In Review: Spirit Hunters #11

An excellent penultimate issue with some appropriately scary scenes and disturbing visuals.

The covers: A lucky seven for this issue to find. The A cover by Daniel Leister and Mohan Sivakami has Ellen on her knees before an unknown blonde woman. Tears are coming from her eyes as she looks up to see a horror moving in for the kill, its gnarly hands with talon-like fingernails reaching out to her. Solid cover, though this scene doesn’t appear in the issue. The B cover by Ian Richardson and Jesse Heagy takes place in Ellen’s bedroom. She’s standing behind a preteen in a red hoody, about to place her hands on the youth’s shoulders. However, unbeknownst to her, the teen is actually a spirit with blue skin and an oversized mouth full of teeth. Disturbing. Noah Salonga and Ceci de la Cruz have created the C cover which would be the “good girl” cover for the regular covers. It features an unknown blonde woman in a plunging, sleeveless black top moving tarot cards upon a ouija board. The table that holds these objects has an ornate rust colored tablecloth, as well as several candles. This looks great. The D is by Sheldon Goh and Sanju Nivangune has a close-up of Ellen, her eyes gone white, screaming against a misty green background. Nicely done. The Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 350 copies) by Mike Krome and Ula Mos has Ellen dressed as Aquaman, though her stomach is revealed. She’s standing in some green water at sunset that’s complimented by water splashing up on some rocks behind her. Nice, but the top right is just empty space, as if Krome thought that the title would fill it. The Halloween Exclusive (limited to 350/150 copies) by David Nakayama has Ellen dressed as a sexy vampire, in profile, though turning to the reader. She has on the traditional Dracula cape, which is blown behind her. She has on a corset and a see-through red skirt, black garters with matching stockings. She’s holding a glass of a red liquid to her face as though ready to imbide, while she holds a metallic spike in her right hand. The gray wall behind her is covered in splotches of blood. Very cool. The more limited edition probably has her topless. The Cosplay Foil Exclusive (limited to 100 copies) is also by Krome and Mos. I couldn’t find an image of it online, but I’m assuming it’s the same image as the Cosplay Exclusive, but on foil cardstock. Given the rarity of this edition, Ellen might also be topless. Again, I couldn’t find a copy of this online, so I’m just guessing. Overall grades: A B+, B B+, C A, D A-, Cosplay Exclusive B+, and Halloween Exclusive A+ 

The story: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, & Pat Shand created this tale, with Franchini ultimately writing it. Ellen finds herself in the spirit world in a cement corridor containing pools and puddles of blood. She hasn’t seen anything like this before while in this dimension. As she makes her way forward she’s unaware of the faces that begin to protrude through the walls. She says to herself, “Something is different…Something is…” Spotting the faces in the walls, she finishes, “…wrong.” A groan issues before her and a seven foot tall creature emerges made entirely of writhing flesh and heads. With a turn of the page, the reader is back in the real world the next morning with Ellen speaking with Michael. She’s telling him how she feels frustrated that with all that they’ve done she doesn’t feel as if she’s any closer to understanding how her abilities work. She wishes she could control her powers. Opening a door to one of the buildings on campus, Michael says, “I might have something that can help.” This sets the premise for this issue: using a very old means to control Ellen’s newfound abilities. Page 6 returns to Ellen’s plight from the night before with her situation becoming dire with the fleshy creature. Then the story returns to the present with Michael’s plan for helping her. The story again returns to the previous night, before returning to the present with Ellen in an entirely new spiritual puzzle. It’s this final trip into the spirit realm that the story really flies with some creepy situations. The issue ends on a cliffhanger that will lead to the series’ final issue. This story had some good scares and a solid tease for me to want to read the conclusion. Overall grade: A-

The art: A welcome addition to this issue is the artwork of Renzo Rodriguez. He is the sole artist of the book, another plus, and does a spectacular job. When Ellen walks initially walks through the spirit world, Rodriguez uses sinews, muscles, teeth, and flesh in the gutters, making the visual experience in this realm absolutely disturbing. Also making things spooky is Rodriguez making the panels irregularly shaped, creating an irregular setting. The creature that confronts Ellen on Page 3 is a terrifically designed menace, with pieces of the monster projecting outwardly, as if seeking to create a new form or something to latch on to. Having heads comprise the larger portions of the beast is a very horrific touch, making Ellen’s revulsion more real. The real world is also well illustrated with the college campus Michael works on very detailed, with complete settings and populated by all the expected people. The peril that Ellen finds herself in on Page 10 is fantastic — it’s very cinematic, resembling a scene from a classic horror film. The second journey into the spirit realm is very different, more focused in the real world, though looking at the walls and backgrounds the reader is subtly reminded that this is not on the mortal plane. Things seem fine for a few pages until the gutters of skin reappear and a threat appears. This new menace is well done and a transformation panel on 20’s third panel excellent. The final page is a full-paged splash that is more disturbing than horrific, but is a strong tease to get a reader to return next month. I enjoyed Rodriguez’s illustrations immensely and would love to see him return to any Zenescope book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Making the images creepy or safe are the colors by Fran Gamboa with J.C. Ruiz. The fleshy (Geeze, can I use that word enough in this review? Truly, there’s no better word to describe much of this issue) colors in the first journey into the spirit realm are perfect. On the first page the reader feels uneasy due to the art and the colors. I really like that the gutters are given a darker hue, making them seem as if they alive and throbbing. My only negative comment for Gamboa and Ruiz’s work on this issue comes to life on the second page: Ellen’s hair. It’s too brown. She’s been raven haired in previous issues, and it’s too light here. Often the stories don’t have characters identify each other in their dialogue, so I, as a reader, rely on the visuals to inform me as to whom I’m looking at. Ellen’s jet black hair is one way I identify her, and I didn’t get that here. The real world’s colors are fall at a college: golden leaves, white tile floors, a lot of browns for woodwork, and calming gray walls. The second trip into the spirit realm has some peaceful blues to lure the reader into a peaceful state until the horror arrives. I enjoyed what Gamboa and Ruiz did, save the lead character’s hair. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios is the gold standard for me when it comes to lettering. Scene settings have an emotional punch with their bold shape and slight tilt that suggests speed. The dialogue is easy to read and never steps on important elements of the art. The creature’s wails visually match its warped appearance. The spirits that speak to Ellen have an uneven scale within their speech to make it lilting, thus ghostly. The tease for next issue closes this issue with a style that resembles the formal conclusion of a book’s chapter. Espositio can do no wrong. Overall grade: A+

The final line: An excellent penultimate issue with some appropriately scary scenes and disturbing visuals. I’m already missing this series! I love the characters, especially Ellen, and hope that next month doesn’t close this character and her crew’s adventures. 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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