In Review: Dance of the Dead #1

I want to read more of these characters, but this issue won't encourage new fans to continue.

The covers: Six variations on a theme for the covers of this opening issue. The A cover is by Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes and features the Egyptian wizard that’s been popping up in several Zenescope titles. In this issue he stands with his arms wide as Mystere walks out of his center. The villain looks good, the hero looks good, and the colors make everything pop. I like how the hero emerges from a red glow, which stands out from the villain’s golds. Standing side to side, Mystere, with glowing green magic, and Jasmine, with a flaming sword, are ready to confront the undead on the B cover is by Sheldon Goh and Sanju Nivangune. Mystere doesn’t look as good as Jasmine, while the dead in the background look much better than the hands in the foreground. The coloring is fine, but can’t do much to help the illustration. The C is by Fritz Casas and Nunes and is an interesting choice, as Mary Medina isn’t in her Mystere persona. Mary is wading through some water, above her knees, and turns around to look at the reader, who is looking at her backside. Decent, but doesn’t really capture the flavor of this issue or series. An opportunity was missed by having her reflection in the water be her heroic persona. Meguro does the D cover which is a tarot card of the Seven of Cups, which looks like Jasmine. With the coloring I thought I was looking at Starfire or Star Sapphire. Neat, but this looks more like a print than a tarot card. The In-Store Exclusive (limited to 100 copies) is by Elias Chatzoudis. In a graveyard, leaning back onto some glowing jack-o-lanterns that are themselves propped up onto a headstone, Mystere smiles up at the reader. A great cover with some beautiful work and sensational colors. The final cover is the Special Retailer Incentive (limited to 50 copies) also by Chatzoudis. Here’s the sexy cover for this issue. On her knees, wearing only a bra, thong, garters, stockings, and pumps, Mary is on her knees with her backside to the reader as she plunges a knife into a glowing pumpkin. Overall grades: A A-, B C+, C B, D A-, In-Store Exclusive A+, and Special Retailer Incentive A+

The story: Jasmine has a dream that she’s trying to read a book when it consumes her. She wakes from her dream in a wooded area that is on fire. She looks at something the reader cannot see and says, “Oops.” She has no idea how she started the fire and doesn’t know where she is. Meanwhile, Mystere is in the same area, the fire behind her. As she walks away from the blaze, she thinks, ‘Great. Just great. Run away from Arcane Acre…because I hurt someone I cared about. Figured it was safer for everyone if I was alone…’ Several werewolves are just behind her and one leaps at her, but she easily dispatches it. All she wants to do is escape the present and keep running. Sadly, her journey is not going unnoticed. A good portion of this issue, concocted by Joe Brusha and written by Anne Toole, focuses on Jasmine’s backstory when she was a Jinn. Her anger at being manipulated by others for nefarious schemes is made apparent and why she only wants to do good with her life. These scenes are interesting, more so than what she’s doing in the present, which is helping another. Mystere isn’t doing much better, making her way through the countryside. The pair meet by the conclusion of this issue, but the person Jasmine is helping is forgotten, absent from the visuals. I like both of these protagonists and want to see how they work together, but outside of Jasmine’s past, there’s not much of direction. Overall grade: C+

The art: An artist I’ve not encountered before, Enn, is responsible for Pages 1 – 12, 17, 18, and 20 – 22, while Ario Murti does 13 – 16 and 19. Though there are two different artists on this book, their work is close enough so that when a change in illustrator occurs it doesn’t stand out. Jasmine’s first appearance is good, with the pain of her unintended action obvious on her face. This is nice foreshadowing of visuals to come. The second page really shows Enn capable of some great fire work, especially in the second panel. The close-up of Mystere on Page 3 is also really well done, making her look very cool. The werewolves are also good, as is the terrible fate of the one that attacks her. The first of the flashbacks appears on 4 and it’s also strong. Jasmine’s anger at having to others’ bidding is obvious on her face. The setting that follows this disappears quickly, becoming a single structure. Page 12’s first two panels have a lot of dead space in the top two-thirds of the panels, suggesting that more dialogue was expected to be there. The flashback sequence that follows this is the best of the book, with some violence occurring off panel being very slick. The new villain introduced on these pages is the perfect combination of deadly and beautiful. The tiny creatures that plague the heroines in the climax are too similar to the design of some famous cinematic monsters, which had me thinking someone fed them after midnight. The final page is very sketchy, with the action pulled back so far the characters don’t have any details. An uneven collection of illustrations for this book. Overall grade: C+

The colors: There are also a pair of colorists on this issue, with Hedwin Zaldivar doing 1 – 6, 13, and 17 – 22, with Ceci de la Cruz doing 7 – 12 and 14 – 16. All the colors on this book look great. The first stand out work on this book are the terrific colors for the fire, with the characters and settings getting some wonderful light effects from the flames. I was very happy to see that the thoughts of both leads received their own unique colors so that a reader could identify whose thoughts they were reading before seeing the character clearly. The two pages with the werewolf are colored excellently, especially with the creature’s eyes. The flashback sequences are colored in sepia to age them fantastically. When Jasmine gets to the village, the colors do get a bit too dark, with the art disappearing in the dark colors. Not helping the little creatures’ similarity to the film monsters is the coloring. Aside from that, the colors look good. Overall grade: A

The letters: Kurt Hathaway is responsible for thoughts and dialogue (the same font), growls, scene settings, sounds, and the tease for next issue. I wanted the thoughts and dialogue to be different fonts, as they are two different forms of communication. More sounds would have also been a good thing, but that was most likely not Hathaway’s decision. The tease for next issue oddly looks like typewriter font, making me think I’m reading a lost tale of Carl Kolchak. The lettering is easy to read, but the design raises some concern. Overall grade: B- 

The final line: I want to read more of these characters, but this issue won’t encourage new fans to continue. It’s a decent read, but the story seems padded and all aspect of the visuals are mixed. I’m a Zenescope fan, so I’ll continue on, but my fingers are crossed for improvements. Overall grade: B-

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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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