In Review: Grimm Universe Presents 2019

This is a collection of short stories teasing upcoming series from Zenescope and it's good.

The covers: Four covers to collect for this collection of eight short stories. The A hails from Netho Diaz and Ivan Nunes. Skye stands front and center, holding her sword before her with both hands. Behind her are images of Liesel Van Helsing, Zodiac, Robyn Hood, the Black Knight, Belle, and a woman I can’t identify. This is a decent cover, but the dark background makes it dour. Sadly, Skye isn’t in this issue, so this cover slightly let me down by teasing her on this frontpiece. Derlis Santacruz and Ula Mos have created a smashing B cover that features Liesel Van Helsing. She looks over her shoulder in anger at something the reader can’t see. She has her crossbow held low in her right hand and her jacket and long hair billow behind her. This is outstanding. Great art and great colors. Another strong cover is the C by John Royle, Jagdish Kumar, and Mohan Sivakami. Robyn Hood stands on a gargoyle in the city at night. The reader is looking up at her and she nocks an arrow with a smile as she looks at them. This is to die for! I love the look of the hero and the colors are killer! I want this as a print! I’m not a fan of the D cover by Harvey Tolibao and Nunes. Zodiac’s chest is too difficult to make out due to the colors, and the design of his costume looks different from how it’s appeared before. A photo has been inserted to create a fuller background and it stands out for for all the wrong reasons. The colors are just too dark on the character. Overall grades: A B-, B A+, C A+, and D D+

The stories: Six authors worked in different ways on this preview of things to come from Zenescope. The Black Knight is in the first story, an eight pager titled “Party Crashing” which was conceived by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and Terry Kavanagh, with Kavanagh writing it. Peyton Parks is at a fundraiser when a giant superpowered baddie appears. Things go wrong quickly, but the Black Knight corrects her ways. Solid, quick story with a new potential hero introduced. “Hellchild for Hire” is crafted by Brusha, Tedesco, and Franchini, with Tedesco writing it. Angelica has been hired to get something back from an L.A. gangster. The reader follows her path as she makes her way to her man, confronting him, and then having something surprising occur. This was okay story that sets up Hellchild: Blood Money in April. This is just okay. Next up is a story set in Oz, beginning with Dorothy Gale and Toto trying to evade General Mara Jinjur of Jinjuria and her troops. This was a very enjoyable action tale. I won’t spoil it, but it has me eager to see what happens in the upcoming Oz: Heart of Magic. “On the Run,” is conceived by Brusha, Tedesco, Franchini, and Kavanagh, with the latter writing this. Liesel Van Helsing takes center stage in “Daughter” which is once again conceived by Brusha, Tedesco, and Franchini, with Franchini writing it. This is a fantastic story that introduces the heroine to the reader from an unseen narrator until the last page. Van Helsing’s fighting is emphasized, as are her weakness, and where she is based. This is an excellent introduction to the character with a wonderful cliffhanger. I loved this! Joe Brusha is the writer of “A Zodiac Is Born,” the origin story of Zodiac who’s been causing problems for Skye in Grimm Fairy Tales. The story is believable, with Logan Patrick O’Connell being deserving as Merlin’s muscle. Very cool and it gets me hyped for his upcoming miniseries. Sigurd is introduced in “Saviour or Scourge?” by Nick Bermel. In a tavern in Midgard a storyteller regales the crowd with the horrible rise of Sigfried Dragonsblood. He tells a ghastly tale, but is challenged at the end of his performance. By whom and why would spoil things, but now I want to read more about Dragonsblood. Robyn Hood appears in “Side Job.” Brusha, Tedesco, Franchini, and Mackie created this with Mackie writing it. This is an action packed tale that starts right in the thick of things as Robyn is trying to retrieve a sacred page from some summoners. As she does battle with these mystics she’s having a conversation with Shang who hired her for the job. This is fun, exciting, and the dialogue is exceptional. I loved this! The final story is “Heartbreaker” featuring Gretel, a witch hunter. This is conceived by Brusha, Tedesco, Franchini, and Ben Meares, with Meares writing the tale. She’s in a bar in the Louisiana Bayou having a drink by herself. A man approaches her and learns he should have left her alone. Once he’s dealt with, the true threat arrives and it’s a good one. The fight is slick and the last two pages are stunners. I need to read more of Gretel now! This is not your father’s fairy tale! Wow! Overall grades: “Party Crashing” A-,”Hellchild for Hire” A-, “On the Run” A,”Daughter” A+,”A Zodiac Is Born” A+,”Saviour or Scourge?” B+, “Side Job” A+, and “Heartbreaker” A+

