In Review: Grimm Fairy Tales presents White Queen: Age of Darkness #1

Good emotion and good visuals set in a despotic Wonderland.

The covers: A quartet of covers to add to your court of comics. Sean Chen and Stephen Schaffer are responsible for Cover A. This shows the Queen looking sullen as she has to do the Dark Queen’s bidding and behead someone she obviously feels is not worthy of such a sentence. Nice layout and excellent coloring to highlight the Queen with the evil Jester behind her. The B is by Giuseppe Cafaro, Simone Di Meo, and Sean Ellery. This has the Queen striking a Dejah Thoris pose as a chained prisoner before the Dark Queen. Excellent illustration with the dark red chair and background a terrific way to spotlight both characters. The C is the one I purchased. It’s by Talent Caldwell and Victor Bartlett with a sad Queen on a throne that’s set among the dried up, windy wasteland of Wonderland. Love the look on her face and, once again, sensational coloring. The one that’s going to be tough to find is the Wizard World Portland exclusive by Cris Delara. It’s a raven haired woman in a Portland Pub wearing really short shorts and tank top, leaning on a bar holding a cold one. This cover is limited to 500 copies, so good luck getting your hands on this! Overall grades: A B+, B A-, C A+, and Wizard World Portland A+

The story: Calie Liddle, the White Queen, must do the Dark Queen’s biding because she holds a locket that contains the lifeforce of her daughter Violet. She is the last remaining legitimate Queen of Wonderland and she is doing all she can to undermine this tyrant while keeping her child safe. This is my first exposure to the Age of Darkness storyline and the White Queen, and Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, and Troy Brownfield’s story, written by the latter, is very entertaining. With the Cheshire Cat by her side, who happens to be a black panther with purple stripes, the pair open the book trying to turn one of the dead Queen of Hearts’ followers back to normal, having been made mad by the Dark Queen. Just as it appears that she can save one of these poor men, someone arrives to undo all that she has done and introduce the story for this issue. I liked the relationship between both these characters, as Calie is obviously limited in her choices, but remains defiant. That’s exactly what I want in a strong heroine. I liked the Queen’s solution to her dilemma, and the final two pages nicely show how she can never defy the Dark Queen. I was impressed with the character that appeared at the end and with Calie’s emotional state on the last page. This encourages me to chase down Age of Darkness to see how she came to this state. Overall grade: A

The art: I enjoyed Luca Claretti’s art on this work. His characters are well drawn, reminding me of George Freeman’s work. He uses a lot of lines in faces to denote stress, and shading, and it works. His women are attractive, but not weak. The Cheshire Cat looks good and is great when he’s in action. The character that first appears on Page 9 is overdone, however. It’s hard to find a focus on her and the coloring doesn’t help. The creatures that appear on Page 12 look really creepy and their destruction was spectacularly graphic, but they had it coming. The best character work is on the final page. I was really taken with the emotion that Claretti got out of Calie in the first panel and how it morphed into something else by the final panel. What’s missing are backgrounds. When they do appear they look fine, but more often than not Claretti will go with empty or sparse backgrounds. This is fine if the art can command the attention, but by Page 9 I was noticing the lack of settings. This surprises me. The opening city and the forest that the heroes go through look great. I would hope that Claretti puts more work into his backgrounds. Overall grade: B+

The colors: This is the stellar piece of this book. Leonardo Paciarotti’s colors are wonderful. I love the streak of colors put onto other colors to provide shading. This technique can be found on the first page: the whites on the Queen’s face in panel one, the white on white of her glove in the second and third panels, and the white on her legs and the grey on the Cheshire Cat. The man screaming on the second page is really well done, but my favorite coloring happens on Page 11, panel two–I love the shading of the forest on Calie. Paciarotti really has to do double time on this book by coloring in many empty backgrounds and he does so magnificently. The crimson on the last page is also superb. Paciarotti has done outstanding work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: There are two things a letterer can do to impress me. First, have the narration be different from the font, and, second, have characters that are radically different from the “normal” characters have a unique font for their speech. Charles Pritchett does both of these, and more, making me very happy with his contributions. He creates narration, the opening title, dialogue, yells, sounds, a font for Cheshire Cat speech, and someone who appears on the final two pages. I like the thin linework in the dialogue of the humans. It made them seem elegant in Wonderland. Really well done! Overall grade: A+

The final line: An excellent entry point for any reader. A strong lead in an entertaining story. Good emotion and good visuals set in a despotic Wonderland. Well done. 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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