Belle may want a break … but beasts never know when to quit.
Writer: Dave Franchini
Artwork: Igor Vitorino & Derlis Santacruz
Colors: Juan Manuel Rodriguez
Letters: Kurt Hathaway
What They Say:
After her life was recently turned upside down, things have finally started to settle for Anabelle “Belle” DiMarco. Now, working with the organization known as C.H.I.P., she has more allies than she has ever had in her was against the beasts who threaten mankind. But with her new allies comes a mission, and the price she will be asked to pay may not be worth the cost.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
It has been two weeks since Belle’s world collapsed around her: Candlestick was taken away, her brother turned out to be the Beast which kidnapped Mel and if things couldn’t get any worse, she then learns a mother thought was long dead is behind all of the abominations which now plague her life. However as problems managed to find stable solutions and her best friend found herself now fully enmeshed within the beast hunter’s world of the inconceivable, a sense of normality began to return with Mel becoming a voice in DiMarco’s ear as she advised this agent how to approach the current mission. As the two work with Uncle Louis’ sister Patricia and her organization C.H.I.P. they discover settling into a new routine a bit jarring even as Belle comes back to a routine she once found comforting – confronting monsters who would harm humans. While this excitement is a welcome place within a world of chaos, the brunette predator is still distracted by memories of still fresh in her mind, ones which will not readily surrender their grip upon the present and only serve as a deadly distraction to the events which bedevil her attention for the present situation.
The intel provided may have told of the location to the artifact in question, but it did not provide any facts outside the bare the minimum information, including the number or species of assailants in question. However as Belle burst into the dilemma via her own flair for the dramatic to startle and gain any upper hand to her advantage, the greatest impediment for a secure seizure of the relic became known as she witnessed what surrounded the altar upon which it was placed – several juvenile hostages. Although her spectacular motorcycle crash through the window may have served its purpose, even this shock did not distract the monsters from guarding their human prizes, leaving Belle no other choice than to fight her way through the hoard of caprine attackers. While Mel tried to help as she saw mayhem unfold through the Beast Hunter’s mask cameras, this distraction of hearing her friend’s voice only proved as a new problem to confront the creatures she called satyrs … and a proper name to fit to their ugly features proved to be of little help. As these goat-like grapplers continued to swarm the chamber DiMarco had little choice than to cleave her way forward toward the captive children, allowing her intentions to save them to propel her fighting spirit even as she knew this operation would not be as easy as she originally thought if she wished to succeed on both difficult fronts.
Was it really seven months when we last read the exciting exploits of Belle as marvelously depicted by writer Dave Franchini – time seems to fly when you have so many wonderful memories of this powerfully dynamic heroine but now we need wait no longer. Belle: Oath of Horns is a great return to her glorious escapades and yet at the same time this first issue is just that – a recollection of what happened in the prior series and allowing Franchini to retell the expanse through a grim internal monologue all as we watch her take on a new threat to the world unseen by normal people. Although he does try to lighten the mood of the current situation by injecting spontaneous humor as our favorite beast hunter endeavors to save the captives, loyal fans of this character cannot but be conflicted by a sense of déjà vu heavily influencing the story even as we are entertained by new thrilling conflict. While you crack a smile reading comical quips about her malicious foes it is this first third of the tale which has a jaded feeling of familiarity, but this does not last long once we venture into new territory of old memories thanks to the emotional trigger of saving a young girl, allowing DiMarco to transfer this prisoner’s helplessness into how she felt when she lost her mother. The desolation of be separated from someone she loved and admired then compounded by a father who could not face the pain of losing his wife plus the selfishness of isolating himself from those who needed his help the most allows us a glimpse into Belle’s past and fleshes out the tragedy which shaped her into the woman she is today; it is maddening to think how she and Alex would have survived if it were not for Uncle Louis, the man later called Candlestick and the madness she descended into once the only family she had left was savagely torn away as she did the job he trained to do without question. She used monster hunting to fill the void, fueled the rage his loss left with thoughts of revenge and now that he is back in her life I cannot wait to see how the title will progress as Belle searches for solutions to curing her brother the Beast and calming the emptiness she cannot fill without them.
For a title which begins with distracting familiarity for fans of this series, this does not mean the opening splash page lacks for anything in thrilling the audience due to our heroine’s heroic exploits all thanks to an explosive illustration by Igor Vitorino propelling us into the premiere issue and made all the more intense due to Juan Manuel Rodriguez’s outstanding palette which grounds the action with an organic color palette meant to amplify the emotional involvement brought forth within an immersive monologue. You cannot but become enchanted by earthen tones merging satyrs with the cold stonework but due to excellent line work emphasizing each terrifying strand of sinew and layers of muscle they seem as hard as their environment, and yet Vitorino uses those same definitions to wondrous effect to suggest a hardened allure and Rodriguez’s brighter colors for Belle’s grim midnight costume with golden highlights and a flowing brunette mane separate her from the malicious prey immediately by attracting us to her luscious beauty. These are the nuanced marvels which allow the Beast Hunter to stand out amidst this glorious dance of death, allowing us to admire the confidence etched upon her face to stand boldly before these monsters and not flinch as they rush forward, only the truly brave or sincerely foolish would attempt such boldness and we now witness such an event as the transition between pages forward moves smoothly. The frenetic action only comes to a slow once they are all defeated and we come to a visible pause as the atmosphere slows down with muted tones, allowing us to witness DiMarco’s tragedy within calming sepia influenced panels compelling the reader to take notice to this change and absorbing the importance of her history within all its poignant fascination. And though Derlis Santacruz may close the issue by fascinating the audience with a more animated Belle due to her open facial expressions, it does not mean the title has sacrificed its artistic quality, in fact, it gives us more to look forward to with the coming issues.
Belle: Oath of Horns begins with a story which easily paces itself for new readers to the title or loyal fans, allowing us to become immersed within the moving tale or recall the pain we witnessed beside a valiant Belle. And while the success of the narrative is dependent upon your immersion within the same, it is the gripping artwork and intriguing color scheme which draws us in and does not let go, allowing the audience to become obsessed with this new adventure and allow us to participate in all the joys and pain it will bring within a sublime compulsion which we cannot or dare not look away in fear of losing our way.
Rating: T (Teen)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: July 10th, 2019