In Review: Belle: Beast Hunter #2

The character is interesting, the monster killing great, and the visuals are exceptional.

The covers: Picking up from the conclusion of the premiere issue, Belle stands atop the remains of her base, which is almost fully submerged in the ocean. She has her sword in one hand, her ax in the other. She’s ready to destroy the creature that caused the death of her mentor and that monster’s tentacles can be seen at the edges of this image writhing to capture her. This A cover by Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes shows the character clearly, teases the threat, and the colors are gloriously bright. I love this! The B cover by Anthony Spay and Jorge Cortes features a scene from inside this issue as the heroine battles three creatures. She takes one beast out with her sword and is about to finish it off with a swing of her ax, were it not for one of the beastie’s long tongues to hinder her. I like the character, I love the creatures, and the colors makes this pop, especially with the lighting effect coming out of the left side. This is good. Belle stands against a pink sky holding her sword in the reader’s face. She looks good, though her costume is not as ornate as it is within, but this is a good pose with the colors exceptionally strong. The sun behind her head makes it seem she has the blessing of a god to kill the beasts. This C cover is by Meguro. The image I chose to accompany this review is the D by Allan Otero and Jesse Heagy. Belle strikes a comfortable pose with her weapons in her hands before a dragon she’s just felled. I like the layout of this and the colors are terrific. The dragon looks great! The Zenescope Exclusive (limited to 200 copies) is by Elias Chatzoudis, and it’s a brilliant image due to the electric coloring. Belle is in costume, with her hands on her knees as she slightly squats for a photo of her before a rose under glass. She looks fantastic, though her costume is not as decorated as it in within this book. The colors make this explode, with that white and blue outline around really making her pop against the dark background. The In-Store Exclusive (limited to 100) and the VIP Exclusive (limited to 75) features artwork by Mike DeBalfo with colors by Ula Mos. Belle is in costume turned slightly to her left, holding a small rose between her breasts. She in front of a powder blue background that features an Art Nouveau gold swirl. She looks beautiful and the background lovely. This is a sweet cover. What the difference is between the In-Store Exclusive and the VIP Exclusive I couldn’t find online. The Savannah Comic Con Exclusive (limited to 350) and the Retailer Exclusive (limited to 25) has art by Michael Dooney with colors by Mos has Belle wearing a white low cut top with mesh sleeves. She has on a matching short skirt that’s adorned with blue lace and bows. Matching white stockings are also shown, as are the three knives that her left stocking hold. In her hands she twirls a white parasol, whose handle is her trusty ax. Behind her is a beautiful fountain with statuary within it. This is gorgeous. How the Retailer Exclusive differs from the Savannah Comic Con Exclusive I don’t know, I couldn’t find one, but I’m pretty sure it has fewer clothes on the character. Overall grades: A A, B A-, C B, D A-, Zenescope Exclusive A-, In-Store Exclusive A+, and the Savannah Comic Con Exclusive A+

The story: Created by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, & Dave Franchini, with Franchini writing this tale, begin with the new heroine in the worst of all possible situations. Her base was demolished by a monstrous sea creature and she’s fallen into the ocean with the debris of the house. Tentacles flail about her, searching for more to destroy. Just as it seems she will succumb to the depths of the waters, she thinks, ‘Someone…Something has declared war on me, on my family. I’m sure as hell not forgetting that anytime soon. Or forgiving…’ She begins to kick her way to the surface. ‘They’re going to pay for this.’ After inhaling some overdue air, she finds a door to lay upon. Seeing the carnage, much of which is on fire, she breaks down over the death of Candlestick. As she grieves a tentacle grabs her leg and pulls her back under. She pulls her ax and severs the gigantic purple limb. The battle continues above the waters, but takes a freakish turn on Page 5. I was glad to see that these threats weren’t just smaller versions of the larger beast, as they have a muscle that serves a creepy purpose. Just as she’s about to reenact Johnny Depp’s final scene in Dead Man’s Chest, something surprising happens and then something truly mystifying occurs on 13. There’s a much bigger story than Belle just killing monsters, obviously. Things get stranger on 15, leading to a confrontation with an iconic creature on the next page. The action is exciting, ending with a shock and a new reveal on the final page. I’m loving the action and I definitely want to know about the title character after this issue’s strangeness. This story misses receiving plus with the letter grade for the sequence that begins on 13. Overall grade: A

The art: Bong Dazo is an exceptional artist. The first page has some extraordinary details in the first panel with giant tentacles, debris, and superb water by him. The slow close-up on the drowning heroine is cinematic. Look at the ornate work he puts into the mask and armor on the character. It’s fantastic. The second page has a large image that bleeds to the edges of the page showing the character continuing to fall. Look at all the things beneath her — they’re great! When she surfaces in the first panel of the next page it’s awesome. The largest panel on this page is amazing for all the items in the water and the flame effects are sweet. The panel that shows the severing of the tentacle is great for the action it creates with the trail of blood that starts from the tentacle and follows the ax. The full-paged splash on 6 is a terrific shot of the heroine in peril with some excellent creatures. The reveal of the four things each creature has on 7 is a strong visual, increasing their strangeness and savagery. The details on her and the beasts as they battle is awesome, leading to a perilous situation on 10. The quick glance of the vehicle on 12 has me excited to see more of this vessel soon. The creature that rears its head on 16 is flat out awesomeness! It looks stunning. The reveal on 19 is excellent. It’s a grotesque image that I cannot stop looking at — it’s done so well. My favorite page of the book is 21, which features the protagonist at the mercy of an antagonist and it transitions into a terrific transformation. The final page’s visuals change the setting entirely and introduce a new character. I love Dazo’s work and I need more of it! Overall grade: A+

The colors: The coloring of this book by Juan Manuel Rodriguez really sells the reality of the visuals. The first page has some stellar work on the water and the debris. I also like how Belle’s thought balloons are colored yellow, so the reader visually is clued in to them being thoughts and not dialogue. The blending of the water continues to impress on 3. The close-up of the title character in the third panel on the same page has some terrific work done on the gold of her mask — and notice how Rodriguez gives the tear, or is that sea water, the appropriate highlight. When the blood starts flying it’s exceptional and startling in crimson. The creatures that attack her soon after have the perfect blue-green tones to insinuate underwater life. The four things protruding from the beasts have a deliciously sick violet color. As the action intensifies on 8, the background begins to turn a ghastly orange. Colors are absolutely key to the slow reveal on 15, for if a reader is as careless as Belle, they’ll miss what’s soon to appear. What does appear is glorious in greens of every shade. The putrid flesh tones and realistic greens on 19 are outstanding. Rodriguez is the perfect partner for Dazo’s visuals. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Kurt Hathaway creates this issue’s narration, a whisper, dialogue, sounds, yells, screams, profanity, a monster’s unique speech, and the tease for next issue. I’m pleased that Hathaway uses different fonts for the narration and dialogue, a sure sign of a talented letterer. The screams are appropriately big and I love the one moment where Belle screams and Hathaway uses grawlix to show her profanity. This isn’t done often in comics, since the actual words are used, so it was neat to see it used here. It gave the comic a classic feel. The sounds are outstanding, a perfect match for each action that sparks them, and the creature that speaks in the final battle has a wonderfully large, ghastly font. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The character is interesting, the monster killing is great, and the visuals are exceptional. What are you waiting for? Get this! One of the best books put out by Zenescope, it features a new character, so this is the perfect place to jump on. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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