In Review: Gretel #1

This left me hungry for more. Recommended.

The covers: Ten covers to feed your face. Igor Vitorino and Ivan Nunes have created the A cover that shows the title character looking strong, standing in a massive pile of rubble. Violet and gold energy swirls about her hands as she smiles at the reader, knowing that they will lose this battle. Gretel looks great — perfect for a first issue and the colors are fantastic. This how to start a series. The B cover is by interior artist Allan Otero with colors by Vinicius Andrade. Gretel is on a rooftop in the city, suddenly looking behind her to her left is Malia, the Mistress of Bestial Sight approaching. This cover is actually the start of this issue. I love when covers are the first image of the book and this does that. The C is by Anthony Spay and Mohan Sivakami. Gretel learns against a wall with one leg propped up. Her right hand is a gory mess because of what she’s been eating. This is a great view of the character and the colors are fantastic. I like how the background looks like an aged European city. The most graphic cover comes from Harvey Tolibao and Nunes on the D. Gretel is leaning up on outcropping of rock holding a bloody heart. The life juices from the organ are creating a spatter underneath it. The hero looks intense as she stares at the reader, licking the side of her mouth. Her tattoos are glowing in green as she feasts. I don’t know what the red colored setting is between her and the forest, but it’s odd looking. The E cover is by Leonardo Colapietro. This appears to be a smooth black rock surface surrounded in runes. The center of the stone has split open revealing a heart with teeth at the bottom of the opening. It’s different, I’ll give it that. There’s also a Blank Sketch Edition that features the publisher, the creators’ names, and title at the top. This allows the reader to get an artist to create an original illustration for this frontpiece or to get the creators to sign it. These covers are really neat, but left blank they’re not much to write about. There are also four other Exclusive covers, but I couldn’t find any images of them online. These include the Subscription Exclusive (limited to 75 copies) by Jay Anacleto, the May the 4th Exclusives (limited to 350/100) by Paul Green and Hedwin Zaldivar, and the Calgary Expo Exclusive (limited to 250) by Mike Krome and Ula Mos. Good luck, collectors! Overall grade: A A+, B B+, C A-, D B, E D+, and Blank Sketch Edition C

The story: Conceived by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and Ben Meares, with Meares writing this, the book begins with Gretel narrating about the darkness within her that she’s learned to live with because of a mentor. She’s in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, on top of a roof trying to save this mentor from the witch Malia, who’s commanding snakes and rats. As the witch attacks Gretel thinks of what she’ll do if she wins, which is eat the crone’s heart, something she says she’s done many times before. Energy explodes from Malia sending Gretel flying backwards. She thinks, ‘Considering the fact that I am most likely plummeting to my death, this seems as a good a time as any to take a moment and let my life flash before my eyes.’ This is a very clever way to give Gretel’s origin, showing how her and her brother’s capture by a witch started her life of vengeance, with it taking a tasty twist. She then meets her mentor who trains her and together they fight a witch, ending with Gretel learning how to assume their abilities. She fights witches over a hundred years, eventually making her way to the United States where she receives several visions, including her mentor in danger. The last seven pages return to present where her battle resumes. The outcome of this isn’t in doubt, though the final two panels have a good cliffhanger. I enjoyed the character’s origin, her voice, and her actions. I love this hero. Overall grade: A

The art: Things open superbly with the focus on one of Gretel’s magic totems/tattoos and pulls back to her powered up, runes spinning around her hands. Artist Allan Otero then focuses on the hero’s eyes looking intensely at the reader. The second page then spins the point of view around and pulls back to show the top of a roof with Mardi Gras festivities in the back. On the roof is Gretel facing the witch Malia while her mentor Samuel is down holding a bloody wound. I like this point of view because it tells me who’s involved and where everyone is relationship to each other. The top of Page 3 has the battle in earnest, with Gretel momentarily flashing back to what it’s taken to get where she is. This second panel is ghastly goodness! The battle continues, with Gretel knocked backwards and off the roof. Starting on Page 4 a series of flashbacks begin that run through Page 18. The witch that has captured her and her brother is memorable for her beauty — love that smile! — and her gross facial decorations. The entrance of magic on 6 is extremely well done. The flames on 7 and 9 are awesome, with the work on the character’s eyes in the second panel subtle and sweet. The time periods and focus on 10 and 11 are outstanding, with an excellent transition of time passing in the final two panels on the latter. The vision on 13 and 14 are terrific; an excellent visual way to show the reader what Gretel is fighting against. The image of Malia is aces, with the inclusion of feathers appropriately unnatural. The transformation on 20 is cool. I like the reluctance in the hero’s face on 21 and 22. The last image of the book is good, but I wish that Otero had pulled in closer to this character so I could have a clear view of her, but she is the cliffhanger, so the distance works. Overall grade: A  

The colors: The work done by Ceci de la Cruz on this book is strong. The blues on the first page allow the white bolts Gretel is creating to pop and her green top and pink flesh really stand out. The crowd on Page 2 is a mix of yellow and pink that’s okay, but not great. The black, white, and red colors in the third panel to Page 3 are outstanding. This trio of colors returns for 4 and 5 and they are perfect. Magic uses strong blues and whites, which also bring colors back into Gretel’s life — great use of symbolism through colors. The oranges and yellows of flames are killer! Gretel’s vision goes blurry luminescent shades and they are so fit the story. The red aura around Mali increases her deadly tone. I love the violets that are used for Gretel’s ultimate move — so cool! The reds in the penultimate panel of the issue connote dark technology employed by a character, and the final page has excellent coloring on a building with a strong light source hitting it. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and a yell are created by Maurizio Clausi of Arancia Studio. The size of the narration and dialogue in this book is really small. No, seriously. Really. Small. Granted, there’s a ton of both in this book, but I was straining to read much of this issue. The scene settings are sharp, looking like a mission log typed out. The sounds are good, but I wanted more of them. The single yell of the issue on Page 20 is perfect. If only the font was bigger for the dialogue and narration. Overall grade: B-

The final line: A hero whose exploits will be devoured, Gretel is a fantastic twist on the classic fairy tale. Her abilities are awesome, her drive is justifiable, and the artwork a perfect mix of magic and horror. This left me hungry for more. Recommended. Overall grade: A-

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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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