In Review: Realm Knights: Annual 2015

Had the visuals been stronger, this book would have been a classic.

The covers: A foursome to find as you scour the Seven Seas. Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes are responsible for the A cover which has Nathan Cross looking ready for battle in his Realm Knight armor, his crimson cape splayed behind him well. On either side of him on a rocky hill are two other knights. Though the faces of these individuals cannot be seen they look very threatening, as one is sporting a rifle and the other has some red energy rope in his hands. This is a nice, traditional hero portrait. The B cover by Marat Mychaels and Sanju Nivangune focuses on the antagonist of this issue, the ghost pirate. He’s not glowing green or translucent as he is within this story, since he looks solid. He’s okay looking, though those massive skulls on his shoulders make him appear to be out of a Warhammer 40,000 game. Decent image, but nothing like the character within. The C is the cover I purchased. It’s by Paolo Pantalena and Ula Mos and is the “Good Girl” cover of the four. This features an attractive female pirate whose colors are stunning. This was the image I chose to accompany this review, and I must point out that the actual cover is much better than what I have as I had to blow it up to get it to fit on the page. The final cover, the D, is by Larry Watts and David Delanty. This features the evil pirate — again, not a ghost, doing battle with Cross. Behind them is the pirates’ ship and a gigantic image of Meredeth. The coloring is throwing off where I should be looking; if Meredith and the ship had been colored in lighter colors the two combatants in the foreground would be more easily seen. As this stands, it’s a big blob of shapes. Overall grades: A B, B C, C A+, and D C

The story: Set after the events of the recently concluded Age of Darkness miniseries, this book opens in Neverland in the peaceful town of Port Azure with a raid by glowing green pirate ship. The Ghost pirates slaughter all they encounter, with one human pirate, a woman named Meredith, breaking open a cross to take a hidden piece of parchment out of it. When the ship has secreted itself in a cave on the Isle du Melee, Meredeth gives the parchment to her captain who places it into a larger map on his wall. The wall glows with two giant serpents’ images, prompting the captain to say, “The Gemini. At last! You’ve done well, Meredeth. With the powers of the Gemini, I will control the passage of light and shadows, the rifts and reefs between realms.” As he leaves, the woman looks sad and gazes at a fairy held captive in a very Steampunkish cage. This is an interesting tease of a tale conceived by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, and Jeff Massey, with Massey ultimately writing the issue. With this threat introduced the story moves to the Nexus of Realities on earth, where the new High Council has formed, with its newest member, Bartleby of Oz, inducted. Soon the council goes into action and reforms the Realm Knights, introducing their captains. Among them is Nathan Cross of Neverland, who prefers to go by Hook. He’s hoping to redeem himself over his past actions, and this issue gives him the opportunity to do so. This thirty-seven page adventure is setting up a problem that looks as though it will be sweeping through all of Zenescope’s books. I’ve never read a story with Hook — er, um, Cross before, and he was a very entertaining character. I like this motivations and I would purchase another book, or series, that included him in its cast. Meredeth was also a good character, as there’s an obvious backstory with her that I didn’t know, or hasn’t yet been told, and I hope to see more of her in the future. I enjoyed this massive story, which has action, adventure, and magic, and is a good jumping in point for new readers. Overall grade: A

The art: Marc Rosete does the artwork for this issue and it’s okay. He obviously knows how to lay out a panel and page, with him starting things off in fine fashion with the opening page: two good, distant establishment shots of the port, switching to a pair of panels showing the defense in action, ending with a man spotting the ghostly vessel. With very little dialogue, Rosete is able to the tell the readers a story. After this start the art begins to have minor blips: Page 2 — where is the smoke issuing from and the ghosts are too far away from the reader, having the focus falter; Page 3, the large panel has too much wasted space at the top; Page 5, the reveal of the captain is so small as to make him seem small. Practically every page has a question or concern about the art. This isn’t to say that Rosete is a poor artist, he just needs to develop a bit more. For example, every bit of Page 4 is excellent — the size of the figures, the composition, and the excellent framing device. This looks great. Every scene at the Nexus looks great, and there are several characters that Rosete has to deal with in a panel and he draws each well. It appears that when Rosete has to draw smaller images is when he gets into trouble, such as Thane on 22. Action sequences are drawn very well, with the one that begins on 26 strong. The final five pages don’t look as though they’re drawn by the same artist that began the book. Again, they look okay, but not of the same quality as when the book began. Overall grade: B-

The colors: The coloring by Valentina Cuomo matches the art, with some work being very strong with other work not as much. The book needs some bright colors inserted. There are too many pages where the colors are so pale to make the page a whitewashed amalgamation. The first two panels foreshadow this, with the pale purple land and the blue sea not assisting the art. Things greatly improve the next three panels, with the next six pages being outstanding. Once at the Nexus the colors go pale, with the settings matching the sky, creating not a feeling of serenity, but of blanket coloring. Things don’t go vivid again until the characters go into a cave or during the battle outside. The last two pages have the colors go blase again, with the greens seemingly harsher than when they were shown earlier. Again, it looks like a different person ended the book. This is not horrible work, just not consistent. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Scene settings, screams, sounds, dialogue, moans, character identification, and the tease for next issue. There aren’t any characters that are given their own unique font when they speak, as has been done in other Zenescope books, but rely on the shape of the dialogue balloons to designate their unique speech. This was disappointing to see, as this hasn’t been seen in other titles from this publisher. Ghost Glyph Studios do a good job, but I’ve been so enamored with what the letterers have been doing at Zenescope, this was a letdown. Overall grade: B

The final line: A great story with okay visuals. Nothing wows, but nothing disappoints — just average visuals. Had they been stronger, this book would have been a classic. Overall grade: B

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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