The covers: Jay Anacleto and Ivan Nunes have created this month’s Main cover. It’s surprisingly cluttered. Anacleto has always put a lot into his work, but it’s never been so full as this. It’s impossible to find a focus. Starting in the upper left corner and working to the right, a giant scroll is covered in blood, Elizabeth holds a knife to her neck to release the fluid to fuel her powers (while showing ample cleavage), the King has light coming down upon him as he moves pieces on a warboard, and in a dungeon a nameless soul screams as Jon tortures him. One character should have constituted this cover, not four. The Variant cover is by Ale Garza and Vinicius Andrade. This is a much better illustration. A full figure of the Blood Queen is in the center, her hands high as she conjures some blood magic. To the left is Elizabeth in profile, as she’s been seen in this series, and to the right is what she will become, her innocence is gone. Well done! Overall grades: Main B- and Variant A
The story: The King, accompanied by Jon, Ferenc, and several men are making their way to Greenhaven for a council, leaving the Queen in charge and Elizabeth to observe. Our protagonist continues to call doubt onto the wizard Vespasian, with the queen agreeing, calling him a “blow-hard.” Niece Helena and Elizabeth sit with the Queen as she rules the kingdom, seeing what it takes to be a ruler. Meanwhile, on the road to Greenhaven, something happens. The yearnings of a distant foe come to the forefront in this outing from writer Troy Brownfield. Elizabeth sees how true power is wielded in the kingdom, and she’s quick to alert Helena to it. She’s also not above using her body, again, to get what she wants. Jon and Ferenc both get solid scenes to show what they’re capable of, though Page 21 shows that one is unprepared for deviltry. This story continues to build as Elizabeth exerts her power as she seeks the throne. Overall grade: A
The art: I was really let down by Fritz Casas this month. His characters continue to be superbly rendered, be they giving a speech or in the thick of battle. It’s the backgrounds that are lacking. This month the photos used for the cloudy skies stood out as photos. They’re the same that have been used in previous issues, but they bugged this month. I’d rather they be solid blues than photoshopped. Backgrounds are a major issue in this book because there really aren’t any. The interior of the castle falls on the colorist to realize, and the forest is woefully empty of any form. In fact, in a scene when the trio of women are eating, they are supposed to be surrounded by trees, but Casas only draws a few trunks with sparse branches. The result is an odd, ancient, wooden telephone pole effect. I really like his characters, but the rest of the book suffers visually. Overall grade: C-
The colors: Kirsty Swan is doing more than her fair share on this book. She’s creating exceptional highlights and shines on the characters and their clothes, plus she has some really good shading to create tension (Page 3). She’s filling in backgrounds the best she can with colors, creating stone walls and green forests. However, there’s only so much she can do without having to actually draw the settings. There’s not much she can do to save Page 6. Overall grade: B
The letters: Narration, dialogue, scene setting, yells, and sounds are wrought in excellent style by Marshall Dillon. The sounds during the battle were cool. Overall grade: A
The final line: The story continues to be excellent, though the visuals stumble. Overall grade: B
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two 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.