In Review: Grimm Fairy Tales 2018 Holiday Special

The stories and visuals contain sweet terrors to be devoured by those who like their Christmas on the dark side.

The covers: Ten different covers to stuff in your loved ones’ stockings if you want to scare the hell out of them. The A cover by Eric J and Jesse Heagy puts a spin on the Elf on the Shelf that many people, myself included, already assumed: that little guy is a stone cold killer. The Elf is on his shelf, a Christmas card to his right and a snow globe on his left. Stockings that state they belong to Mom and Dad are hung beneath. They are covered in blood and contain two hands. The Elf himself is smiling devilishly, displaying some very sharp teeth, and blood surrounds his mouth which is splattered on his collar. Yup, this confirms everything I’ve always thought about this frightful creature. The B by Daniel Leister and Jorge Cortes also features a mantle, but the fireplace is also seen. Stockings hang, festive lights frame them, and presents are on the floor. However, poor St. Nick is being hauled up the tree by ebony gremlin creatures with spiky teeth and red eyes. Santa screams as the throng of creatures delight in pulling him up to certain doom. Great detailed image with excellent colors. The “Good Girl” cover is the C by Derlis Santacruz and Ula Mos. This has an attractive raven haired woman wearing a small white bikini leaning in closely to the reader. She has on a Christmas hat that’s a furry snowman, complete with orange carrot nose and black top hat. She’s kneeing in a snowy forest, but the reader will probably not be looking at the forest. This is good, but all I can think is ‘Man, she’s gotta be cold!’ Alfredo Reyes and Ylenia Di Napoli are responsible for creating the D cover which is the image I chose to accompany this review. Robyn Locksley has on a red sweater that has brown ears and antlers on its hood. She also has on white furry boots that go from her knees down. She smiles at the reader, her bow over her right shoulder, while sitting at the front of sleigh that’s holding a massive red bag full of presents. Immediately behind her is a reindeer. In the distance is a large house and snowman beside some tall trees. Cute, fun, and terrific. There are six Exclusive covers to pick up as well, but I couldn’t find images of them online. They include: Secret Exclusive by Mike Krome and Mos, 2018 Staff Exclusive (limited to 25 copies) by Elias Chatzoudis, VIP Exclusive (limited to 200) by Chatzoudis, New Year’s Eve Exclusives (limited to 350/100) by Mike DeBalfo and Mos, and Zenescope Exclusive (limited to 75) by Paul Green and Hedwin Zaldivar. Good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A, C B, and D A

The stories: There are three different stories in this issue with “Company Holiday Party” by Dave Franchini serving as the framing device that holds them all together. A group of rich business people are yucking it up over the distress they’ve caused co-workers by firing them on Christmas Eve. Their laughter is interrupted by a Santa Claus who arrives to tell them the issue’s tales. There’s a neat reveal on the final page of this tale. The first story is “Elf on the Shelf” by Erica J. Heflin. Poor Dillon witnessed his mother murdered by his father, who was killed by the police. Now in a foster family he tries to adjust, with Pickles the Elf on the Shelf being his only friend. Pickles has a few surprises in store for Dillon and his new parents. This was exactly the type of story I wanted to read for the holidays, though it did traverse the expected road. “A Tale of Two Christmas Eyes” by Ben Meares is a ten pager about a two families: one with a poltergeist and the other with a drunkard of a father who breaks the law with horrible repercussions. I liked the blending of both stories with the ending being an excellent twist. I would love to see more from Meares. The final tale is “Santa Hotline” by Terry Kavanagh. This focuses on one of Santa’s helpers who fields telephone calls from children asking for specific presents. I loved the protagonist from the first page and I loved the reveal. Tension builds really nicely when this do-gooder gets some chilling calls. Great twist on 7 with a perfect ending. I loved this. Overall grades: “Company Holiday Party” A-, “Elf on the Shelf” A, “A Tale of Two Christmas Eyes” A-, and “Santa Hotline” A+

The art: There’s a different artist on each tale of this issue and all do a solid job. “Company” is by Ario Murti and I really like his work. He knows how to late out a page superbly, with the first page having a great two panel sequence pulling into the party of pompous business people, before moving to a terrific point of view shot of Santa approaching. Santa’s face is perfection, especially when he flashes an evil smile on his audience. His actual identity at the end of the issue is great. Butch Mapa is responsible for “Elf.” Dillon is sympathetic from the get-go and Pickles is just wrong in every possible way as an elf. The stepfather enters the story with his arms crossed, so the reader instantly knows he won’t be portrayed positively. My favorite image of him occurs on 6, with him looking perfectly pleased with himself as he does something. The final page is a full-paged splash that’s fine, but the characters are too far from the reader; all that background doesn’t need to be shown. “Tale” by Marcelo Mueller is fairly cartoony looking due to the design of the human antagonist. He elicits laughs more so than fear, which lessens the tension from him. I did like how Mueller successfully tells a lot of story with several panels on the page that aren’t overwhelmed by all the text, such as on the first page of this story. The point of view that ends the second page is great, which leads to a great transition on Page 3. Pages 8 and 9 have some excellent frightening images. “Santa” by Moy R creates some wonderful joy in his visuals with Shep going to work, interacting with coworkers, and on the phone. Moy also uses a lot of panels on the page to tell this story and they’re good. The visuals greatly help the tension in the final three panels on the third page. There’s also a terrifically tense moment on 4. The reveal on 7 is outstanding. The final page is a full-paged splash of horror. I loved it. Overall grades: “Company Holiday Party” A, “Elf on the Shelf” B, “A Tale of Two Christmas Eyes” B, and “Santa Hotline” A+

The colors: There are also five different colorists on these four tales. “Company” has Jorge Cortes doing some sensational work with characters’ flesh and Santa’s furry trim and beard. I’ve also got to give a shout out to the slick work with characters’ hair. “Elf” by Ceci de la Cruz uses Dillon’s orange hair to make him a focus in every panel he appears, while Pickles’s greens make him an eye catcher. Page 7 uses a harsh orange to color the outline around both characters, showing how the pair are united and how they are both angry. Fran Gamboa with J.C. Ruiz color “Tale.” The antagonist of the tale is frequently bathed in a reds to clue the reader in to his nature, while otherworldly blues shade the supernatural elements. The family that’s in a poor situation is in a fairly colorless environment, which is believable, but it makes the panels very bland. “Santa” by Leonardo Paciarotti has very bright colors to match the upbeat tone of this tale and they are fantastic. They assist the reader in creating suppositions about the protagonist, which help the story immensely. The greens on Page 7 are excellent, as are the blues that close out the story. Overall grades: “Company Holiday Party” A+, “Elf on the Shelf” A-, “A Tale of Two Christmas Eyes” B, and “Santa Hotline” A+

The letters: There’s only one letterer for the entire issue: Fabio Amelia. He creates dialogue, sounds, scene settings, Elf speech, yells, screams, signage, muttered speech, an incantation, narration, a song sung, handwritten notes, and a closing character’s unique font. I am really impressed with letterers that use a variety of fonts in their books and Amelia does so here. The Elf speech is appropriate regal and creepy. The muttered speech visually shows the reader how inebriated a character is. The song  looks as if it’s being sung. The handwritten notes look authentic. The last character to speak has a font that matches his appearance. Bravo, Mr. Amelia! Overall grade: A+

The final line: A terrific trio of tales that have some neat twists. The stories and visuals contain sweet terrors to be devoured by those who like their Christmas on the dark side. This was a highly enjoyable collection of holiday horrors. 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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