In Review: Van Helsing vs The Mummy of Amun-Ra #1

Zenescope does it again: this series captures horrors and heroics superbly.

The covers: Five covers to find if you’re a completist and each has interesting qualities. The A cover is by Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes and this has to be the cover when this series is collected. It features Liesel standing on some ruins, bones scattered among them, with her crossbow in her right hand and a wicked looking scythe in her left. Her jacket splays out behind her from an ominous gust of wind and her face says she’s ready for her next foe. Behind her are the ruins of ancient Egypt. Everything about this cover succeeds. This is poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. The B is by Allan Otero and Nunes with Liesel in action against a mummy. She looks fierce as she wields two stakes, with one plunged into the monster’s shoulder. What really makes this a stand out cover is the mummy’s wrappings are swirling about the characters as if they have a life of their own. A really neat frontpiece. If one is craving cheesecake, Renato Rei and Wes Hartman are serving up on the C cover. This features a well endowed Egyptian woman bearing a staff with an ankh atop it. She’s looking at the reader with a face that states she will tolerate no foolery. She looks sexy and the coloring on this is top notch, with the starry blue background excellent. The D cover is another outstanding action cover, this time by Jason Metcalf and Ula Mos. Within a temple, Liesel holds a burning torch in one hand and her crossbow in the other, attempting to fend off three mummies who want her death. She looks great, the mummies fantastic, and the setting good. Mos is killing it on the coloring, making this cover really pop. There’s a final cover by Age Velez. It’s stated as being the ComicsPRO Bombshell Exclusive, limited to 350 and 150 copies, but I sadly couldn’t find an image of it anywhere on line. Good luck tracking that one down, collectors! Overall grades: A A+, B B+, C B+, and D A

The story: The issue begins with a six page flashback that has a museum broken into by several men dressed in white wearing Egyptian funerary masks. After killing a guard with gas, they find a golden staff they were looking for and take it. Unfortunately, the guard’s partner returns and is shot by the killers. The story moves elsewhere where the men’s “God-Queen” sits on a lounge, drinking the fleshly spilled blood from a woman’s throat. She takes the staff saying, “Yes. Oh, yes. This is it. I can feel his soul shivering within. He remembers my touch. Good. Let’s see what else he remembers.” The story then moves to the present as Liesel is fighting some wraiths. Van Helsing has been a highly enjoyable character in her various adventures in several Zenescope comics and this is just as entertaining. From a story conceived by Pat Shand and Joe Brusha, written by Shand, this is a good entry point to the heroine’s exploits. Her narration defines her character well and the action is great. She’s a smart, yet cautious hero, which is demonstrated on the first three pages she appears. Liesel goes on to meet with a supporting character who’s also had many appearances in Zenescope comics and it’s this character that provides the motivation for her to be seen by the antagonist. Her entrance at this site is cinematic and her narration continues to be outstanding. There’s a flashback to 1845 to explain how Liesel came into the crosshairs of the villain and it’s also super. It was too short for me, as I really enjoy the time period and the location. I’m hoping that more of this past adventure is revealed as the story progresses. The final page teases the villain has some big plans for Liesel and I can’t wait to see what they are. Shand and Brusha have crafted a fun supernatural-action mash-up. Overall grade: A

The art: There are two artists on this book. Normally when I encounter more than one artist on an issue I get very concerned, as the two styles don’t mix well and one artist overshadows the other. Happily, that is not the case for this book. Marc Rosete handles all the scenes set in the present day, while Roberta Ingranata does all the events in the 1845 flashback. This is the perfect way to have two artists working on a book, with both styles working excellently. The opening in the museum looks like something out of James Bond movie, with the minions breaking in and dispatching the guards to seize the staff. Their reveal on Page 4 is terrific: they look creepy and badass. The God-Queen is beautiful and I’m glad she wasn’t fully revealed until she took possession of the staff. The seventh page introduces Van Helsing to the reader and she’s in graphic action taking on the wraiths. Blood is spilled in a style that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. Her full page splash on 8 is good, but from an odd angle, with much of the character lost since she’s turning her body. I enjoy when Rosete employs just a raised eyebrow or the narrowing of the title character’s eyes to signal to the reader that something’s up. Rosete really does a great job on 16 when Liesel enters a room with some pizzazz. The flashback begins on 18  and Ingranata starts with incredible panache on a great looking map and an introductory panel of Liesel in Egypt. This is followed by a full page splash of the title character and three companions. Walking to the reader with those ruins behind them was outstanding. The reveal of the creature on 21 is fine, but given the details on the previous pages, I expected this character to be better rendered. All in all, I was happy with the visuals and I’m looking forward to seeing more from this pair. Overall grade: A-

The colors: As with the art, there is also more than one colorist on this book: Walter Pereyra handles Rosete’s art, with Fran Gamboa with J.C. Ruiz on Ingranata’s. The opening sequence in the museum is very well done. Considering that it’s night, the pages could have colored very darkly, but Pereyra wisely chooses to go with several shades of cool blues to create night in the museum. The first bright color to enter this scene is the blood expelling from one guard’s head; it’s shocking, but absolutely key to establishing the tone of this book. The lack of colors in the mask wearing minions makes them even creepier. There’s a nice color tip off on Page 5 with the God-Queen’s eyes that shows her level of strength. Crimson really takes over the book when Van Helsing fights the wraiths and it’s awesome! The flashback sequence colored by Gamboa and Ruiz looks great, hitting all the expected marks with browns and tan, but the use of oranges and yellows at the top of 20 was outstanding, creating a very intense tone. There’s also some neat work done on the creature on 21, with some slick shading on its flesh to give it depth. All three colorists are to be congratulated for their work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Jim Campbell creates dialogue, sounds, scene settings, narration, screams, narration for the past, and the tease for next issue. A sure way for a letterer to show he or she is at the top of his or her game is to use a different font from the dialogue for a character’s narration. Campbell does that not once, but twice, with Van Helsing’s narration in the present being in italics and in a handwritten font for 1845. It is extremely effective and looks superb. The sounds are also well done, with PAFT and CHOKT being my favorites. Consistently, Zenescope employs the best letterers in the business and this series is no exception. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Zenescope does it again: this series captures horrors and heroics superbly. This is an excellent inroad for new readers and a slick continuation for those who’ve been following Liesel for some time. I’m looking forward to this story’s run. 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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