In Review: Van Helsing vs. Robyn Hood #4

The only thing that could make this better is if it were an ongoing series.

The covers: A massive ten different covers for the fang filled finale of this series. Cover A is by Allan Otero and Grostieta and it is awesome! The heroines are in each other’s face, with vampire Robyn trying to slash Liesel’s throat open with her elongated vampire claws, while Liesel is stabbing Robyn in the chest with a stake, with plenty of blood flying about in the process. The characters look good, with their emotions on their faces excellent. The colors are also good, with every element of the art clear and strong. I like this cover. The B is by Igor Vitorino and Adriano Augusto. This is a highly detailed frontpiece of Liesel leaping down upon a group of four vamps, with one in the foreground already expiring with a spike in his head and the one under her having a stake pushed through its chest from Liesel’s foot. This is amazing and the coloring outstanding. Next up is the C cover that’s a moody piece showing Robyn emerging from darkness in an alley with an arrow nocked for action. The muscles and costume on Robyn look good on this cover from Richard Williams, but her face is absolutely empty of any emotion. The final regular cover is the D from Riveiro and Ceci de la Cruz. This is set on a fire escape in a back alley with Robyn about to slash Liesel’s throat with her nails, with the vampire hunter on her knees in submission. The characters look great and the colors nicely highlight the characters by subtly darkening the background. And it’s with deep regret that I have to report that I was unable to find online the other six covers which included the Subscription Exclusive (limited to 75 copies) by Riveiro, the VIP Exclusives (limited to 250/100 copies) by Eric Basaldua with colors by Ula Mos, the In-Store Exclusive (limited to 100) by Keith Garvey, the ZENBOX Exclusive (limited to 150) by Mike Defalfo with colors by Sanju Nivangune, and the Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 350 copies) by Michael Dooney with colors by Mos. Good luck tracking those down, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A+, C B-, and D A

The story: Concocted by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, & Dave Franchini, with Tedesco writing the issue, this opens with Dr. Alex Igor regaining consciousness with Liesel looking down upon him. She quickly checks his front teeth to see if they have points. He’s no longer a vampire thanks to the injection, of his making, that Van Helsing gave him. They were trying to catch and save vampire Robyn, who’s unfortunately left the sewer. Luckily, Alex’s tablet can track her. The pair make their way to Robyn’s apartment. Alex asks if she wants him to go first and Liesel replies, “Don’t worry, mate. I’m not that girl.” Robyn is on the floor, looking human, but covered in blood. Alex discovers she’s burning up, prompting them to get her in the bathtub and fill it with cold water and ice. Once the cubes hit the water, something happens, and it’s exactly what one would want to occur. Plans are soon hatched to take out Von and his vamps and the trio head out to get all the baddies. The heroes’ entrance into Von’s building is good and soon the action becomes nonstop. Tess returns to take out one of the leads, while a slew of supernatural characters try to take down the other two. There’s a very neat reveal on Page 20 that justified much of the tension and had me wondering it Tedesco was going to do the unthinkable, but there’s an excellent twist on the following page resulting in a graphic conclusion for one character. The last two pages are a nice conclusion, keeping the door wide open for another team up on the horizon. Overall grade: A-

The art: I’m the first one to yell and scream when I see artwork digitally manipulated to create effects. I grew up with comic book artists who were than capable of creating an effect such as something moving really fast. Today digital blurs are created to make things look like they’re racing about. Allan Otero is an artist who’s work I’ll add to the list in saying, he needs no help to create a good looking book. However, there is a blur effect in the second panel of this book and it works because it’s what Dr. Vitorino sees as he regains consciousness. His reaction to rejoining the living world is great, as is his quick feel of his teeth. I like how the second image of Liesel on this first page isn’t the soft, caring look of the hero, but, instead, shows her using razor focus to check he doesn’t have fangs. The third page has a really neat perspective shot of some stairs that has them warped to resemble something out of a classic black and white movie: it’s a subtle tip of the hat to one of the many genres that inspired this book’s horrors and it’s slick. Robyn’s reveal on Page 4 is good, with her in the fetal position, covered in blood, which is fitting since she may be reborn as well. The awakening on 5 is great and what immediately follows it is perfectly told with the visuals. The appearance at the bottom of 12 is good; the surprise is solid and the insanity obvious. 13 is really set up well with a growing number of characters in silhouette uping the tension. The partial double-paged splash on 14 and 15 looks fine except for, wait for it, the computer blur to speed up the characters fighting. Otero’s work doesn’t need this done to make the image appear faster. Besides, the smaller panels clearly show how frantic this fight is. The number of silhouettes continue to grow on 19 with an explosive entrance in the fourth panel. I really like the hands at the bottom of 20 which evokes a classic George Romero vibe. The full-paged splash on 22 is a fitting visual climax for this tale. The final two pages focus on characters’ faces, reminding the reader that maintaining one’s humanity was this story’s goal. Overall grade: A-

The colors: Leonardo Paciarotti is this issue’s colorist and he also does a solid job on this issue. I like the sickly greens used for the backgrounds, allowing the characters to really stand out against them. The violets that are part of Liesel’s color scheme are really cool, giving her a slightly punk air, which mixes well with the golden goggles on her forehead. The dialogue in the third panel on Page 5 has a dialogue balloon colored black, making the reader believe the nightmare will continue. Feeding into this nervousness is the final dialogue balloon on the same page. Notice how the colors on 7 are much brighter, reinforcing that one dark element of this story has passed. It’s a little thing, but the greens used for the close-up on 9 give an instant tech feel to the imagery. The highpoint of the issue are the bright orange interiors where two characters are making a stand. It’s an unusual color for such a setting, but really ramps up the tension of the story and art. Overall grade: A 

The letters: This issue’s texts includes dialogue, scene settings, yells, sounds, and growls. Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios continues his winning streak for Zenescope with some strong work. The scene settings Esposito creates are very stylized, looking as though they were shot like from an arrow across the panel. There are several different yells, showing the reader that there are differences in intensity in character’s screams. The sounds are really strong. In fact, I would have been happy to have seen more of them, such as on 14 and 15. My two favorites of the issue are POOM and AROOGA. Just great. Overall grade: A

The final line: A great conclusion to a fun series. The action is good, the dialogue great, and the visuals solid. The only thing that could make this better is if it were an ongoing series. Now that this pair has teamed up, I want more. Maybe in the sequel, Liesel could get bit? Oh, Zenescope…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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