In Review: Realm War: Age of Darkness #12

A strong story with average visuals creates a mixed result.

The covers: Six covers to cart off as this series goes off into the sunset. The A cover is by Rich Ortiz and Ivan Nunes. This image features three of the female protagonists: the woman at the top is Jessica, who’s firing off her pistols, Sela is in the middle, who’s holding a blade in one hand and conjuring a spell with the other, and at the bottom is Brittney who’s got a blade of her own and is ready for action. I like how each character gets their own little moment and having them posed like this gets the reader ready for action. The B is quite a departure from the previous cover. Created by Giuseppe Cafaro, Chiara Zeppegno, and Mad5 Studio, Sela is in a grey colored graveyard, on her knees, holding a tombstone shaped like a cross. My hat is off to the artists for creating a creepy mood for the setting but keeping Sela first in the reader’s eye. The coloring is also strong; by giving the background pale colors, Sela gets another visual outlet to stand out. Nice. Jose Luis and David Ocampo are responsible for the C which puts Sela in another strikingly different state: standing atop a building with the skyline behind her on fire. She looks tired, but ready to continue the good fight. A really good layout with the coloring kicking this image up several notches. The D is by Andrea Errico and a villain finally gets center stage: the Dark Queen. She’s sitting on a throne, which is set upon a ground made of skulls. Surrounded by two of her pale minions, she looks bored in her chair, as if the outside air of Las Vegas does nothing to her. Another strong cover. The final two covers are by Eric Basaldue with colors by Nei Ruffino. They’re both New York Comic Con Cosplay exclusive covers. The first is limited to 500 copies, with the second limited to 100. I couldn’t find an image of either online, so your searching will be all the more difficult. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A, and D A

The story: 32 pages are needed to conclude this epic, written by Joe Brusha. Sela stands alone before the four heavy hitters of this saga. The Dark Queen says to her, “Your end has come, Sela.” As the heroine stares down these antagonists she flashes back to “Before” when she wasn’t able to help some bystanders. After this seemingly random moment, she’s back in the present, where Jessica decides to literally take a shot at Robyn, who’s become an evil sorcerous, flying off the ground. Unfortunately, Jessica’s attack does nothing and proves to be the final mistake she’ll ever make. A shocking number of characters are killed off in this issue, which left me scratching my head, because they’ve been in several Zenescope books in the last few months. This caused a bit of confusion, but Brusha easily gets himself out of this continuity black hole. This issue is the final battle with all characters active, and Sela being the star. She hasn’t done much in other Zenescope books since I’ve started following the line, but this issue easily demonstrates why other characters respect or fear her. The flashback that occurred earlier reappears, giving full disclosure why it was inserted, and there is a good reason for its existence. I really liked how the heroes were able to clean everything up after the chaos and killings that have happened, and it makes sense! It’s always a bonus when that happens. The final two pages are the “Ah-ha!” coda which has set up the direction of the Zenescope line for a little over the last year; primarily for Grimm Fairy Tales. This was a solid conclusion with every character getting a major moment and Sela showing her magical mojo. Overall grade: A

The art: For a series that’s a year long and features all the characters of a publisher’s line, it’s expected that the visuals will be the best that can be provided. That does not happen in this final chapter illustrated by Sami Kivela. The first panel demonstrates why readers should be worried at the visual aspects of this book. The character work is average looking; it’s not poor, but it’s not great — it’s just okay. Malec/The Dark One radiates no sense of threat in his look or posture. Robyn is too far from the reader to be anything but a floating figure. The background is also very rudimentary: constructed of the simplest angles. Things improve for the next two panels which feature a close-up of Sela: this looks really good. The two paged flashback is the same: characters look good to average, with the background being average. Kivela can lay out a page, but it’s the fine details that are lacking. The character’s death on 5 is too vague to have any real impact. What happens in the final three panels of the same page is lost to me. I’m guessing (and a reader should not be doing any guessing in the final issue of a mega-series) that the person in the third panel transformed into the larger character in the final panel. If he did, this is the first time he’s been seen in this issue. There are several opportunities (deaths, escapes, etc.) for strong visual moments, but nothing hits hard: everything is done in the same style throughout — average. That describes Kivela’s art perfectly: average. Overall grade: C

The colors: Maxflan Araujo is doing a decent job with the visuals. The variety of characters creates a wide palette to paint with, and Araujo does so. The first panel, though not illustrated strongly, is colored well, with the characters’ bodies/costumes standing out against the rust colored castle’s walls. Coloring assists the art very well when the flashbacks appear; this is first done between panels two and three on the first page, and it instantly communicates to the reader that a major change has occurred. Araujo also does a good job with certain characters’ dialogue, which has the font or the balloon that contains the text colored to show readers how different from “normal” humans they are. Nicely done. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene setting, Dark Queen dialogue, dialogue, sounds, a tired whisper, Dark One dialogue, yells, and concluding text are all conjured by Jim Campbell. I’ll never get tired of singing the praises of Zenescope’s letterers that use different fonts for some characters’ speech to differentiate them from other characters; it looks sharp and so smart in providing another visual clue for readers while they’re reading. Overall grade: A

The final line: A strong story with average visuals creates a mixed result. However, if you’re a fan of Zenescope comics, you’ll want to see how this series begat a change in another prominent title. 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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