In Review: Wonderland #49

A good, creepy read, which may be the calm before the storm.

The covers: Six covers to track down on this penultimate issue of this series. Roger Bonet Martinez provides the art and Beezzz Studio the colors for the A cover. A black leather clad Calie uses a huge sword to cleave a gigantic playing card featuring an image of the Queen of Hearts in half. Halving the card has produced a red splattering of fluid that seems to suggest that it is more than just a representation of the queen. This is a good idea for a cover, but it’s really too busy. It’s hard to find a focus, even with the coloring. A different background color might have helped. The B is by Noah Salonga and Jorge Cortes. This features the big bad of the series for over a year — the Ace of Spades. The villain is shown as a giant, moving two game pieces, possibly Heroclix, of Calie and Violet. It’s a cute idea for a cover, but when the Ace is involved “cute” shouldn’t really describe a Wonderland cover featuring him. Everything is illustrated well and the colors are good, just the whole thing comes off as odd. A “good girl” version of the Queen of Hearts has been done for the C cover by Martin Abel. This has a corset, stockings, and gloves wearing Queen sitting in castle window, holding a staff that has a pointed end (So, it’s a lance?). The look of confidence on her is great and the colors are terrific. This is a good cover. Michael Dooney does the art and Ula Mos the colors on the 4th of July Exclusive cover, which is limited to 200 copies. This has Calie in a patriotic bikini on a beach holding up a similarly themed surfboard. It’s a cool cover, with her looking beautiful and ‘Murica! This is one to track down. There’s also a San Diego Comic Con 4th of July Exclusive by the same team, limited to the same number. I couldn’t find an image of it online, so good luck tracking this one down! The final exclusive is the Paul Green and Ula Mos San Diego Comic Con Cosplay Exclusive limited to 25 copies. This is a beautiful cover of a girl dressed, partially, as See-Threepio. This will be a favorite of those who like good girl art and Star Wars. May the Force be with you in getting a copy. Overall grades: A C+, B B-, C A-, 4th of July Exclusive A, and San Diego Comic Con Cosplay Exclusive A+

The story: “Queen of Hearts” is somewhat of a stand alone issue that could be read on its own without having read any other issues of this series, though if one has been following this title the rewards of Erica J. Heflin’s story will be stronger. The first page shows Calie, Violet, and Cheshire enjoying some time on a beach. Well, two of them are. Their actions are accompanied by narration by the villainous Queen of Hearts. She concludes her speech by saying it is time the former White Queen faced her. Cheshire is running around like a wild cat, jumping into the surf and catching a fish. Violet is trying to talk to her mother, but Calie is too busy going through a pack of playing cards. When Cheshire shakes the sand from his body, Calie finally pays attention. The cat gives her his fish as an apology for disturbing her. This causes Calie to tell Violet to buy a swimsuit and hit the beach; they should be enjoying the peace and relaxation while they can. Meanwhile, not too far away, the Queen of Hearts is bored. Humans too easily fall under her sway. She considers, ‘But I think that I might take pleasure in their deaths. They drone on about perfection, beauty, and happiness. They are simple in their ways. Simple in thought. Simple in feelings.’ Her boredom is interrupted by the garden being ready for the punishment she is to impose on one of her followers. If the reader has thought this character too goody-goody, Pages 6 – 10 show how monstrous she is on the inside. Leave it to Heflin to come up with something really twisted that even old man me hasn’t seen before. I was somewhat relieved by the information the Queen receives on 10 that stops the proceedings and has the story move toward their conflict. When the forces do meet, it’s strong reading, with one character being crippled (perhaps mortally), another making a moral choice, and another not letting another escape justice. Strong stuff, to be sure, and very readable. If this battle was this rough, what will hit the heroes in Wonderland? Overall grade: A

The art: It’s taken me some time to figure it out, but Wonderland stories really succeed when the visuals are able to equally capture the beauty and the horror of the world. Joel Ojeda is able to do both very well. Because the opening page is told from the Queen of Heart’s perspective, as she’s considering her upcoming battle with Calie, Ojeda has used spades as panels to show what the Liddles are up to. It’s a very smart way to show the heroes, but shown through the filter of the villain that has stranded them on Earth. The character work on this book is really strong. Looking at the Liddles and Cheshire on the beach, Ojeda shows the reader, through his art, how each feels about their location: Cheshire feels great, Violet relaxed, but Calie is lost in her thoughts. The Queen of Hearts is beautiful, completely at home on the beach, being tended by her willing slaves. Only on Pages 6 and 7 does Ojeda show the horrors this woman is capable of, and they are visually disturbing. 8 should have been the major payoff page of the issue, as it shows how Wonderland has once again gone to hell. The imagery is good, but there’s still too much empty space around the atrocities being committed. Plus, the action on the left is difficult to make out. If this would have been stronger it would have brought an additional level of terror to the book, and increased the tension for the Liddles’ return. The final battle is good, and Ojeda does not disappoint with the visual payoff in the first panel of the final page. This is good work. Overall grade: A

The colors: This is the best element of this entire issue; Leonardo Paciarotti does not make a misstep on any page. The colors used for the beaches and its waters would be absolutely at home in a tourist’s brochure. Characters’ skin is beautiful, giving them a sense of warmth and three dimensions. The eyes on Cheshire radiate off the page. The reds, though, dominate this book. It is the color of the Queen of Hearts and her surroundings. By the end of the book, it is also the color of the fluid that she spills from others. The colors on this book brought Wonderland to life outstandingly. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Christy Sawyer provides Queen of Hearts dialogue, Cheshire speech, dialogue, and sounds. The unique font used for the Queen is spectacular. It instantly sets her apart from everyone else and tells the reader that he or she is reading the Queen’s thoughts or speech. It’s also ironic, given how monstrous this character is, should it really be so lovely? Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is the final battle before returning to Wonderland, and it’s a good one. A good villain wounds one of the heroes, who’s strength might be needed in the struggle against the Ace of Spades. A good, creepy read, which may be the calm before the storm. 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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