Belle: Horns of the Minotaur continues the ongoing adventures of Zenescope's Batman, a monster hunter set in their expanded Grimm Fairy Tales Universe. Written by Dave Franchini who has scripted every issue of Belle so far, penciled by Raffaele Forte, inked by Sara Ianniello, colored by Juan Manuel Rodriguez, and lettered by Kurt Hathaway, this one-shot is part of Zenescope's new plan to release their series as annuals and one-off stories rather than miniseries. The last few Belle one-shots have been great, so let's see if this one measures up.
Belle: Horns of the Minotaur focuses, even more so than the last couple of Belle one-shots, on character development. While it does tell a standalone story, it offers major insights into Belle's past as well as building new threats for the future of the series. The pacing and investment in the characters evoke the pre-Dixon era of Robyn Hood, and Franchini's writing is sharp and thoughtful.
The art from the penciler/inker team of Forte and Ianniello is good but not quite as effective as previous Belle issues. Their depiction of the Minotaur is great, and they handle action well, but the human characters are a big misshapen in portions. Due to the fact that this issue focuses primarily on character development, a bit more attention to the characters and their facial expressions in the first half would've been a good call. Even so, Rodriguez's colors work to make the lineart fit in with the rest of Zenescope's catalog.
Under the pen of Dave Franchini, Belle continues to be one of Zenescope's best and most consistent offerings. Hopefully, as the company continues this new initiative of standalone stories, Franchini is able to keep telling episodic Belle tales while still building on his overall vision for this exciting fantasy/superhero series.