Calling upon H. G. Wells, Van Helsing: Invisible Woman introduces the vampire hunter to a foe she’s met before, but won’t see coming this time…
Van Helsing: Invisible Woman
Joe Brusha (writer), Ceci De La Cruz (colorist), Dave Franchini (writer), Pat Shand (writer), Ralph Tedesco (writer), Rodrigo Xavier (artist), Taylor Esposito (letterer – Ghost Glyph)
August 4, 2021
Following up on a previous adventure where Liesel Van Helsing had to close portals to alternate dimensions with the help of her friends, she is now going about her vampire hunting business with her partner, Julie Jekyll. They raid a vampire’s nest, which seems to be all in a day’s work for the pair, but unbeknownst to them, they are being watched — and have been for some time.
The story opens with Van Helsing’s perspective, spilling her thoughts into narration boxes of a blood-red ombre. Here we learn a bit about her relationship with Julie, someone whom the arrogant vampire hunter is willing to consider an equal thanks to Julie’s technological skills. But her thoughts are quickly overshadowed by someone else as the perspective switches to the watcher. Taylor Esposito’s narration boxes here are now powered by colouring that hints at the nature of the protagonist as colorist Ceci De La Cruz subtly overlays colours that allow the background to seep through.
The antagonist’s words make it clear that whoever she is, she has been studying Van Helsing for a long time, calculating the perfect time to strike in order to exact vengeance and do whatever is needed to save her own universe.
Invisible characters are depicted in any number of ways in comics. Rodrigo Xavier opts to reveal bits and pieces of the character, enhanced by the swirling, ethereal lines of De La Cruz’s colours. However, when Van Helsing and Jekyll come to blows with the invisible woman, Xavier skillfully removes the character altogether, making her presence known through Van Helsing and Jekyll’s reactions and responses.
There are three main covers for this title, along with covers D through O, many of which were provided as Kickstarter rewards. The first three covers, above, deserve some attention because they are simply stunning in their composition. Cover A by Igor Vitorino and Ivan Nunes calls to mind the Dark Knight, but Liesel Van Helsing doesn’t get quite so caught up in that broody imagery. There is movement and strength in her pose, with all the power going to her legs as she stands poised to pounce from the lionshead statues. There’s not much of a foothold here, but that, and the apparent lack of rope to swing by, doesn’t seem to bother her. The second cover by Martin Coccolo and Mohan Sivakami is the one that caught my attention with the rain spattering out the shape of the antagonist. The literal backbreaking posing of our hero makes this cover painfully striking. Finally, Ivan Tao’s Cover C cuts Liesel out of the background like GIF clipping gone wrong. As the rain pours down over the character and the weapons her disembodied hands are holding, the cover leaves you wondering exactly who the invisible woman referenced in the title actually is. All of these covers are a compelling combination of artistry that doesn’t let the typical need for sexiness overpower the content of the story the covers are meant to convey.
Of that story, there is, perhaps more than is needed. Pegged as an “oversized” issue that boasts 32 pages of content, the story felt like it dragged in many places, with pages and panels that felt like unnecessary filler. Though the Invisible Woman’s monologuing is filled with important details, there were times when the word-to-page ratio felt like there were word limits placed on each panel, with imagery added to pad out the page.
Despite the uneven pacing, as an introduction to the Invisible Woman and the struggles Van Helsing and her partner must deal with, Van Helsing: Invisible Woman serves the basics. But as a one-shot, the story could have used more substance.