In Review: Grimm Fairy Tales 2015 Halloween Special

An excellent Halloween read for those who'd like some supernatural thrills.

The covers: Five covers to find in your goodie bags for this frightful holiday. The first is by Pasquale Qualano and Alessia Nocera. It showcases Sela holding up a chainsaw which has seen some recent action, judging by the gore that litters the wall behind her. Good layout for an image, but incredibly difficult to make out any details because the coloring is so dark. The entire image is done in a rust/tan that obscures too much of the character, including her face, and the chainsaw is just a blob of ebony. Having the wall colored white would have made the character stand out much more, as would the red on the walls. This is a misfire of a cover. The B is by Meguro and features Sela reenacting that movie poster from The Silence of the Lambs, showing her in extreme close-up with a moth covering her mouth. This is a good homage the movie, but this doesn’t seem like a Halloween cover. Jason Cardy gets it right on the C cover, which I’m using to accompany this review. Sela and Belinda, in attire appropriate for the season, are having very different reactions to jack o’lanterns around them coming to life, shooting flames from their mouths: Sela is worried, while Belinda smiles. This is a Halloween cover. Maria Laura Sanapo and Nocera have Sela going into Sam Rami territory. The D cover features the lead of Grimm Fairy Tales being dragged into the earth by several hands. There’s nothing comedic about this awesome image, with the colors being delightfully dark, but still bright enough to show readers what’s going on. Very well done! There’s also a New York Comic Con Cosplay Exclusive by Mike DeBalfo and Ivan Nunes, but I couldn’t find an image of it online, so good luck tracking that one down! Overall grades: A C-, B B-, C A+, and D A 

The story: The premise is given on the inside cover: “Sela Mathers is asked to be a guest speaker at St. Theodora University, a small college in Indiana. But what she doesn’t realize is that three entities from her past are out for vengeance and plan to teach Sela a terrifying lesson of their own.” The three entities are shown on the first page casting a spell that culminates with Sela’s picture being thrown into a bowl. This is followed by Sela driving to the college in the rain, on Halloween night. She’s greeted by Kimmay Johnson of the activities board. Inside, Sela comments on how quiet it is; she’s arrived early, so the school is fairly empty until Monday. The pair meet a faculty member that Sela is familiar with, as well as three other students. Things start to go badly after dinner when one of them is killed by another. This story, crafted by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, and Troy Brownfield, with Brownfield writing the tale, becomes a issue of “Who’s possessed?” This is a familiar horror trope and can be carried out well if handled correctly, and Brownfield is a writer who pulls it off. Though just introduced to these characters, I did feel remorse at each passing, especially since they were the innocents that always fall prey to such malevolent demons. Helping to add tension to this story is setting it in the traditional horror locales: an old, (fairly) empty college, a dilapidated farmhouse, etc. Naturally, the survivors stick to Sela, who’s familiar with this type of trouble, and I was glad to see that it wasn’t until Page 26 that she goes into uber-fighter mode. There’s a good surprise on Page 35 which has me hoping to see more of this character in Grimm Fairy Tales. This was a fun read. Overall grade: A

The art: I really like the artwork of Mario Del Pannino on this book. I’m a fan of thin linework, and Del Pannino is drawing in this fashion. The look of the characters is almost anime, though they don’t go as cartoony. Some of my favorite character work is on Page 5, panel three; Page 9, first three panels; 12, the whole page; 14, panels one and four; the top of 15; the bottom of 18; the bottom of 22; the bottom of 27; and all of 35. I like the emotions on these characters, who are able to convey the story in silence, such as the character does in the second panel on 35; and it’s impossible not to like the power up at the bottom of 27. The settings are also nicely done. The forest on the first page is well done, but so is the gory detail of the second panel, and the flame effects that kick in when the spell is cast. The first panel on Page 4 introduces readers to the interior of St. Theodora and it’s a nice bird’s eye view. This panel is followed by a perspective shot that elaborates on the size of the university and instantly had the characters lost in this cavern of a school. The bird’s eye view is returned to for a dinner scene, so as to establish quickly where each character is sitting, and Del Pannino carries it off excellently. I really liked the way the possession is passed from one character to another; it’s horrific and involves quite a bit of detail in the visuals to pull off, considering the volume of the evil involved. I would definitely purchase another book that Del Pannino illustrates. Overall grade: A

The colors: This is how a horror comic should be colored! Jorge Alberto Cortes does an outstanding job in keeping things bright, while keeping things dark and menacing. Too often books go for dim or faded colors to suggest darkness or elect to go with few colors to keep things grim, but Cortes shows that bright colors can exist and have a book maintain a spooky tone. He shows this on the first page by starting with a forest at night. Notice how the artwork of the forest can still be seen even though it’s night. The bright fire draws the reader’s eye and nicely highlights all around it. Pay close attention to how Cortes smoothly draws the reader’s attention between panels, such as on Page 9: panel three uses light violet for a background color on a kitchen island and the same color is used for the entire background in the fourth panel, though it’s a bit darker. This use of color allows the reader to smoothly transition between panels. Very smart! When the group goes outside, color highlights the water on the ground and the lightning in the sky. When magic is used in the book’s finale, the coloring is absolutely electric. This should be textbook reading to all colorists that things don’t have to go dark to be scary. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Saida Temofonte provides scene setting, dialogue, signage, sounds, fading voices, and demon speak. The font is a little too thin for my liking on the dialogue; it gave every character a light, almost weak, voice. The sounds are stands outs, with the final one on the last page being perfect. Overall grade: B+

The final line: An excellent Halloween read for those who’d like some supernatural thrills. A super story with some super visuals. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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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