In Review: Grimm Fairy Tales presents Realm War Age of Darkness #10

A somewhat predictable story and lackluster art hurts this mega-series' appeal.

The covers: Five covers for you to add to your collection, should you choose. The A frontpiece is by Ken Lashley and Ivan Nunes. Sela is on the ground, still holding her sword and pushing her way up, though behind her a skull faced villain wielding a blade is about to bring it down on her neck. She looks good, but he’s hard to make out because of the coloring and his structure; for example, what’s on the top of his head? The setting is composed of rocks, smoke, and lights. A more definitive background would make this much more interesting. The B is by Giuseppe Cafaro, Simone Di Meo, and Alessia Nocera. Sela’s on her back, unconscious, as the Dark One appears to enter, his hands open to throttle her. Good image, with the iconic heroine in distress. The coloring is realistic, but so dark as to make this murky. Sabine Rich does the C cover and it’s got whom I’m assuming is the Dark Queen up to her knees in a pool of blood located in a cave. Two dark spirits swirl around her, their tendrils of ebony caressing her. This is the cover I chose for this review because this looks good. The D cover is by Emilio Laiso and Wes Hartman and there’s a lot going on in this. Britney is being pulled into the air by two dark spirits. She has a blade to battle them, but one of the creatures is restraining the hand that holds it. In the foreground another woman has a pistol, but two spirits are also overwhelming her, with a third coming in from the bottom left. Excellent illustration — I like how the heroes are in action and not distress — and excellent coloring, with the characters’ uniforms separating them from the spirits and the eerie green background. There’s also a Photoshoot Exclusive from Mike Debalfo and Ula Mos. This appears to have the Queen of Darkness sprouting small red horns, wearing a metallic swimsuit that doesn’t hide too much, with white cuffs. She’s holding her red devil’s tail in one hand and a tiny red trident in the other. She’s against a smoky red background and five neon cards. Sexy! Overall grades: A C, B B, C A, D A+, and Photoshoot A

The story: After last issue’s victory, the heroes have returned to their cabins in the woods to relax before the next battle. One soldier has had more than a few hits from the bottle, and goes over to celebrate with a companion, but he’s fallen asleep. The drunk man turns to left feeling like he’s being watched and sees a buff figure in silhouette on a hill. The shape becomes clearer and it’s one of the Dark Queen’s minions (the foe from the A cover) who commands, “Kill them all.” The sky is filled with the dark spirits, also from the covers, who go streaming to the cabins. The drunk man is the first to die with one of the creatures putting its hand through the back of the man’s head and out his mouth. The sleeping man has awoken to be grabbed and carried off the panel. Sela and the others come running out to do battle with the creatures. One of their number seemingly perishes to turn the beasts away. The villains return to the Dark Queen who sets the end game in motion. There’s a nice bit where a villainess goes to the heroes to communicate her mistress’s final demand to the group and writer Joe Brusha has this lead to conflict among the heroes. It’s been bubbling there for a few issues, but it comes to the forefront with this issue and it makes for some entertaining choices. Another group appears towards the end, which isn’t really surprising, causing more chaos, until an unexpected ally appears. There’s some good forward motion in the plot, with some good character moments, but I wish Brusha had allowed the characters to use their names so I knew who was who. Still, an entertaining read that’s building toward a climax. Overall grade: B

The art: The visuals on this book look like they came from an early 1980s independent and it hurt the book. Sami Kivela starts the book out poorly. The first panel on the first page has a very simple setting with rudimentary foliage. Look at the grass and trees. The colorist is doing too much work to finish this image. Take a gander at the man’s face in that first panel. Just no. This does not bode well. In the second panel the figures look much better, but the plants — in this forest — still don’t look good. In the close-up in the third panel the drunk’s nose has enlarged and his head has become squat. In the final panel the man’s head has enlarged again. The second page’s reveal of the villain is really basic, as is the setting. Again, the colorist is the one putting more work into creating the background than Kivela. The insert panel has a better face on the villain, but the hand is a mess; I know that’s supposed to be a pointing hand, but the thumb and middle finger are lost in the shading of the art. The double-page spread atop Pages 3 and 4 loses much of its terror because a majority of the figures’ faces can’t be seen, and when they can they’re just slits. This isn’t a complete mess, as Kivela does decent jobs on the lead characters’ faces, especially those on the women, and the energy that goes flying, such as on Pages 7 and 8 look solid. The character that arrives to save the day on the last three pages looks good from the waist up, but from the waist down it’s so hairy as to be silly. I expect much better visuals in a much hyped franchise event series. Overall grade: C-

The colors: I was impressed with Maxflan Araujo’s work on this book, as he’s going beyond what’s required of most colorists. On the first four pages he provides the fine details in the grass and trees to make them more realistic. His lighting on the magical aspects of this book are very well done, from the energy coming out of the antagonist’s eyes on Page 2 to the greens on 7 and 8. Look at the nice work done in the hair on characters, which contain some sweet highlights. There’s also some good tone work done with faces, such as the Dark Queen and the villainous quartet. This is very well done. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Jim Campbell provides drunker dialogue, dialogue, screams, sounds, Dark Queen dialogue, and surprise ally speak. I always like when certain characters have a font different from most to show how different they are from humanity, and Campbell gets to do that with two characters. The sounds are very cool, looking classical and strong. Overall grade: A

The final line: A somewhat predictable story and lackluster art hurts this mega-series’ appeal. I’m this far in, so I’ll see it to the end. Overall grade: B-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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