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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Helsing

(A Suspended Animation "classic" from 1998.)



Save the blood and guts for hockey; horror is about anticipated and realized fear.

The new comic book, Helsing, is about a beautiful young woman who has mysterious and deep ties to a relative of Abraham Van Helsing, the man who killed Dracula, and her search for a mysterious and sinister organization called "The Tophet."

But this new horror comic is ultimately about fear, anticipated and realized.

As should be, there are more intriguing questions than answers in the premier issue. Subplots and characterization are introduced that hint at subtle relationships both on this earth and in other realms. Dialog and pacing are crisp, although captions seem underwritten and occasionally even clumsy: "Relics of yesteryears continued forth with their true beginnings obscured."

That's clumsy.

The art is full of somber grays and threatening blacks, although it does not reach the classic macabre visual atmosphere of a Graham Ingels, Berni Wrightson or Frank Frazetta. The visual pacing is excellent and storytelling clear, and the artist's characters are each physically distinctive people. It is a hair's-breadth away from excellence and only needs an ominous and additional layer of shadow.

The first issue of Helsing is like a first date, more titillation than promise, offering no guarantees. But, as first dates go, this new series holds real promise.

It could be a marriage made in Hell, which is the proper setting for horror.

Particularly noteworthy is the restrained use of profanity, sex, nudity and excessive violence that have befouled the genre of horror in the last three decades.

Recommended.

Helsing #1/$2.95, 33 pgs. from Caliber Core/Writer: Gary Reed; artists: John Lowe and friends/sold in comics shops and by mail.

- Reviewed by Michael Vance