The art: Each story is illustrated by a different artist. “Party Crashing” is drawn by J.G Miranda and I like the way the characters look. It’s a little cartoony, but not in a distracting way for a story this serious. I like the point of views and the action is really strong. I especially like how the villains are dealt with in the fifth panel on the penultimate page. I’d love to see Miranda return to Zenescope. Salvatore Cuffari is the artist of “Hellchild for Hire.” There are no super powered moments in this tale, with it composed only of realistic locations and characters. It’s okay. Cuffari does best on the characters, such as Tate. Angela looks younger from the front than from the side or three-quarter shots. I did like seeing the details that Cuffari put into the setting, which is rare these days. The art on “On the Run” is by Marcelo Mueller. I really like the visuals on this: Dorothy looks great, those chasing her great, and the surprise characters are also strong. Again, great points of view throughout this story. I’m very interested to see what the device is for that’s shown on the final page. Renzo Rodriguez does a fine job on “Daughter,” creating slick action sequences, several excellent settings, and a fantastic final page that teases terrors to come. I like what Rodriguez does and I want to see more. “A Zodiac Is Born” is illustrated by Leo Rodrigues and it looks great. The character work is exceptional and the reveal of the Logan is frightening and how he’s shown as he kills a man is creepy as all hell. This is a great looking story. “Saviour or Scourge?” is illustrated by Daniel Mainé and he makes this tale visually epic. The second page is a full-paged splash of the character who is a fright against a burning village. There’s plenty of power, magic, and flame in this tale and it leaves me, no pun intended, hot for more. Babisu Kourtis is the artist on “Side Job” and this is some great art! The opening page is explosive and the action that follows is strong. I love the inserted panels that shows Shang on the phone with Robyn, with his reactions wonderful. That sums the visuals of this story well — wonderful. I would love to see more from Kourtis. The final tale has Allan Otero creating the art. Otero has illustrated other Zenescope books and “Heartbreaker” looks great. I love how the visuals communicate Gretel’s mood without her narration needing to be read. The fight scene is terrific, with the what befalls the antagonist shocking and perfect. The last page is gasp worthy. I’m hoping that Otero illustrates this hero’s further adventures. Overall grades: “Party Crashing” B+,”Hellchild for Hire” B, “On the Run” A,”Daughter” A-,”A Zodiac Is Born” A+,”Saviour or Scourge?” A, “Side Job” A, and “Heartbreaker” A

