Thursday, July 05, 2012

Comics Catch-Up: Zenescope


Another post in which I catch up with a selection of releases from a specific publisher. Zenescope produce some of the more interesting comic adaptations and twists on fairy tales and folklore. They don’t always work perfectly, but some of these series have really grown into their own, offering up some intriguing interpretations. I’m also particularly intrigued by the start of the “new” Grimm Universe, as laid out in the Annual and Angel #1. Things look like they are about to get really interesting for Zenescope’s titles…

Reviewed: Call of Wonderland #2, Grimm Fairy Tales #74, GFT: Angel, GFT: Annual 2012, GFT: Myths & Legends #17, Jungle Books #3, Waking Dead: Dream’s End #2

Call of Wonderland #2

CallOfWonderland-02AWriter: Dan Wickline | Story: Dan Wickline, Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco | Artist: Matt Triano & Nacho Arranz | Colours: Stephen Downer & Thomas Bonvillain

Julie’s continued research in Lovecraft’s personal journal leads her to discover the location of the site of the original experiment that unleashed the first portal to Wonderland. But that knowledge may prove to be deadly as the Red Knight strikes out from beyond at any who stand to oppose him.

Elsewhere a tattoo artist named Salome has no idea that the tattoo she is about to complete will let loose a horror that might destroy them all.

This is a pretty cool mash-up of Lovecraft’s horror and Alice in Wonderland. According to this story, the Jabberwocky is one of the youngest Old Ones, placed there to be “rehabilitated”. Instead, it twisted the land and has terrorized it ever since. The Red Knight wishes to free the Old Ones, but cannot set foot on Earth where a Guardian has been placed.

I’m really enjoying this mini-series (this is issue two-of-four), and I think Wickline’s written a very good script and story. I’m still not entirely sure why the Queen’s featured centrally on the cover, though, as she’s not been in the series yet…

Regardless, this is a very good story. The artwork is ‘typical’ Zenescope – clear, sharply drawn, complete with gribbly monsters and busty heroines.

A must for fans of Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales and Alice/Wonderland series. I’m really looking forward to the next issue, and can’t wait to see how the story is eventually wrapped up.


Grimm Fairy Tales #74


Writer: Raven Gregory & Joe Brusha | Artist: Carlos Paul, Joyce Maureira & Allan Otero | Colours: Ramon Ignacio Bunge

Sela’s struggle to find the last remaining portal in the realm of Myst has finally led her to the Tomb of Death. Now all that stands between her and the portal is the evil entity behind the corruption of the land: The Winter Witch.

This issue does a very frustrating thing – offer us a few pages of the dastardly plot, only to then give us a note that says we need to check out a different series to get the rest of the story… And that’s only six pages into the issue! Rather Marvel-esque of them…

We then see the end of Sela’s quest to return to Earth – it’s big, it’s action-packed, but it’s also a little… I don’t know. “Easy” is probably the wrong word, but it comes close to sufficing. Sela’s able to tap into the powers she’s always had, including one that has eluded her. Rather conveniently. I think this needed a bit more of a build-up in order to have the pay off the writers were probably going for.

Nevertheless, given the hints of how this ties in to the Annual and Angel (below), I’ll be interested to see how the next, anniversary issue develops the story. (Review of that issue coming in a couple of weeks.)


GFT: Annual 2012


Writer: Patrick Shand | Story: Joe Brusha | Artist: Anthony Spaz, Juanan Ramirez, Fabio Jansen & Allan Otero | Colours: Sean Forney, Andrew Elder & Jeff Balke

Angels... Gods... Demons. Earth’s past is filled with tales of immortals who ruled over common men.

For centuries man has lived under the impression that these stories were all fantasies and fairy tales. But the time has come when they will be proven true and powerful immortals will walk among normal men again... and look to take their rightful place as rulers. A new chapter in the Grimm Universe begins here.

This issue opens on a discussion between Venus and Ares, who have returned to Mount Olympus to discuss their future plans. Venus wants Ares’s support in her conquest of Earth. We then learn of how the gods have lived and operated among us for centuries, reinventing themselves to suit the times. Venus, for example, is now “Miss Astrid Venus”, head of Venus Couture LLC.

There’s something delightfully diabolical about Venus’s plans. As Hades puts it:

“So let me get this straight. You’re a billionaire. You have your own fashion agency. You are considered one of the most beautiful women in the world… And yet, you want to enslave the humans and take over the world. After we already failed at doing that when we had actual power.”

Placing the Greek Gods in our time is not a new premise, but this annual does it rather well, and I enjoyed the characterisations the creators chose – Venus and Zeus are driven corporate animals, Neptune is a hippy beach bum, Hades is… well, he’s trapped in the Underworld. As Venus marshals her forces, we learn which gods are on her side, and which have made peace with the world as it is. There are a couple of surprises, too.

This is yet another example of the rich imaginations currently at work in Zenescope. They don’t always hit it on the head, but when they do, they can really come up with some inspired, interesting twists on popular fantasy tropes.

