REVIEW: Van Helsing: Black Annis with Lush and Terrifying Artwork

Van Helsing: Black Annis – Review

Van Helsing: Black Annis is a supernatural horror one shot featuring the daughter of Van Helsing. It is written by Brian Hawkins, illustrated by Vicente Cifuentes, colours by Robby Bevard, and lettering by Taylor Esposito.

Synopsis:

Run-ins with vampires, monsters, and all types of nightly creatures are almost as natural as breathing to the famed vampire hunter, Liesel Van Helsing. But something wicked is going after children in the five boroughs, and as Liesel’s personal life and nightly adventures are about to converge, she is soon to find out why centuries of children have feared the snatcher of souls, Black Annis!

Van Helsing: Black Annis is published by Zenescope Entertainment. It’s available March 31st, 2021 through Comixology and your Local Comic Shop.

Van Helsing: Black Annis  comic book review zenescope entertainment
Van Helsing: Black Annis

Van Helsing: Black Annis Story

Van Helsing: Black Annis is one of the most interesting stories to come out of Zenescope’s line of comics in recent years. While other Zenescope releases have simply fallen flat, writer Brian Hawkins’ penmanship which delves into the darker aspects of humans vs monsters provides a refreshing and yet somewhat familiar take. While any title that bears the name Van Helsing would automatically have the simple trope of Elizabethan Vampire haunt – there’s much more to this tale. It reads like a matured Buffy the Vampire Slayer campfire story more than a typical Van Helsing story. And the fun doesn’t end there.

Van Helsing: Black Annis introduces us to the world of Leisel Van Helsing, an English woman living in America, with the penchant for slaying monsters. Sound familiar? The issue kicks off with Max, Leisel’s boyfriend’s nephew having trouble at school after he sketches the figure of a monster, a monster which will later be introduced as Black Annis. A creature introduced over the next few pages as she hunts down three school children (presumably Max’s class mates).

After taking some time out patrolling while her boyfriend (Rick) sleeps, Leisel returns to his apartment to snuggle in his arms and wake up to Rick cooking breakfast for her and Max (who is having school trouble). After a brief conversation about Max’s school problems, Rick invites Leisel to a meeting with his teacher. Which she says yes to as this is the perfect opportunity for Leisel to find out if there is sinister monsters at play.

Upon getting to the school, Leisel and Rick meet with what seems to be a headmistress called Aggy. Aggy is rather dismissive of Leisel but, nevertheless, they are taken to meet with Max’s teacher. After a rather sourly dressing down by Max’s teacher Rick and Leisel leave the school with Leisel determined that Max’s school teacher really is the Black Annis.

Meanwhile, as Max heads home he notices his apartment is unlocked and then decides to head to his Uncle Rick’s house. However, on the way he is attacked and fed upon by the Black Annis. Leisel, with her Van Helsing getup on, attacks the Black Annis in time to save Max from having his soul fed upon. Except when Leisel turns around, after seeing if Max is okay, notices that the Black Annis has disappeared. Leisel takes him to the hospital where Rick meets her and Max (unconscious).

Leisel first heads to Max’s teacher’s house to interrogate her but during the interrogation comes to realise that the real Black Annis is, in fact, Aggy. The dismissive teacher Leisel met earlier. Heading back to the school and head downwards into the school basement she discovers the Black Annis feeding upon the same three children from earlier on in the issue. The two clash in an epic power struggle, however, Black Annis aka Aggy manages to escape.

Van Helsing: Black Annis
Black Annis itself!

Van Helsing: Black Annis Art

Van Helsing: Black Annis is a departure from the usual bimbo’s dressed in story time costumes that fight the forces of darkness. Instead we have a strong, capable heroine who takes on the forces of darkness while managing to someone balance her double life and relationship with Rick.

Vicente Cifuentes’ art echoes this sentiment. Cifuentes bold and striking line work creates a believable heroine comfortable in her own element. There are no cheesecake moments in this issue and I respect Cifuentes for making that decision because quite simply there’s no need for them. Just like there’s no need for razor-sharp hard nipples under swimsuits on every comic book heroine in existence. It’s just not clever any more.

Meanwhile the bright colour palette provided by Robby Bevard fleshes out big moments like when we see the Black Annis for the first time in her vampiric, witch-like state.

Conclusion

Van Helsing: Black Annis is a superb one shot introducing us into a morally balanced world where the evil and good is dished out in equal measures. The tonality of Brian Hawkins’ dialogue reads like each phrase came straight out of a Buffy or Supernatural episode while the lush and, at times, terrifying artwork from Cifuentes and Bevard is enough to leave you sleepless for days. Contained herein are broad, fascinating strokes as Hawkins makes his mark known in the Zenescope-verse.


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