In Review: Wonderland #39

The story is entertaining but is often disrupted by awkward art.

The covers: Five covers to drive you mad as you chase them down. The A cover is by Mike Krome and Ula Mos. An excellent White Queen stares at the reader with contempt and indifference, oblivious to the man with a butcher’s blade that is sneaking up behind her. Callie looks spectacular, the pillar behind her excellent, but the butcher is so far away he looks like a hunchbacked dwarf. Plus there’s a lot of dead space above the antagonist. Having Callie front and center with the male partially shown would have been better. Daniel Leister and Wes Hartman are responsible for the B and this spectacularly wrong, but oh so right! The Liddle family is standing outside a business for a family snapshot. They’re before a butcher’s shop, complete with various meats behind them. Lurking among the meats is the face of the butcher. This is hilariously perverse and reminds me of the tone of classic Vertigo covers. Additionally, this image hints at major plot points in the story. Outstanding! The C cover is the illustration I chose to accompany this review. It’s the pinup cover for this issue and it’s by Chris Ehnot and David Delanty. A “good girl” Alice sits on a brickwall somewhere in Wonderland, sipping from a broken teacup. Behind her are gigantic mushrooms and a spectacular castle. It’s a very cute image and it had to be shared. There are also two Fan Expo exclusive covers. Both are illustrated by Dawn McTeigue and colored by Mos. The first is limited to 350 copies, while the second is limited to 100. The image is of a brunette wearing some shiny, yet revealing, attire, holding a hockey stick, while laying atop the Canadian flag. It’s a looker, eh. Overall grades: A B-, B A, C A+, and Fan Expo A

The story: Erica J. Heflin does some interesting things in this month’s outing. The first three pages focus on the Ace of Spades’ quest, culminating in his resurrecting of the Red King. He’s warned not to enter the revealed burial site until after some slaves have been sent in to test its safety, but he forgoes this and goes in on his own. The appearance of this royal is good and what is done to him very cool and very surprising. The story then shifts to Calie and the Jack of Hearts walking through the square of Ur. She’s been seeming more withdrawn since her return from earth, and wonders if all the people that have died since she’s assumed power have been worth the price to keep Wonderland sane. Jack argues it is and their conversation takes a back seat to an unseen watcher who craves Calie. The aptly titled “The Butcher” then gives the origin of a new character who shares some history with Calie on earth. Introducing this character allows Heflin to show how exposure to Wonderland has tainted most people, yet Calie had been resisting its madness. Highlights included Page 9’s surprise, 11’s gross choice, 13’s surprise antagonist, 17’s creepiness, the fall on 19, which returns things to the present, 21’s tremor in the Force, and how things are accelerating on 22. This was a solid introduction with backstory that populates Wonderland with another wild card that can help or hinder a situation, and a situation is definitely forming in the Lake of Red Breath. Overall grade: A   

The art: The visuals by Marc Rosete are all over the place. The first page is a full splash that shows the dramatic landscape of where the Red King’s burial chamber was found. This was an opportunity to really show off the setting and it’s far too simple. It’s an unrealized location. Things improve inside the chamber at the top of Page 2, but there’s a lack of backgrounds on a good part of the page, leaving the colorist to fill things in, and the choices for that page were wrong. The arrival of the Red King is excellent for the first two panels, but Rosete pulls too far back in the third panel, and the reaction shot in the fourth doesn’t show what the Ace is talking about. On 4 Calie and Jack are very sparsely drawn, but things gradually improve the closer Rosete pulls into them. The first appearance of the Butcher is very good, and continues strongly as he goes through some emotional issues. However, on 8 and 9 the artwork is dreadful. I couldn’t tell that what was being done would result in the last panel. I had to look at it and the previous panels to discern what actually had occurred; he’s pulled too close to action. The flashback sequence begins strongly: both Pages 11 – 17 are good, with a slick series of panels to give some fluid motion to Alice. Then things slowly fall apart when the antagonist encounters a stronger villain: these panels look unfinished. The final page of the book should have been a stunner, but, again, suggests characters rather than having realized ones. Overall grade: D+

The colors: A decent outing from Leonardo Paciarotti on this issue. Considering what he’s dealing with, it’s not bad. The first page has him trying to inject some perspective with colors into the hillside. Things greatly improve on the second page in the top panel: the color scheme used for the interior evokes the chessboard and madness — this is exactly how Wonderland’s interiors should be colored. But then Rosete quits with the backgrounds and Paciarotti uses solid colors to fill in the gaps. His choice of green goes completely against the colors chosen for the top panel and makes the proceedings seem very unreal. The arrival of the Red King has the coloring improve, only to revert to green again in the end. Why? Earth’s coloring is the best in the book. It’s very realistic and brights tag important characters and set pieces: Alice, the meats, and the rabbit. Back in Wonderland, backgrounds disappear and it seems Paciarotti is scrambling. I can see enough good in his work to know he can excel, but he’s got to have something to work with. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Scene settings and dialogue (the same font), Ace speak, sounds, rabbit talk, and a new arrival’s dialogue on the final page constitutes Christy Sawyer’s work on this issue. I’d like to have the scene settings differentiated from the dialogue, but I did like the three characters of Wonderland whose speech was radically different from the “normal” humans. Overall grade: B

The final line: Stronger visuals are needed to make this a stronger book. The story is entertaining but is often disrupted by awkward art. Overall grade: C+

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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