In Review: Belle: Beast Hunter #3

Some serious monster battling in this issue as Belle fights an underwater foe on her own turf.

The covers: A massive nine covers to hunt down for this third issue if you’re a completist. The A is by Bong Dazo and Hedwin Zaldivar and has a smiling Belle leaping through water to get to her prey, a mermaid like creature whose tail is composed of tentacles that end in eel heads. The villain points at the approaching hero, spurring her man eating tentacles to attack. I love the smile on Belle, who’s sliced one of the limbs apart, it being mostly covered by the book’s title. The art is great and the colors excellent. Next up is the B by Mike Krome and Ula Mos and it is all outstanding. This has the villain rising out the water, a toothy smile on her face, as her fierce eel tentacles rise to kill Belle, who’s knee deep in water but is still swinging her ax and sword. The characters look great, the eels particularly grotesque, and the background is stunning — it’s the interior of a ship with all the metal works visible. This, too, has exceptional colors. There’s a lot in this, but Mos has Belle stand out in her blue and gold. The “Good Girl” cover is the C by Josh Burns. Belle is close-up, lounging on a statue. She’s supporting herself on one knee and her right arm, with her left arm wrapped around her ax. Her cape and hair are blowing to the right, suggesting she’s high up on a building. Very nice. A winged villain has lost to Belle on the D cover by Jason Metcalf. A harpy is on its back on the ground, its mouth open in a frozen death grimace. A few feathers flit to the ground to show that the battle has just ended. Belle stands strongly above it, her weapons in hand. She’s looking at the reader, considering if she should kill them as well. Good illustration, with the colors also great. I couldn’t find an image of the The Great American Philadelphia Comic Con Exclusive (limited to 250 copies) by Elias Chatzoudis, so you’re on your own, collectors. The Wizard World Philadelphia Exclusives (limited to 350/100 copies) are by Michael Dooney with colors by Ula Mos. The larger edition has a brunette facing a blue concrete wall that’s got some damage from gunfire. The character is turning to face the reader. She’s dressed like the Winter Solider, complete with metallic left arm. However, she’s got a bare midriff, tight leather panties, and not much else on. She’s holding her mask in her right hand, a big gun in her left (which has shells still falling to the floor), and a leg strap on her left leg that’s holding three blades. I like this, but I can’t help but think how painful it is for the character to hold this position. The smaller edition has the same character in the same pose with a few changes. She now has the mask on, her right hand now holding a knife, her panties have gone sheer mesh, and she’s topless. The background has also now been colored gray. But let’s be honest, you probably aren’t looking at the wall. Sadly, I also couldn’t find an image of the Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 350) is by Derlis Santacruz with colors by Mos, so you’re own your own again, collectors. The final copy is the ZENBOX Exclusive (limited to 150) by Ale Garza and Mos. This has  Belle wearing pink fluffy rabbit ears and a really skimpy pink bottom that sports a fluffy rabbit tale, and that’s all. Her hands are raised as if she’s going to plug her ears; this allows the X-rated aspects of her large chest to be covered. Her eyes are to the right, further justifying she’s heard a noise, or is expecting one, that she doesn’t like. She’s against a background that starts baby blue and turns lime green. This is nice, but seems more like a colored sketch. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A-, D A-, Wizard World Philadelphis Exclusive (350) A- and (100) A-, and ZENBOX Exclusive B-

The story: Belle wakes up looking at a smiling older woman. The woman introduces herself as Patricia Ottis, brother to Belle’s recently slain assistant Candlestick. Following Patricia, Belle is stunned to see they’re in a gigantic industrial complex. Patricia reveals that they’re actually in a “submersible in the Cryptid Hunting Intelligence Program. We run the aquatics division.” As her new ally tells Belle she’s disappointed the hero is using outdated equipment, neither notice that one of the air vents outside their elevator is emitting an odd sounding hiss. The source of this hiss is revealed on the next page when the villain makes her move in another part of the ship, er — vessel. Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, & Dave Franchini created this story, with Franchini writing it, and there’s not much more learned of C.H.I.P. because the heroes learn that the monster, Scylla, is aboard. What is teased is during the battle the creature calls Belle a “real” hunter. This sets up some questions in the title character and reader’s minds that will have to be addressed in a later issue, because the remainder of this issue is a fight to the death. The banter between the characters is great, just enough fear and bluster to keep the tension high. The arrival of backup is neat, though the assistance it gives isn’t what Belle expected. The book has a solid conclusion that’s appropriately lifted from every James Bond film, but it suits this tale. There’s also a tease of positive surprises to come for the character in upcoming issues due to something revealed in a case. The coda reveals the brains beyond all the chaos that’s been coming Belle’s way, with the tease of a new bigger Bad. This story has lots of tech, a terrific monster, and a hero who was made to kill monsters. Overall grade: A

