In Review: Hellchild #3

Great story and letters, though the visuals are disappointing.

The covers: Hellchild Angelica wields her wicked double bladed sword standing atop a mound of bones. Behind her is the image of a vampire skull in a circle. What this all represents can only be answered by reading this issue. This A cover was created by Manuel Preitano. Nice image of Angelica but the setting isn’t as impressive as she is. The B is by Eric J and Victor Bartlett. This features new character Jerrick racing at the reader from a snow setting. The look on his face shows he means business and his lack of a shirt shows that the obvious cold has no effect on him. The coloring of his eyes give him a slick supernatural flair. Excellent use of all the different shades of blue as well. The C is the image accompanying this review because, hey, it got your attention, right? Mike Krome is responsible for the illustration and Ula Mos the colors. Artemis is being held prisoner by three vampires who look eager to feast upon her. Sexy and creepy is a combination that a publisher can’t go wrong with, and hiring Krome and Mos to create such an image is smart. The D cover shows a vampire getting up close and personal with Liesel Van Helsing; he’s trying to rip into her neck and she’s trying to keep him off. Jason Metcalf and Erick Arciniega have created a good close up of both characters, with each giving a solid amount of emotion. There’s also a Cosplay Exclusive cover limited to 350 copies featuring art by Mike DeBalfo with colors by Mos. I couldn’t find an image of this online, so good luck tracking that one down! Overall grades: A B, B B+, C A-, and D A

The story: “Problem Children” by Pat Shand opens long ago as some vikings are being slaughtered. Only one man remains alive, though his throat has just been slashed. As the fighters around him laugh as his blood empts onto the snow, a fist emerges from one of the men’s head. The others are quickly killed. The dying man, Olaf, looks up to see a giant of a man staring down at him; the man’s mouth and hands are covered in blood. “I have heard tell of you, Viking. The Hand of Death…Would you drink the blood of life?” The story transitions to the present where the clean shaven Olaf is getting out of the car containing his vampire friends and making his way to the mystery woman that just killed some werewolf bikers. Angelica has gotten control of her emotions and as she walks away from the carnage she vows to kill her father for bringing her back life in this state. Olaf stops her train of thought by standing in front of her. “My crew and I have been planning to take out those werewolf bastards for longer than I want to say…I suppose I owe you a thank you. Care for a smoke?” Angelica responds by punching him as hard as she can in his face; blood explodes out of his face. What follows is a very interesting way of making friends; Angelica leaves with him because he has information on her current state. Meanwhile, Hades is officially done with Marian and Liesel, and his anger could be the end of his relationship with the latter. When the story goes back to Angelica things have gone 180 and she finds herself in a precarious position. The entrance of a character on Page 15 complicates her situation further, though what he has to say to Olaf is surprising. Shand has this story moving very quickly, giving the reader new information as it progresses and having some very intense action sequences. Characters switch sides several times, keeping the reader on his or her toes and making this an exceedingly entertaining read. Overall grade: A

The art: Vincenzo Riccardi is hit and miss with this book’s visuals. The opening three pages set in the past do not look polished. The figures don’t have the realism required to make this intense scene feel intense. The armor on the characters makes it impossible to tell who is on what side. It’s impossible to tell if there’s more than one vampire, or it’s Jerrick killing others: case in point, the final panel on the first page: who is that? Which side is he on? It’s impossible to discern. On the second page the second panel is just a suggestion of characters with elements missing, like faces. The line work in the foreground of the third page is incredibly thick, and looking at the bottom of that large panel has the reader noticing the random work to suggest the ground. Things do improve on Page 4 when the story moves to the present. Angelica looks good, and vampire Olaf is much better drawn. The top of Page 5 is a terrific panel that instantly shows the reader the strength of the title character. The battle between the two characters is good, though an awful lot of speed lines are used in place of drawing backgrounds. The visuals get even stronger when Hades, Liesel, and Marion appear — they all look good. The lines on the character that visits Olaf are really heavy, this has him looking as though he doesn’t belong in the same panel as other characters. This might have been done to give him a more ancient flavor, but I don’t believe so. The final page of the book, which is huge moment for three characters, is a mess. The speed lines are making the character in the center of the book muddy, and the colors aren’t helping things. This book is a good example of art not assisting the story. Overall grade: C-

The colors: The colors by Elenora Bruni start strong, as she’s able to cover pale blue snow with swatches of crimson to show the carnage of the battle. The fourth panel on the first page is an electric moment with the background being lightened and the blood that flows is a brighter red than seen before. The figure that appears on 3 is just too dark. The drawing is good, but the character is lost, blending in all too easily with background. Things improve in the present, as the colors brighten, including the speed lines. The return of the character from Page 3 again has him too dark. The browns make him seem like a golem and that’s not the intent of the story. This characters pages shared with Olaf are muddled messes. The final page is a coloring nightmare, with all the details of the art lost by colors that are too similar. This is an example of how not to color a comic. Overall grade: D

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, the unique font for vampires’ dialogue, Angelica’s narration, Angelica’s dialogue, Hades’s unique dialogue font, texting on a cell phone, and the tease for next issue hail from Jim Campbell. This is a winning element of this book. Campbell uses a wide variety of fonts that have the reader recognizing a speaker simply by the way the text looks. The sounds during the opening fight are also extremely well done. Overall grade: A

The final line: Great story and letters, though the visuals are disappointing. Worth reading, but looking at is questionable. Overall grade: C

 

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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