In Review: Gretel #2

Backstory of the heroine is given as she's attacked on two fronts.

The covers: A lucky seven frontpieces to find for the second issue of this series. Out of the gate is the A cover is by Caanan White and Ivan Nunes. The title character stands before a circular window that contains several symbols that appear to match the tattoos on her arm. Her hands are up before her as she casts a spell; they’re white hot and powerful pink energy surges around them. If one can look past all the energy she’s emitting, there’s a neat sky outside the window with a vibrant moon. Gretel’s head really stands out on this cover, with everything else so lightly colored it makes it seem like her noggin isn’t connected to her body. The B cover by Allan Otero and Mohan Sivakami features Gretel racing into a group of glowing white hands that emerge from the edges of the cover. Behind her is Samuel casting a defense spell that creates a prickly sphere around each hand. White energy is sparking everywhere on a light blue background. This is a decent cover. Jay Anacleot and Ula Mos have created an amazing C cover. Gretel has her left hand on her hip as she looks at her right that’s pulsing with violet energy. The character, shown from the knees up, is stunning. Behind her is a magical circle that contains symbols of all sorts. The entire image is atop a background of flames. Wow! This is poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. Gretel and Samuel are back-to-back in an abandoned building on the D cover by Eric J and Vinicius Andrade. The heroine faces the reader hunched over with yellow energy surrounding her hands. Samuel is in the same pose with his head turned to his left to see what his protégée is doing. Brown clawed hands emerge from the sides of the image, telling the reader they are seeing what these monsters see. Between the heroes’ legs brown clawed feet can be seen approaching: creatures are coming at the protagonists from both sides. Another good cover. There are also three Exclusive covers to pick up, but I couldn’t find images of them online. They include the Motor City Comic Con Cosplay Exclusive (limited to 350 copies) by Elias Chatzoudis, the 4th of July Exclusive (limited to 350) and the 4th of July VIP Exclusive (200) by Keith Garvey. Good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A B+, B B, C A+, and D B-

The story: Crafted by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and Ben Meares, ultimately written by Meares, this issue has quite a bit of neat backstory. The first page is split between one hundred and ninety years ago in Poland to twenty-five minutes ago in New Orleans. Gretel is narrating, saying that history always has a habit of repeating itself: in the past Gretel is being stabbed by a reanimated corpse and in the present Samuel is having his chest slashed by a witch’s clawed hand. The second page remains wholly in the past where the heroine recounts her first time out with her master to kill a witch after two years of training. She wasn’t ready. Samuel picks up her body and throws an ax that cuts off the witch’s hand, granting him time to run off with his mortally wounded student. Back in the present while revelers delight in Mardi Gras, Gretel has taken Samuel into an alley where she produces a rat from under a dumpster. In the past, the pair are sheltered in a cave where Samuel gets a bat and rips it apart to get to its heart. He offers the tiny organ to Gretel who doesn’t want to eat the disgusting object. If one read the previous issue, it’s easy to predict what’s going to happen next. The scenes between master and pupil are good, with Samuel taking a major negative in Gretel’s life and making it positive, providing her with the perfect amount of positivity and motivation to continue on her quest. In the present their positions are reversed, though Gretel still needs the motivation. She gets it in a reveal from Samuel. Pages 10 – 12 reacquaint the reader with the antagonist, who gets a minion to cause some trouble. Also causing trouble this issue is the mystery woman observing things from a building. She interjects herself into the affairs explosively. The issue ends with the heroes having to split up and Tituba strengthening her position. I’m enjoying the characters, the magic, and — surprisingly — the flashbacks. Overall grade: A 

The art: This issue’s visuals are by Allan Otero. Because the story begins with parallel events, Otero splits the page right down the center vertically. The left is the past and the right is the present. I don’t know if Otero colored his own setting in the past because, with few exceptions, they’re in black and white. These scenes look fantastic. The first panel of the book has an undead knight stabbing Gretel. Samuel runs forward with one hand to stop the killing and on some jagged rocks a female form in silhouette raises her arms to create a vortex that emits bolts of lightning. These are the types of visuals one associates with the end of a book — and this is only the left side of the first page. On the right side a female hand slashes open Samuel’s chest, while Gretel is the one with hand open in desperation. This is a great combination of images. The second page has Samuel lifting up Gretel, cleaving the living corpse’s head in two while Vita Mortuum powers up her hands to raise another dead warrior. The action on 3 is excellent for all that occurs and I couldn’t turn the page fast enough to see what would happen next. Gretel’s expression in the third panel on 4 would mirror any readers and what she produces would create the heebie jeebies. The three panel transformation on 6 is good, foreshadowing a similar event on 9. Gretel’s emotions and reactions to Samuel’s words in the past and present are very effective: Otero was wise to spend time on her. The reveal of Tituba on 11 is excellent. I also like the design of Dae Denunito, though her garb is similar to that of Rachel Summers when she first appeared as a Hound. The design of threats on 14 is simple, but very effective and very cool. Speaking of cool, I am in love with the symbols that appear around Gretel’s hands when she casts spells. The mystery woman on 15 continues to look great and I love how her small action leads to big results. Her exit is also neat. Page 21 is full-paged splash of a dramatic moment, but I’m unclear how this is being accomplished as the aggressive character’s hands are clearly seen. The last page has an excellent transformation that the visuals tell rather than the text explicitly stating. I’m always happy to see this occur. Overall grade: A-

The colors: As stated in the art review, I don’t know if Otero colored the black and white flashbacks or colorist Ceci de la Cruz did, but they look fantastic. Occasional colors appear — blue lightning, sickly glowing green eyes, and lots of red for blood, but I’m really taken by the excellent work with all the blacks and grays. When sharing a page with the present they are strong visuals to the reader of the time period. The present has incredibly vibrant colors, with characters’ clothing especially bright. Gretel’s narration boxes are given a dead yellow so the reader knows they are not dialogue. The red mark on Tituba’s face increases her ferocity well, and her skin is to die for on Page 11. I like the use of violets on 13 and how their size is a signal they’re getting closer to the character. The orange of the mystery woman’s goggles makes her sharp. Overall grade: A

The letters: Maurizio Clausi of Arancia Studio creates the text of this book. This includes scene settings, narration, sounds, dialogue, and weakened dialogue. The scene setting are in bold capital letters that stand out whenever they appear. The narration is in italics, which may seem like a little thing, but it should be differed from the dialogue, and it looks good. The sounds on this book are great, with the first one, a SKULCH, looking awesome. The dialogue is very thin. Too thin. I read my books on a tablet and this dialogue is very svelte. It makes the antagonists sound weak. I will add that the weakened dialogue is good, with those letters uneven next to one another. I’m liking all of what Clausi is doing, save the dialogue. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Backstory of the heroine is given as she’s attacked on two fronts. The story and characters are engaging and the visuals, especially those killer flashbacks sequences, look great. Gretel is establishing herself one of Zenescope’s best characters. I also like how this is fairly graphic series, more so than other books from this publisher. It makes the actions much more intense. I need more! 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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