In Review: Belle: Beast Hunter #1

A new hero has arrived and she's fantastic!

The covers: A lucky seven covers to hunt down for the premiere issue of this series. The A cover is Igor Vitorino and Kyle Ritter. Standing before a searchlight that’s atop a building of the city, Belle looks down upon the city, a sword in one hand, a battle axe in the other. Her hair and cape are dramatically flowing in the breeze from such a lofty height. The artwork is good, reminding one of a female dark knight, and the coloring bright enough to see every part of the art while also creating a dark evening. A perfect A cover. The B by Harvey Tolibao and Jorge Cortes is a highly detailed action cover pitting the title character against a centaur that just won’t go down easily. Belle is the foreground, trying to slash the beast with her sword. The creature sports an awesome battle axe and is using a blade attached to a chain to lash out at the heroine. The centaur has got terrific rage on his face and the work done on its mane is incredible. The broken setting they’re fighting upon also looks great. On the next cover, the C, Derlis Santacruz and Sanju Nivangune have created the clearest look at this hero, with her sitting against a white backdrop, staring at the reader. She’s beautiful, the details in her costume excellent, and the colors extremely bright, to make this an instantly eye catching cover. This one is recommended! The D cover by Riveiro and Mohan Sivakami have the artists crafting a sly piece, with Belle seen from the bust up at the bottom of the illustration. She’s sitting in an elegant, antique chair, with one hand to her temple, smiling knowingly at the reader. Above her are five trophy heads mounted on the wall: two reptilian creatures, a centaur, a witch, and then an orc. Very funny and it looks terrific. There’s also the E cover, a Blank Sketch cover. This features the publisher, credits, title, and issue number at the top and in the bottom left corner is the symbol for a Zenescope Launch book, while across from it is the subtitle. All of this is on a blank cover so a reader can get the creators to sign it or get an artist to create an original illustration. A great idea, to be sure, but on its own, not so hot. There is also a Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 350 copies) featuring artwork by Derlis Santacruz with colors by Ceci de la Cruz. This has an attractive redhead wearing parts of a Halo outfit: shoulder pads, armlets, elbow pads, bra, bikini bottom, and boots. She holds a helmet in her right hand that butts up against her hip. Nice, but not outstanding. The Sci-Fi Box Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 50 copies), remains a mystery because I couldn’t find one online, so good look finding it, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A+, D A, Blank Sketch cover C, and Cosplay Exclusive C+

The story: This issue’s tale is crafted by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, & Dave Franchini, with Franchini writing the issue. In the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. at midnight, the silhouette of figure can be seen dragging a large one by its horns. Around the two is extensive damage, the aftermath of a monstrous brawl. Speaking to Candlestick through a transmitter, Belle tells him that the subject, a minotaur, had been incapacitated. Putting on her mask, after being reminded to do so, she pulls a device from her belt and activates a portal. She tosses the creature in, lamenting that she can’t use the device for transport. Candlestick reminds her, “I’ve already told you the harm it can do the human body. It’s the equivalent of shaving a year off your life.” She’s told that she needs to get back soon, as there’s some activity in the city. Pulling out a cylindrical device, Belle pushes a button and a buffed up motorcycle appears. As she speeds off, she asks Candlestick some questions which allows Franchini to create a four page origin of the heroine. Where she heads to next is an equally historical setting as that from the opening. Inside she engages a different creature. The battle is good, then she heads somewhere else, and the story takes a dramatic turn, ending with an outstanding cliffhanger. The hero is clearly defined in this issue, with her dialogue being outstanding: she’s funny, asks questions as a reader would, and is personable. The action is solid and the final four pages have a twist one would expect after a year of adventures, not at the end of the first issue, so that was a good surprise. This is a super first issue story. Overall grade: A 

The art: Bong Dazo is this issue’s artist and I’m officially a fan. The first page features some good work on the setting’s exterior before moving inside to show the destruction from the characters’ fight. There’s some nice detail work in the background from several points of view, showing that Dazo knows how to lay out a panel’s perspective correctly. The tease of having the characters in silhouette is a good way to pull in the readers, with the blood smear on the floor especially neat. Page 2 is a full-paged splash of Belle standing above the defeated centaur and she looks incredible. Her costume is incredibly ornate, the kind of detail one usually only sees on covers. The mask she dons is also finely detailed. The reveal of her motorcycle is well done, being partially transparent before becoming solid. When Belle pops a wheelie on this vehicle it’s sure to get the reader’s motor running. The flashback is well done. Children are sometimes difficult for artists, but not Dazo; his young Belle and her bother look great. I’m really impressed with the work on the women’s hair, with their fantastic stylized locks that falls in front of their faces. The second location looks great, but look at the panel on the top of Page 11 — Wow! Belle looks great: the angle, the stance, the details in her costume. The monster’s entrance is dramatic and the full reveal of the creature on 12 is awesome. It’s got a lot of detail in its design and the debris that’s flying about as the pair battle is outstanding. The final setting looks fine, but the visuals precede the story, revealing that something’s amiss. There’s some solid emotion from Belle on these final pages. The final page is a full page splash and it contains no text, save TO BE CONTINUED. Based on the strength of this final illustration, the reader may be asking how there can be any more issues with this visual. Let me repeat, I’m now on the Dazo fan train. Overall grade: A

The colors: Violets are used to create the night, rather than blacks, which would deaden the visuals. Juan Manuel Rodriguez uses bright colors throughout this book, which fit the story and really make the art shine. The second page of this book is flat out gorgeous, due in no small part to the colors. I really like the shine he puts on Belle’s costume and the excellent work in putting tone into the characters’ skin. Colors greatly assist the reveal of Belle’s bike and the work on the smoke it leaves as it takes off is cool. Rodriguez does a very sharp job at the bottom of 5 with the title character shown behind a windshield. In the flashback sequences, browns and tans are used to age the story, but colors are still very vibrant. During the battle with the final beast of the issue, colors are key in helping identify what’s flying about as things are smashed as they tussle. The penultimate page uses some intense oranges when the story gets intense, and this color continues to the final page for the eyes on a threat. Excellent job, Mr. Rodriguez. Overall grade: A

The letters: Kurt Hathaway creates scene settings, narration, dialogue and transmissions (the same font), sounds, and yells. I like that the scene settings are different from the narration, but am disappointed that dialogue and transmissions are differed by the shape and color of their balloons. They should have been different fonts. The sounds are nice, especially on the second to last page, but are sadly absent during the throw down with the second beast. One panel has dialogue overlapping, giving it a very realistic feel, as conversations often have the participants stepping on each other verbally. I’m hoping that in future issues Hathaway gets to create more sounds during the fights. Overall grade: B

The final line: A new hero has arrived and she’s fantastic! The story is brisk, filled with plenty of action, fun lines, and threads of future plots, and the visuals are detailed and exciting. This is how you launch a book. Yeah, Zenescope, you’ve got me hooked. 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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