The colors: A different colorist is responsible for each tale in this collection. Robby Bevard is the colorist for “Party Crashing” and he does a slick job. There are a lot of dark colors in this tale, but none of them ever blend in to one another. The use of white and blue on the fifth page is great and the reds on the next two pages put a lot of punch into the illustrations. “Hellchild for Hire” is colored by Dijjo. The colors are very bright and I liked it. Even with these colors the tension was heavy. Normally colorists go dark to make the tone dangerous, but Dijjo makes it work. More please from this colorist, Zenescope! “On the Run” is colored by Leonardo Paciarotti. This is set at night in a marsh and it’s great. Dark colors are used, but certain elements of the visuals are bright and command the reader’s attention. The use of blues and greens are excellent. “Daughter” is colored by Maxflan Araujo and this looks awesome. The first page has excellent use of blues and greens to create the night, with the characters in the foreground standing out. I love the glowing eyes in the background. The cool blues of the final setting smartly emphasize the technology in use. “A Zodiac Is Born” is colored by Jorge Cortes and he does an exceptional job. I love that I can see all of the artwork even though the story is colored to be in a very dark setting. Check out the cool highlights on Zodiac’s costume — also very cool. The gunshot blasts are powerful in yellow and orange. And look at the exceptional work done with characters’ skin. Just awesome! Fire and flame dominates “Saviour or Scourge?” colored by Grostieta. She is an incredibly talented colorist and it shows on every page of this issue, with outstanding shadows, shades, and light sources. The flames in this story are hypnotic. Juan Manuel Rodriguez is the colorist on “Side Job.” The power of the visuals are brought to life by Rodriquez’s contributions. The use of white for energy is stellar and I love how the setting is dark, yet ever part of the art can still be seen. The muscles on the demon are highlighted really well. I also love the work done on Robyn and Shang’s skin. Outstanding! The coloring on “Heartbreaker” by Ceci de la Cruz is perfection. I love how she captures the lights so well in this out of the way location. The reds and blues in the fight scenes are neat. Having the hero in a lime green top makes her the focus of every panel she appears. Cruz continues to be an awesome colorist. Overall grades: “Party Crashing” A,”Hellchild for Hire” A, “On the Run” A+,”Daughter” A,”A Zodiac Is Born” A+,”Saviour or Scourge?”  A, “Side Job” A, and “Heartbreaker” A

The letters: Six different letters on these tales. Saida Temofonte provides the letters for “Party Crashing.” This includes scene settings, narration, dialogue, screams, yells, sounds, and the tease for more adventures with the Black Knight. I really have to applaud the narration, which is a pleasure to see differed from the dialogue, and the sounds on Pages 6 and 7. Very nice. “Hellchild for Hire” is lettered by Kurt Hathaway. The scene setting is great and I would love to see this font used more often. Hathaway also creates dialogue and narration, one sound, and the tease for Angela’s upcoming series. I would have preferred to see a different font used for the narration, but what’s done is done. Maurizo Clausi of Araancia Studio does the lettering on “On the Run.” The credits are incredibly difficult to read. Thankfully the narration, dialogue, yells, and sounds are much easier. I also have to give big kudos for the exciting title on the first page. “Daughter” sees Hathaway return to the letters, creating dialogue and narration,  and sounds. I would have preferred to see the dialogue and narration be different fonts, but I’ve already made my feelings known. “A Zodiac Is Born” is lettered by one of the best in the business, Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios. He creates narration, the title, the credits, dialogue, and sounds. The latter are shockers every time they appear and the scene settings are perfect. I love what Esposito brings to a book. Fabio Amelia is the letterer on”Saviour or Scourge?” Scene settings, dialogue, the story title, the story’s credits, and two sounds are his creations. I like what I’m seeing and want to see more, especially the sounds, in the upcoming series. Esposito returns to letter the Robyn Hood tale “Side Job.” For all the energy that’s being thrown about, it’s impressive to see how he inserts dialogue and sounds without stepping on the visuals. Great sounds on this as well. Maurizio Clausi of Arancia Studio is the final letterer, responsible for the text on “Heartbreaker.” The story title, the credits, narration, dialogue, signage, and yells are created by him. He’s able to squeeze in a lot of text in incredibly small panels and I’m floored at how he does so and keeps the art clearly seen. I only wish he had been allowed to place some more sounds into this issue, as what’s here is not enough for all the action that occurs. That said, I’d love to see more of his work. Overall grades: “Party Crashing” A,”Hellchild for Hire” B, “On the Run” B+,”Daughter” B,”A Zodiac Is Born” A,”Saviour or Scourge?” A, “Side Job” A, and “Heartbreaker” B+

The final line: This is a collection of short stories teasing upcoming series from Zenescope and it’s good. I wasn’t disappointed by a one and it’s worked me into a frenzy to see what happens next to each character that’s spotlighted. I was happy to see some of my favorites in the spotlight, Robyn, Liesel, and the Black Knight, and I’m intrigued by Dragonsblood, Zodiac, and Gretel. The price tag is a little steep, to be sure, but there’s not a dud in this 64 paged, no ads, collection. If you’ve ever wanted to try a Zenescope book, here it is. 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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