is not long before he discovers a connection between the Ripper and Mr. Hyde. With a little dumb luck, Adye discovers that Mr. Hyde (or Dr. Jekyll) is very much alive and enlists him in bringing the Ripper to justice.
The story just keeps getting better once Adye and Hyde come to an understanding and begin to interact. For these last five years, Hyde has been under the care of his old friend, and fellow scientist, Dr. Utterson (an attorney in the original story). In the last year, Utterson has had a breakthrough that he believes has recovered Dr. Jekyll. However, that really remains to be seen. This Dr. Jekyll will never be the same. He knows too much. Every chance he gets, Dr Jekyll, as if being guided by Mr. Hyde, taunts Adye.
The art really keeps you locked into the story. Every possible Victorian detail, from frocks to streetlights, has been looked after. Corley’s angular style is reminiscent of Mike Mignola which is just fine for a Dark Horse book. What is most striking is the depiction of Adye and Jekyll. Both are rather young men. Adye is a rising star and somewhere in his early thirties. Jekyll, while middle-aged, does not look to be much older than Adye. Both men have distinctive characteristics but are also very similar in appearance, almost interchangeable. I don’t see this as a flaw. Whether intentional or not, it fits right in with the theme of humanity’s duality of purposes, with the two extremes being “good” and “evil.” If only for a set of circumstances, a set of choices, Adye might fall in with Jekyll. That is Jekyll’s argument. As much as Adye resists, it is almost like looking in a mirror when he sees Jekyll.
The story moves at a fast clip. We see the Ripper in a number of dramatic confrontations with our unlikely team of Adye and Jekyll. The best one involves a hot air balloon pursuit, the Victorian era’s answer to a helicopter chase. All in all, the story makes marvelous use of its surroundings and implications for its time. You’ll find references to other gothic horror characters too. The book ends with a hint of what may lie ahead. Let’s hope Mr. Haddon and Mr. Corley will continue to spin their tales.
“The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde” is published by Dark Horse Comics. It is a 96-page trade paperback, $14.99. Release date: February 22, 2012. Visit Dark Horse Comics.