In Review: Grimm Fairy Tales: 2019 Annual

This is good, but it does come off as the middle story in a larger epic, which it is.

The covers: Ten different covers on this continuation for the battle to control the Nexus, but I could only find images of the first four. The A cover is by Netho Diaz and Ivan Nunes who create a breathtakingly beautiful image to start out this collection. Skye faces the reader standing atop a castle wall. Her left hand is a fist, her right hand holds her sword, and behind her the sun appears from a mass of clouds to give her a blessed by God appearance. The work on the character is sensational, the castle looks great, and — heck, even the doves flying around her are terrific. And look at those clouds! Diaz aced this and Nunes really focuses the reader on Skye by giving every element around her lights colors and she’s a stunner in her brightly colored costume. Just WOW! The dragon on the B cover by Ediano Silva and Hedwin Zaldivar is an amazing looking creation. The design and detail of it is great. Before the beast are Skye and the Black Knight, back to back to ward off any foe that comes at them. These heroes also look good, with Skye and her sword excellent. I really like the coloring on this, too: the dark reds of the dragon and the soft purple glow of Skye’s sword shades her flesh in light violet. Morgan le Fay is the sole character on the C by Michael Dooney and Ula Mos, which could be considered the “Good Girl” cover of the primary frontpieces. The villainess is on her knees on a stone floor. She’s twisted herself to face the reader and she’s holding two glass orbs that are encased in writhing violet flames. Behind the character is a blue night sky with massive clouds. This looks great and she is gorgeous. The newest villains of the Zenescope Universe face the reader on the D cover by Ian Richardson and Jorge Cortes. The Knights of the Round Table — The Green Knight, Morningstar, King Arthur, Knightshade, Baba Yaga, and Blaze — and their leader Merlin standing. This is the group threatening all that the heroes hold dear and they look great. My only beef is that they’re all squished into the image. If the cover had been a portrait they could have been seen better, but this is really a minor nit. The characters are cool and the coloring is perfect. The following is a list of the other covers I couldn’t find. The Secret Exclusive by Paul Green and Zaldivar, the VIP Exclusive (limited to 75 copies) by Green and Zaldivar, the Retailer Birthday Exclusive by Mike Krome and Mos, the VIP Birthday Exclusive by Krome and Mos, the In-Store Exclusive (limited to 100) by Jamie Tyndall and Mos, and the Aquarius Exclusive (limited to 350) by Elias Chatzoudis. Good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A+, B A-, C A, D B+

The story: This thirty-six paged giant continues Joe Brusha’s story that was begun in Grimm Fairy Tales’ Issue 25. Camelot’s rubble litters the land, dropped by Merlin upon the Zenescope heroes. He and his Knights of the Round Table look upon the stone debris with the wizard saying, “All the remains is to connect the four realms to the nexus, and then our reign can begin. And now, I alone hold the key to the connection in my hand.” He holds up the reformed Grail that he controls. A four paged summary of the events that lead up to this moment is then shown and the action returns to the present, where monstrous sized Dryads are running rampant in London causing death and destruction. It was a great surprise to see who arrives on the scene to save the citizens: this is one of my favorite pair of heroes. They haven’t been seen lately, so it was a treat to have this twosome arrive to save the day…or at least try to save the innocent bystanders. In Camelot, Merlin gives the new pecking order of the Tarot, with characters named for each suit. I was glad that Brusha did this since I’ve been having trouble keeping track of who’s who. There’s a neat aside on Page 13 with one villain noticing how one of the Knights look familiar. This is obviously going to brought up later! On Pages 14 and 15 this group is split up; Brusha does this so that the heroes have to split up to fight each villainous pair. And where are the heroes? Their fate is not as crushed as the previous installment would have the reader think and they are revealed on 16. I love which character is responsible for keeping them alive and how this individual is doing so. One of the survivors has a clever way of stopping the Dryads, though it is really convenient; I could roll with it, but it is a really easy solution to the wooden threats. That said, Page 27 has a neat surprise that’s left as a cliffhanger. Another surprise is on 29, revealing that someone is not as strong as one would assume. The last three pages have the heroes splitting off to fight the villains. I’m looking forward to that, but it sure did seem like it took a while to get to this point. The battle on 30 – 32 didn’t need to happen; it doesn’t do anything for the story, but delay the actions on the last three pages. Yes, I’m impatient and I want to see the battles. That’s another issue with this Annual: nothing is completed and will be concluded in Grimm Fairy Tales 2019 Giant Size. I’ll buy it, but it does diminish the importance of this issue’s story. This is enjoyable, but one only needs to read about twenty pages that move the story forward. The rest is side business. Overall grade: B-

