In Review: Gretel #4

This penultimate installment fantastically fills in some backstory while keeping the tension in the present.

The covers: Nine covers that will disappear like magic if you don’t get one now! The A cover is by Martin Coccolo and Ivan Nunes. Gretel plays with one of her braids as she walks before a spooky house in the woods. Her low left hand is beginning to cast a spell in orange and violet. She’s dressed in a low cut blouse, green short skirt, leather corset, and white stockings. Several of her magical tattoos are visible. This is a solid cover. Riveiro and Grostieta have created an awesome frontpiece of Gretel and Calabar on the streets of New York City, as the Empire State Building is behind them. Gretel is in the foreground with her right knee down. Her hands are held ready to cast a spell. Calabar is directly behind her with a pistol in each hand. She looks to left, Gretel to the right. Both characters are fantastic, the setting excellent, and the colors on point. This is as perfect as a cover ever gets. The C cover by Allan Otero and Ceci de la Cruz, the interior artist and colorist for this issue, focus on Calabar who’s walking to the right holding a massive rifle whose barrel is smoking. Behind her is a car on its side, on fire, with a tremendous amount of smoke billowing out of it. I love her face, her costume — especially that necklace(!), and the car. Terrific job by both. Mike Mahle has created an interesting cover for the D. Gretel stands before the reader with a green mist whipping before her, drawn to the spell she’s created with her left hand. Her right hand is also casting a spell and a wisp of smoke emerges from its top. I really like this style of art and hope that Mahle does more Zenescope covers. There are also five exclusive covers, but I couldn’t find them online. They include the Wizard World Chicago Exclusives (limited to 350 and 100 copies) by Mike Krome, the Toronto Fan Expo Exclusive (limited to 250) by Jamie Tyndall and Ula Mos, Keystone Comic Con Exclusive (250) by Mike DeBalfo and Hedwin Zaldivar, and the Webstore Only Exclusive (150) by Keith Garvey. Good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A-, B A+, C A, and D A

The story: The first six and half pages of this issue, planned by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and Ben Meares with the latter writing the issue, reveals the origin of villain Tituba. It begins three-hundred and thirty-one years ago in Barbados where she met someone. She and this individual move to Salem, Massachusetts three years later where Tituba gains a secret congregation. Some unforeseen circumstances leads to women spreading the witch’s knowledge and her congregation pays the price. I was shocked by the action at the bottom of Page 5 showing someone’s willingness to help this antagonist and the fourth panel on 6 is an even greater shock. Gretel is still in Denver, but she’s tied to a chair with a bomb attached to it. Watching from a safe distance is the masked Calabar, the woman who’s been following Gretel. She wants the good witch to explain herself and depending on what she says, she may get to live. The power demonstrated on 10 and 11 is terrific — I loved it! Naturally, now that Calabar is named, her backstory is given and it, too, is great. Before the issue ends, Tituba’s location is revealed to the hero and she’s off and flying to Las Vegas for this series’ finale. Although this issue is essentially just two origin stories it is an engaging read. With Tituba and Calabar acting in the previous issues, this issue is the payoff — the justification for what they do. Overall grade: A 

The art: I enjoyed Allan Otero’s art on this issue, who creates several different settings and a slew of new characters. The first page is set on Barbados with Tituba using beautiful and terrible abilities. Page 2 moves the location to Salem with the panels reading across to 3. The city’s interiors look sharp and I love the way the congregation is shown small at first and then filling the room. The top two panels on 3 are cool and the one that falls between the pages reminds readers of what’s occurred in earlier issues. The character that ends Page 4 has had an obvious change. The second-to-last panel on 5 was a jaw dropping reveal to see who assisted Tituba in her plan to catch Hansel and Gretel. I was shocked again and disgusted by the third panel on 6. I love the way Calabar communicates to Greatel on 7; it’s smart and funny. The creature design on 9 is cool and its final appearance on the next page is great. The fourth panel on 10 is terrific. The change between the last panel on 13 and the first on 14 is tops. Though they’re brief, the training sequence panels are sharp (Dear Zenescope, is it too soon to request a Calabar spin-off series with Otero illustrating?). The character’s reaction in the sixth panel on 17 is perfect, as are the first two panels on 19. The last panel of the book has the ultimate heroic exit — well done! Overall grade: A

The colors: The vast settings and many characters also provide Ceci de la Cruz a chance to shine. Tituba’s origin story is in black, white, and gray. Reds are used to outline her narration boxes for the text within. Oranges leap off of Page 4 for dramatic effect. Full colors begin on 6 and visually tell the reader that the time has shifted before reading the text. Oranges return on 14 for powerful effect. The strong yellows and misty oranges on 18 and 19 are gorgeously supernatural. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, scene settings, dialogue, the narration of someone regaining consciousness, transmissions, sounds, yells, and the three word tease for next issue are created by Maurizio Clausi of Arancia Studio. The narration is differed from dialogue not only by the boxes and balloons that contain them, but by the font. This is the sign of an excellent letterer. I love the narration of the person waking up — it looks as the person must feel. The sounds in the latter half of the book are large and awesome. Overall grade: A

The final line: I can’t believe this series ends with the next issue. This penultimate installment fantastically fills in some backstory while keeping the tension in the present. The visuals create the past and the present splendidly, while having heroic protagonists and an utterly evil antagonist. This series is so good I don’t want it to end! 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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