In Review: Van Helsing vs. Dracula #4

An entertaining story and beautiful visuals. Recommended.

The covers: Five covers to find to frighten off vampires. Mike Lilly and Wes Hartman do the A cover which shows Liesel Van Helsing against a stark fiery orange background turning to look over her left shoulder at the reader. She doesn’t look pleased to be interrupted. The character looks good and I’m glad to see that her crossbow is getting some nice focus. The B cover by Emilio Laiso and Ivan Nunes spoils the ending of the book as it shows what Liesel sees: Dracula with arms outstretched on a street, surrounded by his minions wrecking havoc. I’m giving approval for doing a cover not featuring the heroine, but this is really busy and the coloring doesn’t really allow individual elements of the art to stand out. Very muddled. The C cover is the one I picked up. It’s by Paul Green and it has a very sexy Liesel looking at the reader, her crossbow ready, with her coat billowing out behind her. It’s a good girl cover and is fairly generic in content, but she looks spectacular and the coloring is perfect. Having the tiny bats behind her and fog swallowing the bottom of the image are nice touches. The D is another good girl cover and it’s by Renatro Rei and Hartman. Against a full moon, Liesel looks at the reader, holding her crossbow in one hand and a stake in the other. It’s okay, but she’s in a fairly rigid pose, making this seem awkward. There’s also a Secret Retailer Exclusive cover by Elias Chatzoudis. Any cover by Chatzoudis is worth tracking down and this is no exception. In a holiday pose, Liesel is sitting on a snow covered log wearing a blue-violet fur trimmed cape and hat over a similarly colored costume. She’s in the woods, it’s winter, and there’s a cabin in the distance. As with most images that feature her, she has her crossbow held upright. The figure is attractive and the setting is a nice change of pace. Yeah, it’s worth finding. Overall grades: A A-, B C, C A+, D C, and SRE A  

The story: On an airplane speeding through the night, all its travelers are sleeping, though Mina Murray is not doing so comfortably. Dracula is aboard and makes a slight incision on his wrist, allowing some of his blood to spill into the dozing woman’s mouth. A stewardess thinks she hears a noise, and turns to look in Mina’s direction, but the vampire is gone. Writer Pat Shand then moves the story to what Mina is dreaming about. She’s covered in spiders, been turned into a vampire, and frolics through a city on fire where citizens are being fed upon by others of her kind. She asks her lover where he is and she spies Dracula throwing an empty victim to the ground. “Don’t worry, pet. He’ll be here. And then…he won’t.” The scene then moves to Italy where Hades has reappeared to Elise. He aplogizes for being absent. He lovingly holds the side of her face and says, “I was never leaving you, love.” Her eyes widen at his revelation and then narrow. “Oh, come off it! You arse!” and she punches him across the face. She reads him the riot act for leaving her and he apologizes. This was a funny moment early in the issue showing the complicated relationship the pair have. The true origin of Dracula follows their conversation, which is then followed by a neat wrinkle that will result after killing the vampire. Robyn Hood and Marian have cameos before the conclusion that ends the issue in the most perfect of cliffhangers. Things have built up, relationships have been altered, a good twist introduced, and all the ducks are in a row for the final issue. The only reason that this issue doesn’t earn a plus with its letter grade is because it’s a build up issue. Overall grade: A

The art: Michele Bandini is killing the visuals on this book, and that’s not a pun intended on a book dealing with vampires. The opening panel is a dramatic opening because of the angle of the plane. The joy Dracula has on his face as he gives Mina some of his blood is wonderfully evil incarnate. The split between “Before…” and “…Now” on Page 3 is a great transition, though Mina shouldn’t have a spider on her neck in the “Before…” panel. The pose she strikes in the third panel on this page communicates to the reader that she’s gone completely over to the dark side. When Hades and Liesel have their discussion their posture also tells the reader exactly how each feels as they make their feelings known. The design of the creature shown on 7 is outstanding, and what happens to the beast wonderful. If one thinks that there couldn’t be anything more horrific than what occurs on 8, they’re in for a good shock on 9. 12 makes me laugh with the visuals, which match the text perfectly. The Steward of Rome is like the Gollum of this book and his (“its”?) every emotion is gold, especially on 15. The fourth panel on Page 20 looks like it was taken out of some anime, but works wonderfully. Whatever Bandini illustrates I have to buy. Overall grade: A

The colors: There are some really nice blendings between the colors and shades in Walter Pereyra’s work. Take at look at the shading for depth atop the airplane. The interior of the plane is also well done, with excellent shading on the black chairs and the stewardess’s outfit. However, the third panel on Page 1 is too dark. There’s only a smidgen of color that tells the reader that there’s something alongside the plane; a lighter background would have helped. The change in colors at the top of Page 3 helps the reader realized that a change has occurred in the character. The fire in the third panel on the third page is wonderfully translucent. My favorite coloring would have to be the close-up of Hades at the bottom of 5; his red eyes are really highlighted on his pale skin. Having his speech colored a blood red is another excellent way to further him from the humans of the book. A close runner up would be the Steward on Page 15. I would love to see Pereyra do other books. Overall grade: A

The letters: A whisper, snoring, Dracula’s speech, dialogue, sinister scene settings, sounds, Hades’s speech, the Steward’s speech, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Jim Campbell. All look exceptional, with the Steward’s dialogue looking the best and most original of any character in comics. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The origin of Dracula is given and the players make their final moves in this excellent penultimate issue. An entertaining story and beautiful visuals. 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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