The art: Eman Casallos does a good job as the artist, but it’s hard sometimes to see his work. That’s not due to him, the book is just too darkly colored at times. For example, the first page is almost a full-paged shot looking down upon the massive debris pile that was once the castle of Camelot. I can see parts of this, but it’s so dark the visual comes off as a dark blob, especially in the lower left. I cannot make out what it is under the rock in the small panel that’s in the lower right. The first panel on the second page is also too dark. Things improve in the two panels that follow, but I wish it was brighter. It’s also difficult to make out the pillars that surround the Grail that starts Page 5. Things improve on 6, with the bright colors allowing Casallos’s work to be seen. The visuals that comprise these scenes are tops. A turn of the page and it’s too dark again. The battle in London is brighter, but the Dryads blend in too easily with the background. Thankfully starting on 10, with the arrival of two new heroes, things are much easier to make out. I love the look of both of these individuals and would love to see Casallos illustrating their monthly adventures. Back in Camelot, it’s again too dark to see the art. The characters are easier to see on 15 and beginning on 16 things are much better for the remainder of the book. I love the visual that shows how the heroes survived their crashing doom and the action of the individual on 16 is neat. I love the close-up final panel on 18 which captures the characters’ emotions perfectly. The reveal on 25 is great and has me anxious for the hero’s fate. The second panel on 35 is again a great example of how well Casallos creates his characters. The final page is another almost full-paged splash and sets the stage for the finale. I would welcome Casallos back anytime to a Zenescope book. I just want to be able to see his work better. Overall grade: B-

The colors: I don’t recall colorist Jorge Cortes ever making any book so dark as this one and it’s not to the book’s benefit. As I stated in the Art review, the visuals can’t be seen often because the panels and pages are colored too darkly. Yes, it’s supposed to be night, I get that, but the reader needs to be able to see the artwork or the illustrations are pointless. Case in point, I still have no clue about what the object is that’s the closing focus in the final panel on the first page — it’s too dark. Things improve considerably when the story shifts to London with the two new heroes and the familiar protagonists freeing themselves to reenter the fray. It’s those scenes in Camelot, and there are several, that are just murky. I wish that Cortes, whose work I’ve admired, had cheated a little more with reality to allow the visuals to be more visible. Overall grade: D+

The letters: Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios is the master of text, creating scene settings, narration, dialogue, yells, sounds, and character identifications. His scene settings look as though they’ve come from a modern day fairy tale. Having the additional line underneath them pulls the reader into the text, which leads them directly into the panel’s visuals. Smart and neat. The sounds are cool and I wish there could have been more of them, such as during the saving of London and the battle between Merlin and a protagonist in the climax. I do have to give major credit to the bold character identifications used for the heroes that join this massive battle. They are powerful, striking, and resounded as though from an announcer with their appearances. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is good, but it does come off as the middle story in a larger epic, which it is. The reader only needs the last twenty pages to move the story forward. The art is really hurt by the too dark colors, rendering several panels and pages muddied. I enjoyed this, but I know I would have liked it better had the story been tighter and the colors brighter. Overall grade: B-

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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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