Zenescope Comics specialise in revisiting the legends of yesteryear – from Robin Hood to Van Helsing, they love to take an idea and give it a twist.  Their Van Helsing, a genderbent beauty, has an old enmity with Dracula – and it looks like it’s time for a rematch…

VAN HELSING VS. DRACULA #1 by Pat Shand and Michele Bandini

Van Helsing travels back to England when an old friend, Jonathan Harper, falls foul of a mystic threat.  It doesn’t take her long to deduce that Harper is bait, used to bring her back into Dracula’s plots and plans.  Unfortunately, by the end of the issue her boyfriend Hades has taken steps of his own…

I’ll always have a soft spot for Zenescope.  I’ll admit that they’re not my typical style; I usually find their representation of female characters to be, shall we say, a tad overdone.  At the same time, though, they compensate for this with superb world-building, weaving some entertaining nods to the source material into it.  In this case, for example, the inclusion of a redesigned Jonathan Harper – a character who, along with Van Helsing, appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula – is a nice touch.

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The problem with the kind of complex world that Zenescope has created is that it’s pretty tough to find a jumping-on point that doesn’t have a lot of exposition to it.  This issue is a good example of that; there are whole pages dedicated to explaining the characters’ backstories.  That being said, though, these backstories are essential, and Shand writes with enough skill to ensure you don’t get bored.  What’s more, Bandini seems to put in particular effort on those pages, ensuring that they look stunning and keep your attention.

Bandini’s art is excellent.  I particularly like how she interplays light and dark, creating an extremely surreal and spectral feel on occasion.  There are a couple of odd choices, that have a small impact on the overall slick feel of the book, but those are extremely minor.  We’re clearly in for an excellent supernatural adventure, pitting Zenescope’s versions of two vampire legends – one the ultimate vampire, the other the ultimate hunter – in head-to-head battle.

If you’re looking for some supernatural fun, VAN HELSING VS. DRACULA #1 is a promising start!

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