In Review: Wonderland: Birth of Madness One-Shot

An enjoyable one-shot that serves as an excellent primer on Wonderland's past.

The covers: A foursome to find for this book that deals with the spread of madness in Wonderland. The A cover is by Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes. This cover features Adalaide du Lac in the familiar Alice clothing. She’s holding a white rabbit, below her is the Cheshire Cat, above him is the Hatter, then the Queen of Wonderland, and a frog coachman behind her. Wonderland is a beautiful place on this cover. The bright colors by Nunes help to make Chen’s artwork seem uplifting. The B cover is by the same pair of artists, but it’s a mirror image of the A, with all gone horribly wrong: twin sister Evelyn looks deviant, the rabbit in her hand mauled, the Cheshire Cat bares his fangs, the Hatter looks mad, the Queen has an evil grin and her scepter is melting, while the frog coachman looks demonic. The setting is in a spooky forest, rather than the idyllic countryside. Excellent, twisted cover. The C is by Mike Krome and Ula Mos. This could be considered the Cheesecake edition, as Adalaide is quite gorgeous. Sitting on mushroom in a forest that’s comprised of them, Ada is adjusting a leg as she looks seductively at the reader. She looks great and the coloring is extraordinary, being so bright. This, too, is a strong cover. The D is the final cover to collect and comes courtesy of Daniel Leister and Sean Forney. This has a close up of one of the du Lac twins tied to an apple tree by a serpent. The woman calmly takes a bite of an apple, unconcerned with her position. If only she looked behind her she would see that she’s not held in place by a snake but by the Jabberwocky. It’s almost as if she’s Eve, though she’s not gaining knowledge but madness to spread. Good cover with the backlighting done with colors making her and the creature glow warmly. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A-, and D B

The story: This thirty-six page book covers history before any of the other Wonderland books published by Zenescope. Dave Franchini’s story explains how madness came to Wonderland. The book opens in the blissfully serene realm of Wonderland where humans and fanciful creatures live their lives in peace. In the forest Evenly du Lac is pursued by Geoffrey the hatter. They’re playing hide and seek and when he finds her he wants a kiss as his prize. She pulls down his hat to escape him and his pursed lips. He follows and comes upon her twin, Adalaide “Ada” du Lac. They exchange words and then the story has an transition to Evelyn who’s having difficulty in her perfect hiding spot from Geoffrey. Where she ends up will change the realm forever. Page 9 introduces the entity that will damn the land and how it seduces one of the characters on 16 is good. Things really begin to get twisted on 20 with a flashback tale that transitions to the present where the madness has returned to the land. The action on 24 is startling, but if one is familiar with a Wonderland tale, this is not surprising. When one sister, the sane one, returns to the city, she, and the reader, can see the carnage that’s occurred. This book is a descent into insanity, with two sisters divided by it. Franchini nicely shows the reader that this madness isn’t invulnerable, and leaves the door open for another journey to the past with these sisters. Overall grade: A 

The art: Renzo Rodriguez is responsible for the book’s art and it’s very slick. It shouldn’t be surprising to see one artist responsible for an entire Zenescope book, but that hasn’t been happening with several titles, so it was pleasant to find only one artist on such a large book. Rodriguez gets the first two pages to establish the beauty and peace of this realm, as well as create its inhabitants. He perfectly captures the fantasy feel of such an environment, with little hidden details in every panel. Page 3 takes a shift to the dark side, until the nature of the chase is revealed. Though it’s only in one panel, the caterpillar is amazing. The entity that brings the madness back to Wonderland has a very fluid design, that’s instantly intriguing, drawing the reader in closer as much as it does one of the twins. The full paged splash on 16 is a creepy moment that will have readers wondering what will happen next. The following page has one of the denizens attacked by an off panel villain and it’s a very cool way to bring the reader deeper into the story. The creature that appears on 19 really shouldn’t be frightening, considering what it is, but Rodriguez has made this thing a nightmare. 20 is the first graphic image in the book and Rodriguez pulls no punches in making this bit of history horrific. This serves as a good introduction to 21, which is also another full paged splash, showing all the villains of Wonderland. The take over that follows is great, as is the battle between the sisters begins. Geoffrey has a great scene in the climax that really requires no text for the reader to understand what’s transpiring, though the text does pull hard on the reader’s heartstrings. This book looks great, capturing the magic and madness of this setting. Overall grade: A

The colors: For a land that’s supposed to be magical, Leonardo Paciarotti’s colors certainly help the art achieve this effect. The warm and bright colors of the first two pages make this book begin as a fairy tale brought to life. Page 3 smoothly creates a sinister feel with the darkening of colors, with oranges being threatening. Notice that when the situation’s revealed to be fine, the background goes red for romance. Green is the perfect color for the evil entity, giving it an otherworldly flavor. Seeing the color become the victim’s eye colors show the reader through colors that she is being seduced. Bright colors return for the dinner sequence, and if the reader hadn’t noticed earlier, the colors of the twins’ outfits is the way to visually tell them apart. The creature that appears on 19 is a terrific shade of red, being the first creature that’s completely shown to be insane. This is followed on the next page by a more graphic use of crimson. The evil twin is clothed in gold, making her appear regal and showing that her intent is to rule the realm. Paciarotti does an excellent job on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Kurt Hathaway is responsible for the book’s scene settings, narration, dialogue, sounds, evil entity speech, whistles, screams, and yells. The narration is wonderful looking, appearing to have stepped out of a classical fairy tale. It is a little too small; there was plenty of room in every panel it appears to be just a tad larger. The sounds are well done throughout, increasing as the madness spreads. The strongest text of the book is the evil entity’s speech, which looks as though it crawled through Hell — it’s a perfect match for the beast that spouts it. Overall grade: A

The final line: An enjoyable one-shot that serves as an excellent primer on Wonderland’s past. Hopefully this will relaunch the series, much in the way that Grimm Fairy Tales has restarted. Overall grade: A

To purchase a print copy go to https://shop.zenescope.com/collections/new-releases/products/wonderland-birth-of-madness-one-shot

To purchase a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Wonderland-Birth-of-Madness/digital-comic/506902?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

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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