In Review: Dance of the Dead #4

Serviceable story and art, but in the grand scheme of this series it could probably be skipped and nothing lost.

The covers: Four to find if you can escape the Maze! Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes are responsible for the A cover.This has Mary, as Mystere, standing atop an pillar of crumbling rock looking back at the reader. Before her is a huge labyrinth that would make Jennifer Connelly cry. I like the illustration and how Chen was clever to compose this so that neither the title or the character overlap one another. Good coloring on this too, with Nunes giving it a concrete feel, but providing different hues for the structure. On the next cover, Jasmine has obviously just rubbed the lamp she holds because a jinn has appeared and is stroking the young woman’s chin. Jasmine looks terrific and the jinn is beautiful, but those creatures can’t be trusted — the eyes of the supernatural character look upon Jasmine harshly and the creature’s left hand is held up as if it’s going to do something horrible. This B cover is by Sheldon Goh and Sanju Nivangune. In addition to Goh’s strong artwork, Nivangune does a slick job with the colors, using pink for the jinn’s flesh. There’s some good sparkle in the trail the creature makes as it exits from the lamp. The “Good Girl” cover is the C by Mike Krome. This features a blonde jinn looking down upon the reader. Her left hand is forming a cyclone which catches the sashes on her barely-there outfit, flitting about in the air. The figure work is impressive and the work done on all her sashes is equally slick. Good coloring on this, too, though a darker background might have made the fair skinned character pop out more. The final cover is the D from Meguro. This is another tarot card, The Tower, featuring Mary Medina. She holds the chalice in her left hand that becomes a focus in this issue. She looks great, perfectly calm, as a dark cloud lets loose with two bolts of lightning in the distance. Very cool. I’m hoping that at some point Zenescope releases a tarot card deck of these images that have been used for covers. Overall grades: A A-, B A, C A-, and D A

The story: Picking up from last issue, Bakur, Jasmine, and Mary are making their way through the desert to find a gate that will allow them to return home. Flying alongside her companions who are on horseback, Mary says, “I’m not seeing any gate.” Dramatically a building appears that the trio recognize as the gate they seek. The three enter, with Mary feeling weak as she’s never flown for so long. Adding to their troubles is a magical field that refuses to let them pass into the next chamber. That is until Jasmine approaches it and speaks,” Open Sesame!” The field down, Mary asks Jasmine how she could do that since it was from a story. Jasmine replies, “Who do you think was one of the theives?” This has Mary mutter to herself, “I didn’t know I was hanging with a celebrity.” The team is now in a circular room with several staircases. Mary notices the lances in a painting are pointing up, so they should take the ascending stairs. Jasmine congratulates her. “Good eye. You would make an excellent thief.” Before they proceed, Joe Brusha’s story, written by Anne Toole, flashes back momentarily to Bakur and his evil master, who learns of other worlds, spying a horned demon holding a chalice, “In the court I should be ruling.” Back in the present more doors need to be opened, and one causes a considerable challenge for one of the group. How the next door is chosen is neat, and another team member encounters difficulties — a multitude of them, in fact. On Page 18 one character’s loyalty is finally questioned, as the reader has had doubts since last issue’s conclusion. Before a decision on this individual can be decided, a gigantic foe appears causing consternation for the heroes that won’t be solved until next issue. This was an okay story, with things happening, but their importance to the overall series questionable. Even the flashbacks don’t really do too much. This was unquestionably readable, but seems as though it could be skipped in the larger scheme of things. Overall grade: B-

The art: Marcio Abreu is the artist on this issue and I enjoyed what he contributed. The opening page has two characters on horseback with one flying next to them. This all occurs in a desert. Abreu’s introduction of Mary into the page is neat and I love how her flying has her projecting beyond the borders of the panel. The third panel bleeds under all the other panels on the page, which is cool, and this point of view is slightly tilted to give it an otherworldly feel. The use of magic is serviced well by Abreu, starting subtly with the magical field and then growing progressively, though flashbacks and obstacles that thwart the leads’ journey. Fire is also done well, with Jasmine’s sword afire when drawn and the many flames on Page 10. The first panel on 12 is very nice, creating a tone that suits this story or in an H. Rider Haggard work. The setting is really sharp on 13 without copying the work of M.C. Escher. An object on 15 gets some focus as it moves the plot forward and Abreu has it sticking out slightly outside the panel without pounding it over the reader’s head that it’s an important item. I was a little confused by the background in the large panel on 18: is it water or another magical shield? Regardless, it should have appeared in another panel, because it appears surprisingly. The appearance on 20 is good and becomes delightfully monstrous on 21, but the story doesn’t allow much time for this antagonist to do much of anything, which was a visual letdown. The final panel is a good tease of the conflict that will start the next issue, but the reader should take note of someone absent in that last image. Decent visuals in this saga’s chapter. Overall grade: B

The colors: There are two colorists on this issue, with Hedwin Zaldivar (Pages 1 – 16) and Maxflan Araujo (Pages 17 – 22). The issue begins with a flat out gorgeous sky behind the characters. Contrasted against this deep blue sky makes both vistas heavenly. Take a gander at how the second panel on the second page receives a strong red to intensify the visuals and words of the characters. There’s also a slick way colors communicate an action to the reader, with yellow and white used in the penultimate panel on this page to show the horses are being let loose. The blues on 3 are magical, the lighting on 4 is ancient and ominous, and the flashbacks are colored in rose and orange to age them and give them an unsavory feel. The work with flames is also neat, as is the sick green used to designate the voices Mary hears. This sickly green returns when the big baddie appears, making the reader recall that this color is not used for good characters. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, yells, ghostly ssing, and the tease for next issue are what Kurt Hathaway creates for this issue. There is narration in this issue as well, but it comes across as the continuation of dialogue from the past into the present, so no different font was required. Instead, it’s differentiated by the shape of the balloon and its color. There aren’t many yells, but when they do occur they are easily identifiable by being larger than dialogue and in a slightly different font. The minor ssing is fine, but I wish that the character that was creating this noise spoke so that the creepy font could be used more. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Serviceable story and art, but in the grand scheme of this series it could probably be skipped and nothing lost. I’m enjoying the scenes involving Jasmine and Mary, but Bakur is still not doing much for me. I’m looking forward to the next installment, hoping that something major occurs. This is readable, but not stunning. 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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