In Review: Wonderland #42

An excellent character study brought down by poor visuals.

The covers: Three options to drive yourself crazy as you track down all the covers. The A cover is the most dramatic piece, by Renato Rei and Stephen Schaffer, depicting Violet Liddle finally succumbing to the King of Spades. His hand is on her shoulder in triumph. A good image, but not a great one — too much dead space. The B is more to my liking. It’s by Vinz el Tabanas and it’s got Violet being held by two of the Hatters that are slowly driving her mad. Teapots and cups are flying about as she’s trying to free herself. The Hatters look creepy, she’s attractive, and the colors make this pop. The C is by Paolo Pantalena and Ula Mos. This focuses exclusively on Violet as she’s fully embraced her Hatter persona. Great illustration and vibrant colors make this the pick of the three and the image I chose to accompany this review. Overall grades: A B-, B A, and C A+

The story: “The Life and Death of Violet Hatter” is by Erica J. Heflin and it follows Violet’s battle to reclaim her mind and future from the Hatters and the King of Spades. The book opens with her contemplating her future, her wrists slit and bleeding on the floor. She begins to cry and falls backwards. Her mother appears before her as her skin begins to deteriorate. Her mother says, “This is what happens when you let the Hatter win, Violet.” The troubled girl becomes a skeleton, but the vision of her mother won’t let her rest. Her skull is lifted and her mother gazes upon it. “There are more things in Wonderland and on Earth, Violet, than are conceived of in you insanity. Time to cut the cord, kiddo.” The skull crumbles to dust. However, this is only on Earth. In Wonderland, Violet is alive, side by side with the King of Spades, who encourages her to continue to drink from a chalice which will strengthen her body and her soul so that he can use. However, the King seems unaware that the previous Hatters are speaking to Violet, driving her insane. She has to make a choice to follow their paths or create one for herself. This is a great exploration of a character who’s been primarily a background character in Calie’s saga. This issue expands her immensely, showing the reader why she feels the way she does and why she makes an important choice. Along the way a supporting villain gets a terrific surprise on Page 13. Calie, trapped on Earth with the Cheshire Cat, make an appearance on two pages, with them receiving quite a shock. Heflin, wonderfully, cannot leave the characters with any hope, as the final page shows that greater and more devious plans for them are afoot. Overall grade: A

The art: This was an incredibly disappointing element of this book. Giorgia Sposito starts out nicely with a moody splash of Violet on a spot of gray with her life fluids spilling out of her, but the turn of a page shows too much space wasted on a bizarre circular layout. Page 3 is better, but there is a lack of detail in all the characters, making them appear to be quick sketches, especially with Vi’s skeletal remains. Things do not improve after this. The backgrounds are very simplistic, drawing attention for their basic look and not their epic scale. The villains do not look good. The King of Spades and the character he speaks with are very rudimentary. In fact, when the second character is later dispatched it’s like a piece of melted chocolate, leaving cartoon eyes behind: it was neither scary or gross, as it should have been. There is only the most basic of depth presented in Violet’s image, with the colorist having to create shades on clothing and hair to give them three dimensions. However, when the Hatters converge on Violet in the climax of her mental battle, they are given a unique perspective, but, again, it’s so simplistic to make the idea come off as half accomplished. The final page is absolutely atrocious. This work wounds the experience of reading this book. Overall grade: D-

The colors: I tip my hat to Leonardo Paciarotti for going above and beyond the call of duty for this book. Look at what Paciarotti is doing on the first page: the shading on Violet’s clothing and skin give her a three dimensional look. Throughout the book Paciarotti is putting colors into Violet’s hair to make it look like she doesn’t just have a shape atop her head. Different colors are also put into the King’s skeletal face to give him some dimension. There’s also some nice shading put onto the character who gets a pointed surprise in this installment. Backgrounds get a nice pink to make them seem upbeat, which is completely contrary to what Vi is experiencing. Paciarotti does what he can. Overall grade: C+

The letters: Narration, dialogue, Hatter narration and dialogue, King of Spades speech, the individual’s speech that first appears on Page 5, sounds, and Cheshire Cat speech are brought into existence by Christy Sawyer. This is the type of lettering that has me excited to look in a Zenescope book. Sawyer has certain characters getting their own unique font, setting them apart from all other characters and making what they have to say visually interesting. I wish other comics did what Sawyer and Zenescope do in their books. Overall grade: A 

The final line: An excellent character study brought down by poor visuals. This is the type of book that makes me crazy! It could have been a classic had the art matched the story. 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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