In Review: Revenge of Wonderland #4

Several freakish moments propel this book beyond the typical Wonderland horrors.

The covers: Seven frontpieces to add to your shelves for this issue. The A cover is by Sean Chen and Hedwin Zaldivar. Calie, wearing the traditional Alice short blue dress and white stockings, sits on an orange mushroom covered in lime colored spots. She looks at the reader nervously. Behind her is the monstrous violet head of the Duchess, smiling in sadistic glee. Barren trees and twisted limbs frame the characters in a foggy blue bog and harsh orange sky. Very well done. The B is by Igor Vitorino and Ivan Nunes. Violet is wearing an ebony colored version of the Alice dress. Calie’s daughter is on her knees as the Duchess, standing behind her, smiles as she seals the girl’s mouth shut with her dark magic. The background is a large full moon mildly obstructed by a frail, thin tree branches. The characters are great and the colors are deliciously dark. The C is the “Good Girl” cover by Ula Mos. This has Violet hiding against a tree, looking to the right in a daze. Large red mushrooms flank her as does a number of green plants. Nice. The villainous Duchess is the focus of the D cover by Edgar Salazar and Jorge Cortes. She sits in her chair with a slight smile on her face. Her hands are folded in her lap. On either side of her are the unconscious figures of Calie and Violet, their eyes and mouths erased. Behind the antagonist is a blue curtain that looks like a cape. This is really good, but there’s a lot of space between the Duchess’s hat and the title. Too much space. There’s also an In-Store Exclusive (limited to 100 copies) by Elias Chatzoudis and a pair of Holiday Exclusives (limited to 250 and 100) by Keith Garvey. Sadly, I couldn’t find any images of this trio, so good luck, collectors! Overall grades: A A, B A, C A, and D B-

The story: Conceived by Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and Raven Gregory, with the latter writing this out, a new, wonderfully freakish direction is charted out in this issue. The opening is narrated by Calie discussing when she was younger she would keep a journal about Wonderland. “But of all the crazy insanity Wonderland has thrown my way…This one is definitely something new.” And she falls into a grocery store through the ceiling. None of the customers look at her as she stands from the crater she’s made in the floor. Meanwhile, the Duchess walks up to Violet who is still held immobile in the villain’s chair. She strokes the girl’s face and caresses her cheek saying, “It may seem as though I’m asking for a lot, but really, it’s such a small little thing. I promise you, you’ll hardly miss it. Just try to keep an open mind.” She then pops off the top of Violet’s skull, exposing her brain. The Duchess digs in and pulls out an almond sized purple crystal. This sequence is the one of the most unexpected and frightening things I’ve come across in my short four year run of Wonderland comics. Wow! What happens on the next page only continues the bizarre twists and turns of this series. The story then returns to Calie who encounters an ally and finds a horrific fiend in the ghastly grocery store. This issue was truly the most disturbing issue I’ve read of this series, and for that my hat, not my skull, is off to all involved in crafting this twisted tale. Overall grade: A

The art: Allan Otero is the book’s artist and the first two pages are a super introduction to Calie and the ominous store. I really like panels two and four on the opening page. The large panel on Page 2 is great for the details and the visuals make the first two words Calie speaks hilarious. The third page shows the Duchess touching Violet in really creepy ways telegraphing to the reader that something bad is going to happen, but the reveal on the partial double-paged spread of 4 and 5 is shocking. The look on Violet’s face is disturbing and the glee on the Duchess’s is horrific. The final panel on 6 is great and perfectly aligns with what the character says. Page 7 doesn’t have a lot of details, with the characters having simplistic faces and the figure work very basic. However, this is because Otero is saving himself up for the reveal of the new character and the laugh out loud detail of the new weapon that Calie brandishes. The reveal on 9 is a great shocker and both characters’ faces that follow this large image nicely telegraph their thoughts to the reader. The two pages of flashbacks that follow are fine, with Otero neatly using some crosshatching to show that these images are in the past. The entity that appears at the bottom of 11 will be familiar and it continues to impress. I absolutely love Calie’s actions and face on 12 that shows she’s about to get her game on. The sudden action on 13 is yet another surprise of the book that’s carried out visually and it impresses. The action in the third panel on 14 would make Sam Raimi happy, and it make me smile in fear. The full-paged splash on 15 has a really cool creature whose design is very unique — as a long time comics reader I appreciated seeing something new! I like the focus given to a character on 17 with a subtle rectangle placed around the character. I laughed out loud at the fourth panel on the same page that echoed an action of Marion Ravenwood. The progression of action on 20 is creepy and actually left me feeling for those left behind. The final page is a full-paged splash with the heroine and the villainess finally meeting. Well done, Mr. Otero! Overall grade: A-

The colors: The setting of the grocery store is neat and clean with its antiseptic colors, punctuated only by the colorful wares on its shelves. I like how colorist Grostieta has the second page in gray to show the damaged floor Calie created, while the character stands out in her dynamic blue dress. When the story shifts to Violet and the Duchess, notice how the chair’s crimson dominates Page 3, foreshadowing something horrible. The dramatic action on 4 has electric blue energy and violets dominating. This is initially an odd combination, but it works well for the horrors of Wonderland. Violets dominate for a backroom of the store, suggesting something unearthly. Cool blues and grays are the go-to colors on 9 and they work exceptionally well. The flashback pages are given the appropriate tans and browns to age them. Reds and oranges dominate the backgrounds when Calie begins to take care of business, but she’s always the focus because of her bright blue outfit. The final page has a good clash of blues and violets, showing the battle that will begin in the next issue. Overall grade: A

The letters: Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios creates this issue’s narration, dialogue, sounds, yells, and the tease for next issue. I can’t compliment Esposito enough for continually using two different font styles to show the difference between narration and dialogue rather than relying on the colors of the boxes and balloons that contain the text. The sounds are great, with KRAK SMASH and RRMMMBBLLRRMMMBBLL being the winners. Overall grade: A

The final line: Several freakish moments propel this book beyond the typical Wonderland horrors and I loved them. This book definitely gave me the crazies with an off kilter story and some twisted visuals. Everyone is to be congratulated for making this venture through the looking glass strange and frightening. 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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