In Review: Van Helsing: Sword of Heaven #1

There's a lot of good stuff in this issue that should be in your hands.

The covers: This series has six different covers to start the reader on Liesel’s exploits in India. The first cover is the A by Geebo Vigonte and Ivan Nunes and it’s bound to be the frontpiece of the collected edition. It has Liesel standing atop a building in her traditional clothes holding a crossbow in each hand, with the one in her right raised up. The reader is looking down upon her and she looks fantastic. The details in her clothing are outstanding and the setting, with the city in the background, equally impressive. This is a definite WOW! cover. The B was created by Igor Vitorino and Grostieta is an action cover with the title character leaping through the air as a vampire to her left goes down with a stake in his head and two in his chest. She has her left hand on her hat to keep it in place, while her right holds her crossbow. Three vampires in the foreground are racing to her to avenge the death of their friend. The sky is a light blue, but the moon is full, allowing the colors to be brighter than one would expect. The illumination from the building’s windows is really cool. Liesel is striking a pose for the reader, with her right hand on her hip and her left holding her favorite weapon down on the C cover by Kevin McCoy and Ceci de la Cruz. The character looks good, with her jacket splaying out behind her, and a really good city under moonlight behind her. Next up is the D cover by Derlis Santacruz and Sanju Nivangune which came as a surprise. This features a raven haired young woman snarling at the reader to reveal her fangs. She’s wearing a black jacket and a tight red dress. Behind her is a blood red moon and a fuzzy church. I like the character and colors, but don’t like the computer blur done on the background. Leonardo Colapietro is responsible for the ultra stylistic E cover. This features Liesel standing with two glowing blades — they could be Katanas — held down on either side of her. Behind her is a large metallic object that could represent the amulet she’s looking for. The object is difficult to make out, but looks comprised of a circle, with jagged projections, and wings coming out of its top. The circle resembles the open eye of a dinosaur or dragon. Most likely a dragon given that two dragons are on either side of the circle looking to the left and right. This is really cool and looks like album cover art. The final cover is the F which is the Blank Sketch cover. The publisher, creators’ names, and the hero’s name are at the top and the subtitle is in the bottom left corner. The rest of the book is a white void so that a reader can have their favorite artist create a one-of-a-kind illustration or take it to the book’s creators to have them sign it. I’m all for covers like this, but left blank it doesn’t look that great. Overall grades: A A+, B A-, C A-, D A-, E A+, and F C

The stories: Chuck Dixon opens this six part tale with Liesel Van Helsing walking down a back alley in Mumabi in September during Ganesh Chaturhi. She’s dressed in her usual blacks, but has left her iconic top hat elsewhere. She’s on her way to find Dr. Sumesh, “(a) leading xenobiologist with an artifact I’m looking for.” The artifact could be “apocalyptic to vampires worldwide.” She finds the door open to his home open and a dead woman on the floor, her throat ripped open. Liesel draws a gun and enters. Bodies litter the floor. She finds a large vampire with blood on his chest, hands, and face. The two exchange insults before he shows her the artifact she seeks. He swallows the item to anger her, then he tries to run off, moving like a cheetah. The creature’s fate is never in doubt, but now Liesel has to retrieve the trinket in a gory fashion that ends with a surprise. Naturally things don’t go easily for the hero, but she’s able to flee some foes in a very clever way. Just as she’s got a moment to look at her prize, a character arrives to speak with her. How she distracts this individual on Page 12 is brilliant. Another character comes into Liesel’s life on 16 and it’s unknown if this person will be a friend or foe. The last three pages have a good action sequence leaving Liesel in need of rescuing. I love Liesel, the locale, and what she’s searching for. Overall grade: A

The art: This issue’s artwork is by Julius Abrera and he opens the book in grand style with a full-paged splash introducing the title character to the reader. Liesel is attractive and looks like she can more than take care of herself. Nice touch by Abrera to include just enough of the festival in the background to show she’s leaving the known world behind. The second page builds suspense well by showing how dilapidated the buildings are where she’s going. The last panel on the page is tilted to show how reality has gone askew when she enters. Plus the body on the floor hammers into the reader that death is within. On Page 3 the second panel shows that the barrel of Liesel’s gun is ornately decorated, foreshadowing it’s not a normal firearm. The vampire that ends the page is gross for its size and ghastly for its inhuman hands and face. Ending the panel with another body with its throat slashed reminds the reader what this creature has done. The next page has six equal sized panels with the three on the left focusing on Liesel and the three on the right on the vampire: this is a good way to build tension — cutting back and froth between the pair, show characters in motion, and allow the characters to emote. The final panel on 6 is a gleefully guilty panel that would get anyone shot. The exit that begins Page 7 is great. The full-paged splash on 10 foreshadows the possible epic conclusion of this series. The six panel layout on 4 returns on 12 with a new foe; I love the looks both characters give at the bottom of the page. The look of shock that ends 13 is solid and the action that follows good. The entrance on 16 is cool. The design of the large character that appears on the final page is good, with changes from what’s normally expected in the states. I’m looking forward to more from Abrera. Overall grade: A

The colors: The orange colors of a lively street fair are at the protagonist’s back as she moves into darkness on the first page. Maxflan Araujo uses his skills to add to the book’s visual tone: if the reader missed this journey into darkness, Arauio repeats it at the top of the second page. It should be pointed out that Liesel’s narration is colored in a harsh crimson so the reader knows who is making comments as the book goes along. The gross vampire she encounters is a given a sickly flat yellow skin to make the creature unnatural. The undead monster’s dialogue balloons are colored black to make his, and other of his ilk, the complete opposite of those alive. Colors have a really cool panel in the second image on Page 9. The blue highlights on the character’s clothes on Page 16 bond her to Liesel who has the same color of eyes, suggesting the pair may team up in a future issue. The final five pages find the hero in a violet colored top that makes her the focus of every panel she’s in. Shrewd, smart, and skilled coloring by Arauio. Overall grade: A

The letters: Letterer Saida Temofonte also does a good job on this book. She creates narration, dialogue, sounds, yells, and the three word tease for next issue. I am always extremely pleased to see narration and dialogue in different fonts and Temofonte does that. The sounds that Liesel’s gun makes look as powerful as its projectiles. Two utterances from individuals struck by Liesel are a little awkward, Pages 15 and 20, but there wasn’t enough room for large outbursts to be inserted, so Temofonte does the best she can. Take a look at the last three words of the issue — it’s like a fairy tale taking a pause. Beautifully ironic when combined with the final imagery. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Here’s a formula for success: Liesel Van Helsing, vampires, and India. Here’s a formula to guarantee success: Dixon, Abrera, Araujo, and Temofonte. An action packed start with the hero in an unusual setting, fighting foes that are different from those she’s fought before, racing to find a secret artifact that could end her neverending quest. Whew! There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue that should be in your hands. 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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