In Review: Alice in Wonderland One-Shot

The final reveal took all the joy out of the story, but it is beautifully drawn

The covers: This one-shot celebrates the ten years Zenescope has been publishing has five covers that will send fans searching every rabbit hole to find. The A is by Mike Krome featuring a teenage Alice holding a white rabbit against a white background whose top half has become a bloody, dripping red that contains the face of a deviant looking fat clown. I’d rather have more Alice on my covers than clown, but it looks okay. The next cover has a more “developed” Alice wearing a revealing blue outfit in a house of mirrors. One mirror has opened up to reveal the same overweight evil clown from the A cover reaching out to grab her. This B cover by Dheeraj Verma and Victor Bartlett has the most sexy Alice of all the covers and the coloring nicely puts the focus on her. The C is by Sabine Rich featuring the iconic scene at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, though the Hatter is absent; his hat is in an empty chair. An adult Alice sits at the lavish table with the evil clown to her right and a white rabbit to her left, on the table. This is full of details and lush coloring, but now I’ve gotten a definite idea of whom the bad guy of this issue is going to be. No clown on the D cover, and that’s why I chose it to be the photo accompanying this review, by Paolo Pantalena and Ula Mos. An attractive Alice holds a cup of tea and a white rabbit up to readers. She’s pretty and the illustration is good. I also like the absence of colors for the background, making her really pop with her costume. There’s also a Legend’s Comics Exclusive cover by Gregbo Watson. This features Alice standing awkwardly because she’s got a crying boy holding her leg. There’s a cloud of black smoke behind the pair which reveals the most realistic and ominous version of the clown, who looks absolutely terrifying. This is a “Wow” cover because of that clown. Overall grades: A B-, B A-, C A, D A, and Legend’s Exclusive A

The story: Credits for the story go to Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco, though Donald Joh actually wrote this book. The story opens in Chicago of 1952. A boy is being beaten by his father with a belt because the child doesn’t want to go to sleep. “There’s two boogeymen who come out of my closet when it’s dark.” The dad puts him in the room and locks the door, against his wife’s wishes. “I told you I knew what was good for him,” the victorious father says. The boy’s closet is slammed open from the hulking figures of Tweedledum and Tweedledee who complain about being hungry. Under the bed the boy hopes to remain undiscovered, until one of the brutes smells him out and throws the bed aside. The boy bolts through the closet and emerges in a clearing where a giant cauldron is boiling over. Getting to its rim, the lost lad sees skinned bodies and eyeballs floating. He’s grabbed by one of the monsters and about to be placed in the pot when the cauldron is pushed over and the two scramble to pick up their meal. The little girl who ruined their dinner grabs the boy’s hand and they take off into the woods. The girl, Alice, takes the boy to her home in a tree, where she questions if he’s real. “Sometimes I don’t know the difference between my imaginary friends and the real ones. The Big Green Ugly says my mind gets confused.” When asked who the Big Green Ugly is the Jabberwocky appears and takes a look at what’s inside the boy. A deal is made: the boy can go home but must appear whenever Alice wants company. This is what the entire book is about — the deal. Pages 12 – 15 have to be the saddest, and ickiest, pages I’ve read in a comic book for a long time. The boy begins as a sympathetic character, but as the Jabberwocky says, “You have the stink of madness.” Alice is barely in this book, not reappearing until the final act. Joh does an excellent job of making this boy likable and then making him a monster because of what he does in the real world; having the Jabberwocky appear doesn’t exactly help his mental situation. I was so completely taken with this character I forgot the reoccurring image on the all the covers until the final page, and it took the away all the joy I had for this book. In having the boy be this infamous individual it took the fantasy out of the tale and made it too real. I would have been happier had it been a fictional character I was following. I was enjoying this book until the final page. It left me completely deflated. Overall grade: D+

The art: Someone needs to strap Gregbo Watson down to a drawing table and have him on a monthly book. This book is amazing looking. His character work is nothing short of brilliant. Watson captures emotions amazingly on peoples’ faces, whether they’re children or adults. His work on the boy as he ages, page by page, is tremendous. He’s a standout character on Pages 3, 7, 9, 10, 17, 21, 23, 33, and 34. As this boy descends into madness, the glee that he has on his face after doing something awful is terrifying. Liddle, aka Alice, has the look of an overly knowledgeable ragamuffin when she first appears, but becomes the familiar beautiful young woman by the end. The creatures of Wonderland are stellar. Though only on four pages, this is the best monstrous depiction I’ve seen of the twins. Their entrance rivals the Hulk and the trolls from The Hobbit. The Jabberwocky is gorgeous. It’s drawn from several different angles, from a distance and close-up, showing that Watson is no one-trick pony in illustrating this iconic figure. It’s entrance is fantastic, its bulging eyes disturbing, and its buck teeth humorous and frightening. It’s the best rendering of this character I’ve seen since Tenniel put pen to paper. The character is wonderfully fluid, with its tail, antennae, and dangling jowl antennae perfect. The settings are also super. Since the book follows the life of this boy to man, the story goes to many exteriors and interiors, and Watson makes them completely real. This book is visual gold. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Matching the art is the excellent color work of Erick Arciniega. I knew on the first page, as the father puts his son in his room, that the coloring on this book would be good because of the excellent work done in the clothing on the characters. Every line that Watson puts into the clothing is perfectly shaded by Arciniega. It’s especially noticeable when Tweedledum and Tweedledee come into the boy’s room. The contents of the twins’ soup is grotesquely colored, as it should be. The arrival of the Jabberwocky allows Arciniega to bring a new color to the book and it respesents madness well. The real world is colored perfectly, with red being an eye magnet whenever it horrifically appears, such as on Page 10. I really liked how the red became muted on the final page, surrounding Alice, but not dominating her. This creates a strong differentiation between her and her “friend.” Overall grade: A+

The letters: Matt Krotzer provides scene settings, sounds, yells, dialogue, Jabberwocky speech, and articulations of ecstasy. I loved the font for the Jabberwocky, so elongated and odd. Overall grade: A 

The final line: The final reveal took all the joy out of the story, but it is beautifully drawn. I have to give it a low grade because of the closing payoff. 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.
    One Comment
  • Martin
    20 August 2015 at 11:27 pm -

    A really interesting take on this one-shot. I was tempted to buy it because of the Sabine Rich cover — creepy but so much fun — but not so much now. Thanks.

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