In Review: Van Helsing vs. Robyn Hood #1

I'm wowed by this story, its possibilities, and what troubles await both characters. Bravo, Zenoscope!

The covers: Five different covers of the first new series from Zenescope to debut for 2018. The A cover is by Riveiro and Ceci de la Cruz and it’s a fantastic image of Liesel Van Helsing, high up in the skyscrapers, leaping at the reader and leveling her crossbow at him or her. It’s a fantastic image and is print, poster, and tee-shirt worthy. Sheldon Goh and Sanju Nivangune created the B cover which has Robyn leaping down from the left at Liesel, her bow drawn back to launch an arrow into her friend’s heart. Liesel, standing on a building, has a stake in her left hand and her trusty crossbow pointed at her emerald wearing friend’s heart. This is a great illustration, but I would have had the city not be so orange, as it draws attention negatively from the characters. The C by Billy Tucci and Ula Mos is a great bust shot of Robyn, no pun intended, looking directly at the reader. She holds one of her arrows delicately in her left hand and the point is smoking. She is smiling, revealing pointed teeth. Robyn is a vampire?! Nice tease of things to come and a wonderful cover! The final regular cover, the D by Meguro, features Robyn from the waist up looking at the reader from a three-quarters view. Her hands are at her sides, raised up as if to claw the air. He back is slightly arched, her hair flails around her head, and there’s blood dripping from the right side of her mouth. She, too, has a vampire’s teeth. How can this be? She’s also in the woods and it’s daylight! Another outstanding and teasing cover of what’s within. There’s also a Blank Sketch Edition Variant that has only the title, credits, and price of the book on the cover, leaving a huge white space for an artist to create a one-of-a-kind original cover or to have all the contributors of this book sign. This is always a terrific idea for a collector, but on its own, blank, this isn’t a great cover. Overall grades: A A, B A-, C A, D A, and Blank Sketch Variant C

The story: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, & Dave Franchini conceived this tale, with Tedesco writing it. The book begins with a vampire being flung backward in an alley after receiving two small arrows to its heart. The killer is revealed to be heroine Liesel Van Helsing. As soon as she smiles at a job well done, another vampire launches herself from the top of building. Liesel leaps up to meet the creature and stabs it in the chest with a stake. She sees no other undead creatures, so she starts down the alley, stopping when she hears a voice say, “You need to stop it.” She turns to see a white haired male vampire walking toward her. Raising her crossbow, she says, “So this is the part where you try and run.” The creatures suddenly holds it head and screams in frustration. It then holds its chest in pain. “I can’t control the hunger…Find Von.” Taken aback by it words, Liesel hesitates, but the vampire says, “Just do it! Kill me. Do it!” He then rushes her. What happens next won’t surprise faithful readers of this vampire slayer, but what will be a surprise is what she discovers in the fifth panel on Page 5. This find is left with the turn of a page having the story move to Robyn Locksley, who’s having issues of a different kind. Another character is introduced and Robyn begins a new case. The two leads are unknowingly working on the same mystery. Before they meet, there’s a great scene with Liesel in a back hallway. When the two meet up and share information, the team-up has begun. They make a discovery on 18 and something goes horribly wrong on Page 21. The final page has a great reveal and the meaning behind the title of this series becomes understood. I’m wowed by this story, its possibilities, and what troubles await both characters. Bravo, Zenoscope! Overall grade: A

The art: Allan Otero’s layout and character work on this series is good. The opening page’s vampire living out its final undead moments is solid; I especially like the way the monster is dressed — all I could think of was that it’s a hipster vampire. There’s a small panel on the page that introduces Liesel to the reader and she looks great. The background, which is the city, does not have an equal amount of detail in it. It’s composed simply, to have the reader focus on the character, but it stood out negatively. This is the what the book looks like: great characters with average to incomplete backgrounds. The attack and killing on the second page has the characters looking good, and the first and fourth’s panels backgrounds are also fine, but look in the last panel: the stonework done in the fourth panel has become uncompleted line work. The actions on 4 and 5 are good, but the building behind Liesel stands out as incomplete. Robyn’s introduction on 6 looks good, but her setting is also composed of incomplete lines. It’s as if Otero is letting the colorist complete the imagery. Look at the third panel on 7 — look at the setting and the two distant characters: they’re loosely rendered. Page 9 is a full-paged splash that establishes a new setting, but the way this is set up, the top half of the image is not as detailed as the bottom half, and the individuals at this locale are just outlines after four rows. A splash page should allow an artist to show off their skills in all the space allowed them; that’s not happening here. The large image is a key point in this series, but it’s also lacking the finer details of the space. I’m liking the characters, but am disappointed in the settings. Overall grade: C+ 

The colors: The coloring on this book by Leonardo Paciarotti is very good. He’s completing the artwork where it’s left slightly unfinished. The opening page has the reader drawn to the vampire’s death snarl because it’s a black dialogue balloon filled with white lettering. The vampire stands out next for its coloring, which is slick red, but not in the way one would assume. Liesel looks fantastic, with her blue eyes drawing the reader in, who next looks at the bright colors on her goggles and than at her red costume. When Liesel kills the vampire on Page 2 red is used tremendously, almost as a filter, to accentuate the action. The shine that comes off of Liesel’s crossbow is really good on 3, telling the reader that this weapon is made out of metal. Also good is the pasty white used for the vampire. This color isn’t used for vampires, so it’s subtle foreshadowing to the reader that this monster isn’t the typical creature of the night. The coloring for the setting on 7 and 8 is well done, as it has the colors one would expect for such a location. The coloring on 9 is very different, not one I would associate for this activity. However, there’s not much Paciarotti can do with this image. When the heroines meet they’re in an appropriate nondescript utilitarian hall, so both ladies stand out well with their bright costumes. The last panel of the book uses red well and will leave readers wondering what’s happened to one of the characters. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios creates this issue’s yells, character identifications, dialogue, a whisper, scene settings, telephone text, music, and the tease for next issue. The scene settings are terrific, looking formal, but, when Robyn is the focus, an arrow shoots under them. Very clever and very cool. Esposito’s dialogue is always easy to read and when one character whispers a line, it’s small enough for the reader to recognize it as a whisper, but is still easily read. Though only used for the leads, the character identifiers look really cool, and I like how Esposito outlined their names to have them stand out from the rest of the box containing it. Esposito is gold. Overall grade: A

The final line: A solid start with a story that promises a lot of thrills and surprises. However, the art is incomplete when it comes to settings; the character work is fine, but the locations were lacking. Fans of both characters should enjoy this book, but new readers might put it back on the shelves due to the visuals. Overall grade: B+

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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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