In Review: Wonderland #36

A solid story undone by mixed visuals.

The covers: With her sword raised high above her, Calie is ready to do battle. Helping her is the snarling Cheshire Cat and mute Squire. All three have stopped in a mountain pass and they’re going to fight their way through any obstacle. Good work by Jason Metcalf, with Stephen Schaffer on colors. Calie looks sensational and the cat looks good, too. Squire looks okay, but is a little too manga-ish. Schaffer did a really good job on the coloring, with all three characters and that skyline excellent. The B cover is by Vinz El Tabanas, with Calie’s back to the reader, though twisted around to look outward, missing the gigantic, evil rabbit reaching for her. Calie looks okay, but the rabbit is too comical looking for me to take as a serious threat. The best cover is the C done by Pasquale Qualano and Yelenia De Napoli. The Queen is sitting on a tall pile of rocks, looking at a photograph of the moon. She looks spectacular, with the work done on her hair and her three straps excellent. Excellent coloring by De Napoli on this. I’m not a fan of photographs being used in any part of comic book illustrations, but it’s working here. Fantastic! The D cover is a Year 10 Photoshoot Exclusive done by David Nakayama. It features an attractive brunette sitting on the floor, her body turned to the right to continue playing solitaire, and she looks up at the reader, disturbed from her game. Being a Variant cover, she’s wearing next to nothing: a frilly black bra and panties. She looks beautiful, though this has nothing to do with this series. Overall grades: A A-, B C-, C A+, and D A-

The story: Terror, that attacks characters’ subconscious to make them do his bidding, has put the whammy on the Cheshire Cat, who believes the Mad Hatter has returned. In his vision, he stands before the bloody body of the White Bishop, listening to the ravings of a two headed, with one eye on each head, crow. After Cat grabs the bird and bites off one of its heads, he says to his master, “Why must we continue to hunt these creatures? Neither you nor I find any challenge in their slayings.” He’s pushed so far over the edge, that in the “real world” he wants to kill Calie, who’s luckily still wearing her armor from last issue’s battle. Erica J. Heflin has got two obstacles for Calie in this issue: 1, can she subdue the Cat without killing him?, and 2, can she stop Terror using the recently acquired En Passant? There’s some good tension, with the protagonist having to fight an ally before getting to the big bad, and Heflin handles it well. I was very happy to see the action on Pages 14 and 15, which gives all the reasons why Calie should fall before the antagonist. There’s a great visual joke on 17, a return to earth for two pages, and a surprising return on Page 21 that will leave readers with the feeling that there are bigger plans afoot than they were aware. I like how this tale concluded, but left things open for a larger story arc. Overall grade: A

The art: The first six pages of this book nicely show the madness of Wonderland from the possessed Cat’s point of view. I really like the cat’s eyes on Page 1, and all the foliage and fairies flitting about. The only thing missing from Pages 2 – 6 is Hunter S. Thompson. The two headed crow is pretty creepy looking, and the Hatter is okay, though her forehead marking is a nice visual. When the Cheshire goes into villain mode he looks great. Calie’s approach to Terror is well done, and I like the attempt made by Manuel Preitano for the motion on 14 and 15, but it’s too heavily inked, with the work being too clunky, especially on Terror’s face. Much better is the movement on Page 21. I did have issues with a lack of backgrounds, or too little work with them, leaving the colorist to complete the image. I’m not thrilled with artists when they do this. There’s also some overly thick linework that makes the images look poor (Page 9, panel three; most of 18; all of 2o and 22). I think if Preitano worked with a thinner line throughout this book would look better. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Leonardo Paciarotti does an okay job with the colors. The glowing eyes of the cat look terrific, as do the deep violet ovals that outline the cat with Terror. The coloring goes nicely abstract on the next few pages, lost in Cat’s vision. The use of red is a nice way to tell readers of the impending horrors that await Cheshire should he continue down his road of madness. Starting on Page 7 the boarders are colored an off-grey, to denote night and a transition from what the cat sees to Wonderland. I really did not like the use of the computer green-gray background inserted on Pages 12, 13, and 14. It looked like a computer smear. I would rather it have been one color than this mess. There’s some interesting shadow work on Page 20’s third panel, but I have no idea why it was colored that way. Mixed work from Paciarotti. Overall grade: C

The letters: Dialogue, Hatter dialogue, a song, and the character’s speech on 20 are created by Christy Sawyer. All look fine. Overall grade: A

The final line: A solid story undone by mixed visuals. I’m hopeful a new artist arrives on this book soon. Overall grade: C+

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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