The most ruthless of enemies … are those who were trusted.
Writer: Dave Franchini
Artwork: Alessio Mariani
Colors: Juan Manuel Rodriguez
Letters: Kurt Hathaway
What They Say:
The truth is revealed! After the shocking ending of the last issue, all the cards are on the table. Mel, Candlestick and Alex are in trouble and Belle must hurry if she hopes to save the lives of those she loves the most. Be sure not to miss the penultimate chapter in this pulse-pounding series!
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
While they thought their freedom was secure, what Mel and Candlestick did not realize was Patricia had her own secret to turn the tide – and it is called the Casket of Thorns. This crimson artifact of rose shaped crystal serves its purpose by absorbing the curse from Alex, turning him back into a human, but also leaving the poor man on the brink of death, his body no longer able to survive without the taint of being the Beast. However as this sadistic woman directs her men to take the group to their cells, it is only now does Louis begin to understand his sister’s mad ambitions for this newly acquired power. Although Candlestick may attempt to comprehend his sibling’s wild ranting, it is Patricia who sinisterly states he is the one who does not truly understand what she is about to unfold upon the world. Otts begins to explain the truth behind C.H.I.P. and its two hundred year history, and while their initial intentions may been honorable to protect humanity from monsters, the current director’s purpose shows her true colors and the reason why they research these creatures … so as to utilize them in outside conflicts all make a profit.
Even as her family faces this painful betrayal, Belle must also confront a dire struggle many years in the making: to face the father who left her and Alex alone after the death of their mother Eleanor. And while their conversation may begin as civil beneath, it is only after he reveals the truth for his return does this belligerent daughter unleash her anger as to why he now leads a platoon of monster fighting soldiers. This classified operation was procured after DiMarco divulged the secrets of his wife’s family, of how they hunt creatures, with his justification as to protect families from losing a loved one like he and his children. However this Beast Hunter cannot condone how her mother’s legacy was stolen, even as this bitter parent endeavors to fight back after retreating into misery and leaving a family behind, all in a futile attempt to avenge his loss. While he may wish for understanding from his daughter, can Belle swallow her ever growing anger in order to cooperate with a missing father, all in an effort to save Mel and Candlestick … or will this mission ever get off the ground?
As we approach the inevitable finale, writer Dave Franchini continues to surprise us with the sheer audacity of this title – willing to craft a story, which takes risks of isolating Belle from new and old acquaintances, all to learn the truth. And he does this stunningly by exposing us to two differing fronts of conflict: with the obvious confrontation against Patricia who appeared to help her in the direst of times and then with the person who should have been there to guide his child after losing her mother – a sullen father. While we have been expecting the behavior of C.H.I.P. after learning of Otts’ betrayal of Eleanor, Franchini has crafted something unexpected within the story of DiMarco and how he chose to deal with his wife’s death. We have seen other examples of people becoming withdrawn before, and yet the manner by which this Air Force officer chose to cope with grief is almost amusing: going to his superiors demanding a monster killing task force and then seeing the primitive training methods, when they could have as easily used advanced weaponry to massacre any threat. This flashback serves as an appetizer for Belle’s anger, allowing this traumatized daughter to lash out at her parent, accusing him of stealing a mother’s legacy and creating a mockery. This then allows her to exemplify how he has turned tragedy into a means for revenge, thereby punishing this unworthy man even more by pointing out his mistake, making this one sided conversation all the more satisfying when Belle turns the tables on her father. You cannot but crack a grin in reading this prime example of derision, of how after many years of neglect the child finally has a moment of retribution, all as she knows their relationship has taken a giant step backwards. And yet of the dual disputes portrayed within this issue, each has its own guilty pleasure: exposure of Otts revealing her full plan will be the downfall and will make her crumbling arrogance that much more pleasing when she fails; then we have the immediate showing of a father’s failing of using death as a means for revenge, all as his child rejects him more after he turns his back on Belle to placate his own loss. This penultimate issue primes us for what is to come, and allows the story to settle the present even as we look forward to an uncertain future.
Yet throughout this immensely gratifying issue we have one binding aspect which unifies all into one pleasing expanse, and that is Alessio Mariani’s pronounced attention to detail within his fantastic illustrations, made all the more noteworthy thanks to Juan Manuel Rodriguez’s intense usage of gripping shadows and controlled application of powerful colors which help to communicate the immense tension portrayed within this moving story. You cannot but tangibly comprehend the provocative nature of this issue after seeing the opening page, with Otts greedily staring at the Casket of Thorns, which is an appreciate nod to the original fairy tale’s use of a rose to bind the Beast, and then devolve into something all the more sinister as the last panel shows only her smug grin. This ingeniousness of subtle images is what makes Mariani’s illustrations so graphically rewarding, the manner by which he incorporates emotive faces into the page is what makes his characters so expressive. You cannot but begin to loathe this woman as she mockingly taunts her frantic brother and his friends, all as Rodriguez’s clever utilization of muted tones is punctuated for brief periods due to limited use brighter colors as in the pulsing crystal rose and excitement as Louis pleas for understanding. The bleak backgrounds help to convey this desperation powerfully, as if these people are the only ones listening to this woman’s calculating explanation of her reasons for betrayal. However even as we watch this shallow melodrama, one cannot but tangibly feel Belle’s frustration as she seeks an understanding with her father, who coincidently has almost a mirroring self-satisfied smile, as if he and Patricia share the same ambitions, but on a different level. This is where we most appreciate Mariani’s amazing skill within a wondrous depiction of our usually controlled heroic beauty now displaying a genuine moment of surprise, all as we share in her concern for this reappearance of the one who abandoned her so long ago. The moving usage of warm sunset helps to amplify this event, all as this negligent parent tries to explain his absence via a fluid transition of the past and present, all as our skeptical Beast Hunter tries to keep her temper in check. It is this synergy of powerfully poignant images and equally effective application of colors which makes this issue such a visual treat and makes us want to know what happens next within this touching story of treachery and mistrust within the pain of suffering.
Belle: Oath of Thorns continues to fascinate us with a story which at first may have seemed familiar, but as we delve deeper within the twists of treachery, it reveals a depth of meaning that portrays the shattering of trust as its own punishment for both the betrayer and its victim. And now thanks to the unveiling of fantastically moving artwork and powerfully impacting colors, this title continues to give us a reason to fully enjoy the story as we approach the end. But as Belle plunges head first into this nest of deceit, one can only wait with bated breath as to what may happen to our heroic hunter as she attempts to save what is important to her and seek retribution for past misdeeds.
Rating: T (Teen)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: February 12, 2020