In Review: Spirit Hunters #9

A new villain is introduced in a story of supernatural revenge.

The covers: An octet of covers for Zenescope fans to track down! The A cover is by Jose Luis and Grostieta and it’s the one I had to purchase and use to accompany this review. Ellen is surrounded by several spooks with a beautiful red background behind them. This is what I want in a cover: a hero threatened by the supernatural. I love Ellen, the ghosts look good, and the colors are bright and bold. The B by Harvey Tolibao and Ula Mos is the creepiest cover of the batch. The villain of the issue, Voodoo, gazes at the reader and he’s an absolute horror. Not only is the figure good, look at the background — What a great crypt! Great coloring on his bony frame. I’m getting a definite Harmony Kendall vibe from the C by Noah Salonja and Ceci de la Cruz. A bosomy blonde who’s been celebrating Mardi Gras, as evidenced by the beads around her neck, is unaware of the creepy specter materializing behind her. Very nice! A woman who looks as though she is a practitioner of Voodoo apparates before the reader with a large snake wound about her. This is a solid image by Sheldon Goh and Mohan Sivakami for the D cover, with the colors at the bottom showing she, too, is a spirit. The Boston Comic Con Exclusive (limited to 350 copies) is by Mike DeBalfo and Ula Mos and features Ellen in Celtics colors, a half top, short shorts, and tennis shoes. She’s on her knees with a basketball under her right arm. If you like sports or attractive women, have at! The Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 350) is by Mike Krome and Mos. Liesel Van Helsing is wearing Jessica Rabbit’s hot red, glittery dress. However, what makes her different is that she’s revealing some leg showing that she’s got a garter that’s holding some wooden stakes. On her forehead, pulled back are some Steampunk goggles. In front of her is a microphone and behind her are some open red curtains, revealing the silhouette of a castle in the moonlight. Very cool. The San Diego Comic Con Webstore Only Exclusive (limited to 150) is by Paul Green and Mos and features Ellen wearing some futuristic crimson armor that doesn’t cover her rear end. She’s got a big blaster in her left hand, while her right touches the one holstered to her side. She looks fantastic and the colors are excellent. The In-Store Exclusive (limited to 100) is also by Green and Mos. I couldn’t find an image of this anywhere online, so good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A, C B, D A-, Boston Comic Con Exclusive A-, Cosplay Exclusive A-, and San Diego Comic Con Webstore Exclusive A+

The story: Conceived by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, & Pat Shand, and written by Tedesco and Dan Wickline this story introduces a neat new villain — Voodoo. In a ramshackle house in New Orleans, Voodoo sits at a table, his back to the reader. Candles are lit before him, illuminating a considerable stack of cash. He says, “I’ll give her a scare tonight…But if you decide you want her dead, it’s another five thousand.” He turns to face his audience, which the reader cannot see. “You can leave now.” A singer named Monica finishes her set at a bar and walks through the alley to get to her car. A figure appears out of the shadows and says, “La mort est arrivée.” The band, still packing up in the bar, hear her scream. They run outside to see her being held by her throat by an invisible foe. While one mate grabs her, the other is thrown down the alley. The three run away, unaware that Voodoo is watching them. The story then moves to a few days later where the Spirit Hunters are on their way to interview Monica to find out what happened. Michael knows her, so he’s the reason they’re checking out her story. What follows is a good mystery as to who’s paid for Voodoo to do her harm and why. This series is nine issues in and the characters are really fleshed out. They partner off, as they do, and every scene where they interact, even when it has nothing to do with the case, is fun. I would have been a satisfied reader if they just sat and talked the entire issue. But that’s not to be, as Voodoo strikes again, this time with Ellen becoming involved. There’s a good reveal on 21 with something about the villain revealed. This is a neat mystery that’s got some solid surprises and characters that are just fun to listen to. Overall grade: A

The art: There are two artists for this issue and they have very different styles: Andrea Camerini (Pages 1-15) and Jason Muhn (Pages 16-22). Camerini’s pages are outstanding. I love her character work. Monica looks terrific on every page, she’s so radiant when she finishes her singing and looks completely in distress on Page 4. When she’s shown dangling in the air, it’s pretty frightening — the angle that Camerini sets that panel at is really good. The vertical panel on 9 is terrific, showing Ellen trying to work her mojo as the others patiently wait. Vera is simply gorgeous in her quick appearances, and that glance over her shoulder on 11 is stunning. The character encountered on 12 is great and the person interrogating him is also terrific. The card game is a great visual scene, with Curtis having some fantastic emotions that state his mood perfectly. Muhn’s scene are not as stylized as Camerini’s pages. They’re effective, but not as strong. I do like that he gets to illustrate Voodoo more often and it’s his vision that defines the character’s look. The character’s intimacy with one of the Spirit Hunters is handled very well, with the antagonist overshadowing the hero. Muhn likes to have characters’ hair splay about it and creates a good sense of motion for them. The action is too far from the reader on 19 in panels five and six, so the action that’s occurring doesn’t mean as much to the reader. The fifth panel on the final page is from a really weird angle. It’s obvious that Muhn drew it that way to accommodate the text, but that’s not really that much text in that panel to warrant that angle or that much space with the umbrella. Two very different artists create a very mixed reaction in the visuals. Overall grade: B-

The colors: There are also two colorists on this book, but Fran Gamboa with J.C. Ruiz do a solid job on this issue. The oranges used for the interiors of Voodoo’s house are excellent. There’s a slight carry over of that color for the interior of the jazz bar where Monica is performing. The shading on characters’ skin throughout the book is really good, with the blending done making the characters three dimensional. The transition of colors from 8 to 9 is really impressive, with the bright colors of day going dark for the evening. Page 12’s setting allows the colorists to really experiment with colors to create the festive scene and they succeed strongly. When supernatural powers become stronger in the final act, green is used to signify their use and they look great. Voodoo’s eyes are also really cool in luminescent yellow. Gamboa and Ruiz do a great job. Overall grade: A

The letters: Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios always does a sensational job on his books for Zenescope and this book is no exception. He creates scene settings, dialogue, the end of a song, a spell, screams, yells, weakened speech, a few sounds, and the tease for next issue. The opening scene setting is in a font that suggests age and something primitive, the perfect introduction to Voodoo. This issue has considerable dialogue, and Esposito expertly places it in panels without drowning out the artwork. The screams are nicely done, Monica having a great one at the top of Page 4. I know that when Esposito does a book the lettering will be good. Overall grade: A

The final line: A new villain is introduced in a story of supernatural revenge. The tale is very well told, though the two artists are not equal, with one outshining the other. The story is strong enough to warrant a read, with the hope that that this antagonist will return soon in other books. 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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