In Review: Van Helsing vs. Dracula #1

A great first issue with plenty of horror, action, and -- GASP --romance.

The covers: A lucky seven to hunt down like they’re the undead. The A cover is by Richard Ortiz and Ylenia Di Napoli. Liesel looks terrific as she strikes the traditional hero spose. Love her costume, hair, and coloring. I’m not as keen on the Dracula behind her. He doesn’t look as finely detailed as she is and the coloring on his jacket makes it look like he’s wearing velvet. This would have been better if she’d been the only one on the cover. Jarreau Wimberly does the B and it’s really, really good! Our vampire hunter is turning to her left to fire a bolt off at the undead. She is stunning and the background makes this stellar; I love the red splatter in the plants. This is outstanding. Mina Murray is the subject of the C by Billy Tucci and Ula Mos. Standing in a tight black skirt, with a red top, and black stockings, Mina looks sexy. Around her are a swarm of bats complete with a full moon. Great layout with great art and great colors. The D is the cover I chose to go with this review because this is the most Steampunk looking of the covers. Paolo Pantalena and Mos, again, have Liesel decked out in all the extravagant clothes every cosplayer would love to own. The title character isn’t wearing anything close to this bulky in this issue, but this is one fantastic image. There are two Exclusive covers, both illustrated by Dawn McTeigue with colors by Sabine Rich. I couldn’t find any specific information on either on the Zenescope site, but, thankfully, Ms. McTeigue posted them online. I’m guessing that the Year 10 Photo Shoot cover, which is limited to 350, features Liesel standing in front of a fireplace sporting a slinky next-to-nothingness. Liesel looks gorgeous and the coloring is incredible. I’m also guessing that the Book Store exclusive is the exact same image, save a change in clothes for the title character: she’s now wearing lingerie — Wow! Men, please be aware that your mouth with go agape looking upon this. Double Wow! The final cover is a Cosmic Comics Exclusive featuring Liesel in long gloves, barely a top and panties, stockings, and her hair pulled back, kneeling on the ground before the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. As she poses for this picture, several demonic looking green hands are coming out of the ground to attack her. Jamie Tyndall and Ula Mos knock it out of the park, again. Overall grades: A B-, B A, C A-, D A, Year 10 A+, Book Store A+, Cosmic Comics A+

The story: “An Imperial Affliction” by Pat Shand begins with Jonathan Harker visiting his parents with Mina Murray in tow. His father has nothing positive come out of his mouth. I kept waiting for Jonathan to take a swing at him. After one particularly pointed comment, Mina excuses herself from the dinner table to use the bathroom. Once there she reaches in her purse for a bottle of pills labeled “Allergy.” Back at the table, Johnathan announces to his parents that he and Mina are planning on getting married. His mother is ecstatic, while dad continues his snarky commentary. When the soon-to-be mother-in-law goes to give Mina a hug, Murray’s eyes go red and she grows fangs and bites the woman’s throat. Simultaneously, a spider crawls out of Mina’s ear. With the arachnid gone, Mina collapses to the floor. Jonathan rushes over to her as she wails, “HAAAAKKKKKIt’s inside of me! It’s clawing at my gut! Make it stop!” Her chest becomes covered with spiders that are exiting her ears. Jonathan holds his fiancé reassuring her, “It’s all right, love — I’m going to make everything all right. She’ll help us…” That’s certainly a dramatic opening! The setting then moves to Liesel who’s on the job elsewhere. As she fights some antagonists she narrates her past and present, which was needed, since I’ve only encountered her in the recent pages of Robyn Hood. Her fight ends with her boyfriend Hades’ arrival — Yes, that Hades. All seems to be well after the action is over, but Hades has to investigate a presence, and that sets his character off in a certain direction. After backstory on Liesel and Hades, they go off to help Mina and that’s when the story takes off. Two characters have conflicting ideas on how to help Mina and naturally one does so without permission. Dracula makes essentially a cameo in this issue, but his presence is felt throughout. This issue was setting up the pieces and just starting to put them in motion on the final two pages. Overall grade: A

The art: Fresh off the final Jungle Book, is Michele Bandini who does a spectacular job on this book. I knew on the first page that this would be a well drawn book, as the characters look as if they’re from an animated film, with sensational emotions and a great sense of movement. When Mina goes bonkers it’s terrific! I love seeing Harker’s father finally doing something visual that belies his cranky nature. That full page splash of Page 4 was a wonderfully horrific illustration: classic and modern at the same time. The transition to Page 5 is equally sweet, with a full page splash showing Elise walking, somewhat, nervously down a dark corridor. Since she’s new to me, this was the perfect way to introduce her to me and other readers. The next five pages show her fighting abilities, which are strong, and they show off Bandini’s ability to draw a fight scene. I love the speed lines coming off the characters on 8 and 9, giving them a sound effect of rushing wind found in most animated fare. The monster at the bottom of 8 is awesome, and Elise’s close-up in the second panel on 9 is a super way to show her thought process to the reader. Hades is also new to me, and I really like his eyes, which are black, save the two tiny pupils. Hades’ encounter with the presence quickly elevates the art from typical monster fighting books to cosmic levels of strength. Seeing Page 12 made me realize this book’s foe is going to be beyond Elise’s typical baddies. The reveal on 16 is super; it brings the horror of the book back to the forefront. And it grows even more on 20 and 21. I like how Bandini slowly brings the gothic element forward in the visuals. There have been plenty of horrific moments, but these two pages create a history that these blasphemous deeds have been going on for some time. I love Bandini’s art. Overall grade: A+

The colors: As with the art, the first page informed me that Walter Pereyra knows what he’s doing. Look at how he lights the very first panel: excellent work on the characters’ clothes, the wine glasses, and that old wallpaper. I like how panels explode with a change in colors when something dramatic occurs, such as with Jonathan at the bottom of Page 1 and Mina’s chomping on 3. I also like the full bleed he does on the ceiling in the bottom of 3: it’s a grey, aged splotchiness, but notice how the coloring goes up the side of the panel, extending all the way to almost the top of the page. The vampires’ eyes light up wonderfully in red, which are only one-upped by Hades’ startling peepers. Also slick is that Hades’ speech is colored red, showing him to be more than a normal man. Pereyra’s colors are strong. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Dialogue, yells, whispers, narration, sounds, vampire speak and Hades speak (the same font), Dracula speak, and next issue’s tease are nicely done by Jim Campbell. I’m always pleased to see letterers employ different fonts for characters that are not human, and he does so with the supernaturals in this book. Normally I grouse if the same font is employed for similar characters, but it works for the vampires and Hades since they’re dead characters, so no reason to complain since Campbell is on his game. Campbell is one of the best in the biz. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A great first issue with plenty of horror, action, and — GASP –romance. I’m very interested to see where this goes. Overall grade: A

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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