In Review: Hellchild #4

A father and daughter showdown done right.

The covers: Six different covers to seek out that could make your life hell to track down. The A cover is by Richard Ortiz and Sabine Rich and it’s the one I picked up. Angelica is standing back-to-back with an infamous mustached man. She looks wildly at the reader, her hair dramatically flaired as she turns to face him or her, her teeth gritted, her massive blade in her left hand, and her costume looking sexy rocker. The man is in a dress shirt and slacks. Quite the fetching outfit for Dracula, eh? The coloring is bright in pink, making it an eye catcher on the racks. This was the cover I used to accompany this review. Alfredo Reyes and Vinicius Andrade have created the B cover that has Liesel Van Helsing standing in a subway car whose travelers have just revealed they’re all vampires. She looks happy at her situation and this has me wanting to see what happens next. Lots of fine details in this image, especially with how unique each character looks. The C comes courtesy of Billy Tucci and Sanju Nivangune. This has a beautiful Angelica sitting in profile on a mound of skulls with a wall of flame around them. She’s leaning on her ginormous sword, just starting to turn to the reader. Another winner of a cover, with the colors really sending this into the stratosphere. The D, from Jason Metcalf and Victor Bartlett, shows an even more beautiful Angelica (Dang, the artists have really outdone themselves on this month’s covers!) standing in an alley looking down upon, who appears to be, Hades, who has blood dripping from his mouth, though he still has a spear in his hand to take out his daughter. Again, great art (I really like this version of Angelica) and the colors, with those strong oranges, look terrific. The first exclusive cover is the Denver Comic Con Exclusive by Mike Krome and Ula Mos, which is limited to 500 copies. I couldn’t find a copy of this anywhere online, so good luck tracking this one down! Luckily, I was able to find an image of the Secret Retailer Incentive by Andrea Meloni and Mos. There are only 100 copies of this cover that has Angelica wearing a next to nothing black bikini while sitting on a sandy shore with her feet in the water. The illustration is just okay; her neck is really long and she’s pretty thick. The colors are good, though. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A, D A+, and Secret Retailer Incentive C-

The story: Marian and Sam have gone to see a witch about Angelica to learn if there’s anything they can do to help the girl. The witch doesn’t tell them what they wanted to hear: “This Angelica was drained by Dracula, so long ago. Last night, you breathed life into her…thus completing the creation of a vampire that Dracula never intended.” As Marian begins to sob at the hell she’s condemned to this girl, black tendrils begin to swirl about the chair she’s in. The witch rises to protect Marian and Sam, but it’s unnecessary as it’s Hades. He’s there to apologize for threatening Marian and to ask her to help him find his daughter. She agrees. Meanwhile, Angelica is watching Olaf’s gang of vampires debate keeping her with the group or chained up in silver. Olaf overrules their fears and the pair go to his bedroom. He gives her a glass of blood and the two have a conversation on how they can help each other. Pat Shand has something unexpected happen to Angelica on Page 6 which allows Olaf the opportunity to do something he was considering in the previous issue. Elsewhere, Liesel Van Helsing is off trying to gain information about the werewolf clan that Angelica battled. Starting on Page 10 the big smack down of the issue begins: Angelica with Olaf and his gang versus Hades, Marian, and Sam. It’s a great tussle, as one would expect, however Shand has Angelica do something surprising and quite pleasing on 18: this is a terrific character moment because it sets this character apart from others and offers some hope for this individual’s soul. Page 19 is a terrific showpiece for each of the book’s main characters, showing how each is effected by what’s occurred. Great storytelling with great character growth. Overall grade: A

The art: Vincenzo Riccardi must have been saving himself up for this issue, because this is a big improvement over last issue. The first page has some terrific work on Sam, Marian, and Polly in the witch’s shop. The details in the store did not go unnoticed and they brought this environment, which is only shown for two pages, vividly to life. I really like the design of Polly. I’m an old school comic book fan of Dazzler and her original incarnation holds a dear place in my heart. Polly was very 1980’s and I loved it. The black tendrils that announce Hades’s entrance into the room were also well done; they might have come off as a poor Venom effect, but Riccardi gives them a much smoother, magical look. When Hades smiles at Marian’s response it’s a magical moment that melts hearts as well as mend fences. The unexpected event that occurs to Angelica on 6 is also well done; it’s a good effect that’s unlike other actions done in this series or other Zenescope books. Liesel is briefly in this issue, but she looks fantastic everywhere, especially in the bottom left corner of 8. The villains’ reveal on 11 is perfect; all that was missing was music to precede the battle. Sam is also another gorgeously drawn character, looking her best on 14. Riccardi’s warping of the borders to designate flashbacks was a nice touch. As much as I’m loving the art on this issue, the final two pages look like filler. 20 and 21 comprise two panels that cover both pages horizontally. Both could have been done in one page. They really stand out as awkward. However, that’s only two pages of this penultimate issue and I can’t knock the visuals that much for them. Riccardi did a good job on this issue. Overall grade: A-

The colors: Throughout this book, Eleonora Bruni does an outstanding job creating depth to the art using colors. Look at the sky of the first panel where Bruni uses colors to give the city depth, the shopfront looks textured in the second panel due to colors, the skin tones on all the characters that follow gives them a three dimensional effect. Hades and Angelica are set apart from others due to their speech being colored red, giving them a hellish tone. Red also stands out well in the scenes in Olaf’s bedroom with the glasses of blood being attention grabbers in the dark brown space. The violets on 6 – 7 and 10 – 11 are electric. And I love the green aura given to Sam. But those last two pages are just too, too dark. The top panel is so dark that the threat can barely be seen; even their eyes are a muted crimson! The right half of the bottom has the characters darker than when they first appeared on Page 11. Why would this happen? Again, being the last two pages, this can’t mar the otherwise sensational job by Bruni much. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Dialogue, Hades and Angelica speech, Angelica’s narration, vampire speech, sounds, supernatural Edward Norton speech (You’ll see…), a phone text, a foreign language, and the tease for the final issue hail from Jim Campbell. Wow! What doesn’t Campbell have to do for this issue? And he does each incredibly well. I love that Campbell differentiates narration from dialogue, tweaking Angelica’s narration just enough, while keeping it true to her normal speech — an incredibly smart move. The sounds on this are great with the SNAP being just a flat out cool visual. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I can’t believe this ends in one more issue! There’s so much to be done with Angelica. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this will conclude. A father and daughter showdown done right. 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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