The art: Bong Dazo’s art is stunning. The opening page uses a technique that I’m extremely fond of: a bust shot of character set apart from the other panels. It’s a great way to have the reader wholly focus on a character and it instantly makes me think of Howard Chaykin’s work, whom I saw use this technique long ago on American Flagg! I love it! It also helps that Dazo can draw. Look at the extreme amount of details he uses in the background of this vessel. It has all the classic elements of a submarine. However, Dazo’s just foreshadowing the second page which is a full-paged splash of the characters walking through a complex that would make James Bond or Nick Fury envious. Belle’s disbelief at what she’s seeing is shown on Page 3 with her giving a quick head turn to take in all that she’s walked through. This is nicely countered by the calm demeanor and smile on Patricia’s face as she activates the elevator. This mode of transportation allows Dazo to again show the scope of the complex as the pair descend. The broken air unit that ends the fourth page is a neat tease of future troubles. The eels’ entrance on 5 is cut between Patricia’s explanations to Belle. This is a good way to build tension and allows 6 to make a dramatic entrance for Scylla. The death on 7 is graphic, to underplay it, but is drawn unbelievably well, reinforcing for the reader that this creature is not there to hunt for clams. The full reveal of Scylla on 9 is a full-paged splash and it’s a sensational entrance, with her tentacles everywhere, the eels ferocious, and two crew members in the process of being pulled apart. WOW! This page should be enough to get one to buy this book! But this is just the beginning. Dazo does a sensational job as Belle and Patricia try to battle the beast and it’s fantastically detailed. Any time Scylla is in a panel it’s a major moment. However, don’t think that the humans get the short stick visually; Belle looks tremendously strong and brave as she battles this mermonster. The reveal at the end of 20 made me smile and the final page’s reveal had me thinking that Belle better practice a little more before encountering this baddie. This is some amazing looking work. Overall grade: A+  

The colors: The military and industrial aspects of the settings are established early with the colors from Juan Manuel Rodriguez. The settings on the first page are very gray. This gives the background this tone and it allows the characters to stand out on the page. The second page expands this not only with the highly detailed art, but the colors. Notice how items in the foreground, including people, are colored gray — everything is a part of this giant machine. Aside from the people and the yellow warning tape, the first colors that stand out are the pale blue and sick green at the bottom of the third page that teases the villain. The eyes of the eels are done in an eerie glowing blue, giving them a supernatural quality. Page 6 has Scylla teased, but shown only in silhouette, with the background given a dark orange, insinuating that the character has come from Hell itself. The first killing on 7 is not only graphic visually due to the art, but the colors as well, with blood being particularly bright red. Page 9 is the real stand out page with Rodriguez doing some killer work with every shade of green for Scylla: her hair, her eels, and her flesh is fantastic. When this monster speaks her speech balloons are colored a pale blue-green and outlined in violet, completing her separation from humanity. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, thoughts, whispered dialogue, yells, scene settings, and the tease for next issue are created by Kurt Hathway. I really like that Belle’s thoughts are different from her speech; they’re placed in italics and that’s enough to make me happy. There are also several neat sounds in this issue due to the Scylla’s actions. My favorite combo is AHK, CRACK, and SKRSHH. Overall grade: A

The final line: Some serious monster battling in this issue as Belle fights an underwater foe on her own turf. Fun story with plenty of action and wonderfully detailed art makes this a winner. Belle continues to be one of Zenescope’s better new characters and titles. 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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