“The fall of Man is long past due…”

Events of this Annual set up the Angel one-shot (reviewed below).


GFT: Angel

GFT-Angel-01AWriter: Dan Wickline | Story: Joe Brusha | Artist: Illias Kyriazis, Marco Constantino & Paul Abstruse | Colours: Derek Dow

Earth and the Realms of power face a new threat as the Highborn gods of old return to take their place as the rulers of mortal men.

At the same time a new hero is set to enter the Grimm Universe... a hero who holds the fate of all mankind in her hands

As I mention above, this follows on from a short scene in the GFT Annual 2012, in which Zeus decides on how to respond to Venus’s invitation. Zeus wants to protect his “falseblood” offspring, which includes Heather Angelos. When we learn of her true name and past, I admit I wasn’t expecting it.

The multiple art teams on the issue made it feel rather cobbled-together, and lessened the impact of certain scenes – a climactic battle, for example, ends up looking overly cartoon-y.

This issue is an perfect example of my comments above about Zenescope not always being the most consistent: despite it being a direct sequel to the Annual, written by the same man, the script just wasn’t as tight as the Annual, and some of the dialogue was a little shaky.

The issue ends on a note for the future, stating that this is only just the beginning of something larger taking place in the Grimm Universe. I’m not sure how they are going to tie all of this stuff together, but I am certainly intrigued to find out.


GFT: Myths & Legends #17


Writer: Raven Gregory | Story: Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco | Artists: V. Kenneth Marion & Marco Cosentino | Colours: Jeff Balke & Roland Pilcz

As the race to recruit the falsebloods on earth begins to heat up, Baba Yaga and the Sea Witch join forces in order to unleash a powerful being who will not only tip the balance in the battle between the forces of good and evil but may very well threaten all life on Earth. It is a being known only as HELIOS. Featuring the very first appearance of a brand new villain whose existence will change the Grimm Universe forever.

Myths & Legends is, for me, the better of the two original Grimm Fairy Tales series. This is the second part of a mini-story-arc that ties into the greater movements and machinations currently shaping the Grimm Universe. We get more of Helios’s story, and how it is tied in to the evil witches’ plans. It’s pretty interesting, but the ending suggests the series won’t continue to follow wider Grimm Universe changes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I enjoyed the episodic nature of this series, taking on different myths, legends and folklore and reinventing them for modern generations.

This issue feels mostly functional, really, which meant it didn’t have as much of an impact as some of the others have. It’s not bad, by any means, it’s just not as good as some of the previous issues.

The artwork’s quite nice, though, and pretty consistent – I’ve noticed a tendency with Zenescope to have multiple artists working on important or major-event issues. My own personal taste goes against this, as I prefer an issue to have a uniformity of style.

The next Myths & Legends story-arc will be a four-part retelling of Hansel & Gretel, which I’m very interested in reading.


Jungle Book #3

JungleBook-03BWriter: Mark L. Miller | Story: Mark L. Miller, Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco | Artist: Carlos Granda | Colours: Liezl Buenaventura & Tim Yates

Mowglii is dealing with a harsh truth and remembering how things once here. She later finds herself in the clutches of the enemy. But, through chaos, may just find an opportunity to escape. All eyes are on Mowglii as she struggles through the trials she is faced with.

The issue opens in the aftermath of the tiger attack on Mowglii’s wolf pack. She returns afterwards, and must say goodbye to one very dear to her. She swears vengeance, and with Baloo in tow, sets out to hunt down Shere Kahn. Our heroine comes up against a spot of trouble, however, when she and Baloo stumble into the domain of the apes, who decide she would make an amusing play thing.

I like how Miller’s written in the human survivors of the ship wreck into their respective animal clans – they have developed traits similar to their adopted families, but they retain a strong attachment to and fascination with the other humans, who they were originally unaware of.

I’m still enjoying this series, it’s just a little difficult to write about it at length without spoiling some of the surprises for new readers. Needless to say, it’s good and I’m eager to read more.


Waking Dead: Dream’s End #2

WakingDE-02A-ArtWriter: Raven Gregory | Artist: Novo Malgapo | Colours: Jason Embury

The hit series that redefined the zombie genre continues...

Vanessa and her partner continue their search for the serial killer who has found a way to beat “the Waking” as the body count continues to rise. Meanwhile, Madison continues to stalk Vanessa from the shadows with a message from beyond.

This is a great series – the idea of the Waking is pretty ingenious (murder victims come back to life as zombies), and in this story a serial killer may have found a way to beat it. In an America where the murder rate has plummeted since the arrival of the Waking, each new case is a big event as well as a puzzle.

The story doesn’t move ahead too much in this issue, but we do learn more of Vanessa and how much the memory of Madison torments her – both awake and asleep. We also learn a little of the killer’s motivation, and also see him in action and how he deals with a critical mistake.

I really must get around to reading volume one of this series. It’s pretty cool.

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