In Review: Wonderland #41

The visuals aren't at the same level as the story, but this is still worth checking out.

The covers: A threesome to add to your hand this month. The A cover is by Abhishek Malsuni and Shashank Mishra showing Calie battling her daughter in their White Queen and Mad Hatter personas. I like way Calie looks more so than Violet, whose body is twisted at a really odd angle. It’s only this pose that I have issues with; the rest of the illustration is great and the colors are good — it’s not often that this color of powder blue is used for a background on a cover and it makes it a strong piece. The B is by Harvey Tolibao and Wes Hartman. This cover only has the Ace of Spades on it, sitting on his throne with flames behind him. Great illustration and, again, strong coloring makes this pop. I’m not a fan of this villain, so I can’t rate it too highly. The final cover is the one I purchased: the C by Cris Delara is a gorgeous shot of Calie in her earthly form, though wearing the familiar Alice in Wonderland blues. It’s just beautiful, and it’s the image I chose to accompany this review. Overall grades: A B+, B A-, and C A 

The story: Things go horribly wrong for Calie Liddle in this issue, which is the second part of the “The Red King” story conceived by Erica J. Heflin, Ralph Tedesco, and Joe Bruscha, with Heflin writing the tale. The issue opens with Calie taking a beating from Violet in the basement of their home because she can’t hit her daughter. However, Calie is more than willing to use magic to stop her, but Violet has her own abilities to counter. With magic proving the pair to be too equal, it has to be fisticuffs for Calie and things get really violent. Meanwhile in Wonderland, someone is fenced in by villains and has only one way out. I was incredibly angry/saddened/moved by the last panel on Page 9; I didn’t want that action to occur, but I can understand why it did — but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! An appearance of a character on 10 has Calie returning to Wonderland because it’s under assault and what she finds there is absolutely terrible. Adding insult to injury is what occurs in the first panel on 15 and Calie really cuts loose like she hasn’t since I’ve begun reading this series. Page 20 is the last straw for her, yet she finds herself falling even further on 22. Talk about bringing a character to her lowest point! There’s only way to go now and that’s up…right? It’s hard to say, because Heflin, Tedesco, and Bruscha have really painted Calie into a corner. The final action in the last panel sums up exactly how readers will feel and have them scrambling to camp out at their local comic book store to see what happens next. Overall grade: A

The art: Another mixed bag this month from artist Giorgia Sposito. She’s using a lot of empty space to create a dramatic mood with her visuals and it’s not working. If she’s going to leave that much space to be dramatic, she better be hitting all the right marks with the characters and have some pretty detailed backgrounds. Case in point, the first panel has a decent illustration of Violet kneeing her mother to the chin: Violet looks good, but there’s a major “explosion” when the knee connects and Calie’s head isn’t already going backwards — that’s in the next panel. And why are there speed lines behind the image? Neither character is rushing forward or flying, so they shouldn’t be there. The magic on Pages 2 and 3 is very simplistic, especially at the top of 3, though panels four through six are appropriately simple and very humorous. Better is the double-paged splash of 4 and 5 which has no wasted space: it’s obvious that Sposito can draw outstandingly; she just needs her work to be like this. Sadly, Page 6 returns to empty space. The protagonist looks terrific, but the empty spaces do nothing to increase the tension of the story. 12 and 13 is also a double-paged spread and it is too simple to have any real impact on the reader. The text does the heavy lifting, yet this should have been the strongest visual of the issue. The character’s entrance on 20 is great, but it’s only one character. Sposito is picking and choosing when to put in an effort with her visuals and it’s coming off poorly. Overall grade: D+ 

The colors: This issue does have a good job done by Leonardo Paciarotti. He puts a nice mixture of shades on Pages 2 and 3 when flames are used, but really shines on 4 and 5 when it’s the two characters fighting: look at the excellent work Paciarotti does on their skin and clothing. I especially like the work on the jeans on the center images. The strong work continues on 6 – 9 with the protagonist, with that individual’s hair looking incredible. Pages 10 and 11 are a mess, though. Granted, Paciarotti does not have much to work with, but he blankets most of the image with a orange to denote evil. It’s just too big a splash of color throughout the image, overwhelming it and making it come off as a blob. I really had to search through the colors to find details in the art, especially around the building. Things improve dramatically on the last few pages, but the odd taste of 10 and 11 linger. Overall grade: B+ 

The letters: Narration, dialogue, a specific tiny character’s speech, a yell, the villain’s dialogue, and the Hatter’s speech are conjured by Christy Sawyer. I continue to enjoy certain characters receiving their own font, the villain’s dialogue being elegantly evil, which suits him perfectly. Overall grade: A 

The final line: The visuals aren’t at the same level as the story, but this is still worth checking out. Witness a hero being dragged down. Hopefully she’ll get back up next month. 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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