In Review: Van Helsing vs. Dracula #3

This lives up to the hype as it looks to put down the undead. Recommended.

The covers: A foursome to uncover for this third installment. The A cover is by Harvey Tolibao and Ivan Nunes. This is the image I chose to go along with this review. It has Liesel leaping through the remains of a building with a stake in hand, because just before her a skeleton with some very spiky teeth is beginning to reanimate, complete with green smoke swirling about it. This sets the tone for this book very well. The B cover by Vinicus Andrade is a different king of cool. The title protagonist is solo on this cover, full figure on display, walking toward the reader with a blade in each hand, looking like she means some serious business. This is a perfect illustration that shows the character in her entirety. Excellent! Mimi Yoon does the art on the C cover and it’s the cheesecake cover. Liesel is well endowed in this image, with her top being a little more revealing than usual. She’s at three-quarters turn looking at the reader in a very sultry manner. This reminds me of the “Good Girl” art of the 1950s. The final cover, the D, is by Gregbo Watson. Both characters are in action on this cover, with Liesel holding Dracula up with her left hand so she drive the stake into him with her right. The Prince of Darkness is not going down easily, lunging out at her as she’s trying to deal the death blow. The action is taking place in a back alley, and in the background a female vampire is crawling down a wall to help her master. This is an excellent illustration with a lot of fine details. Overall grade: A A, B A+, C A, and D A

The story: The story has moved to Italy where Liesel and Harker have gone to search for the Steward of Rome, “an ancient hunter who is rumored to have been turned into a vampire by Dracula.” This issue begins with an attractive blonde in a dynamic red dress being dropped off at home. As she makes her way into her house, narration begins. “We are the sleepers. I wait…I watch…As life moves on before me, blurring past. Everyone is in a rush to get to the end.” The woman walks into her large home, unaware a window is broken on the side and that a figure with a hoodie is watching her from within. The intruder reveals his/her presence and grabs the woman from behind, her throat is opened, and the victim falls over the upper level’s stair rails, creating a waterfall of blood below. At the crime scene, Vannes Von Hopkins, Secret Intelligence Service, and Dario Peters, her partner, have arrived to ask police what’s happened. The local officials wonder why the pair have arrived and learn that it’s because a terrorist they’re following has a cult of followers that consider themselves to be vampires. The wounds of the victim match those to be from an infamous vampire. Writer Pat Shand smartly has Helsing and Harker sneaking onto the scene of this crime using aliases, and the pair discuss their next turn in a coffee shop. As they make their plans, Hades is trying to reassert himself as the Lord of Hell, but it seems others have different ideas. Shand nicely has both stories come together by the end of this issue, but before that there’s an excellent twist with the character killing people in Italy, taking Helsing and Harker into a suprising direction. Nothing is better than a clever vampire story, told well. Overall grade: A

The art: This is outstanding art by Michele Bandini. The style reminds me of the best of animation; every image looks as though it’s a still from an animated feature. Page 2 demonstrates this fantastically with the woman’s scream at the top, and the design of the protagonists on 4. These characters are beautiful. Hades’ entrance into the series adds some action into the issue, while the other two are looking for leads on the Steward. The design of the characters fighting Hades are excellent and his battle with them is great. Page 10 has only four panels but it does a lot: it shows a character involved in some nefarious actions and Hades fighting. The way the first two panels are split is a slick piece of layout work as it forces the reader’s eyes to look at something in the second panel, foreshadowing something the story has not as yet revealed. The bottom two panels on the page have an excellent sense of motion, going into 3-D in the final panel, with pieces of something going beyond the border of the image — outstanding! When the Steward is revealed on Page 16 he’s spectacular. I haven’t seen a character look so disgusting, yet able to evoke so much sympathy since seeing Gollum in The Two Towers. He’s a fantastic visual character, and he evokes emotions that perfectly match Shand’s text. The last page finally shows Dracula with his followers. All look great with the possessed individuals following him looking marvelously evil. Bandini’s art is fantastic, and if I were a comic book publisher, I’d be doing everything I could to have him illustrate a series for a very long time. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Art that’s done in an animation style is often colored too glossy in comic books: it looks overly shiny because of the smooth line work. That’s not the case with Walter Pereyra’s work on this issue. In fact, it’s perfection. Look at the excellent work done in the top panel on Page 2: the light source is clearly defined by the colors on the character, yet the individual doesn’t look like colors have been glossed on, they’re very naturally. Page 3 is a full page splash and there’s some outstanding work on the pool of blood on the floor and the light streaming in through the window. I knew that Pereyra would not disappoint. Another excellent contribution is the coloring on the narration boxes, creating a visual signpost for the reader to identify whose thoughts they are hearing. Certain panels also have a thin colored bordered around them, making them pop on the page, drawing reader focus. The penultimate page has some superior blues for the reveal of Hades. Publishers should take note of Pereyra’s work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration from one character that matches his speech, dialogue, Liesel’s narration, telephone texts, dialogue for Hades’ attackers, outstanding whispering, yells, sounds, a song, Dracula speak, minion speak, and next issue’s tease are all created by Jim Campbell. This is sensational work. As I’ve been saying in other reviews, Zenescope has the best letterers in the business because they are allowed to create unique fonts for unique characters’ speech. Campbell does this superbly, yet contributes many other superior text pieces, with the first narrator’s font being outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The final line: If you’d like to try a Zenescope book, you can jump in here and be fully caught up. The story is good and the art spectacular. This lives up to the hype as it looks to put down the undead. Recommended. 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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