In Review: Wonderland #50

A powerful conclusion with art that does not rise to the occasion.

The covers: A big nine covers to collect for this final issue of Wonderland. The A cover is by Daniel Leister and Ceci de la Cruz. This is an appropriate cover with the White Queen shown holding her staff and sword, with a giant bust shot of the Ace of Spades behind her. The art looks good and the colors are equally well done. That said, this was the physical copy I purchased. The cover isn’t as crisp as it could have been, as the image looks like it’s been done through a filter. It’s good, but not great. The B is the first connecting cover by Harvey Tolibao and Ivan Nunes. This shows the Cheshire Cat seemingly overwhelmed by several of the villains of this series, including Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the March Hare, and several minions of the Ace of Spades. It’s a strong image, and even if one were not to get the connecting piece this is a really strong cover. The colors are really good from Nunes, and they’d have to be considering all the details in the art. The connecting piece is the C cover by the same artists and it’s just as fine. This shows The White Queen and the Mad Hatter battling the Queen of Hearts, the Ace of Spades, and some more Spade minions. The art is strong and the colors are just a bit brighter on this, with the violet sky allowing the image to radiate a bit more warmth. The D cover is by Ale Garza and Ula Mos and it’s the image accompanying this review. A very sexy Calie is wearing not much while holding a hookah mouthpiece. Behind her is a lecherous caterpillar with infant-like Dee and Dum cartwheeling into space. Great coloring draws the reader’s focus onto her, though the other characters are still visible. Yeah, this is a cover to find. Renato Rei and Wes Hartman have created the E cover. The White Queen is in a forest, holding her staff above her while the tails of her costume whip around her and the surroundings. A purple panther is behind her. It’s supposed to be the Cheshire Cat, I’m assuming, but it looks more like Skeletor’s Panthor. The Diamond Exclusive is limited to 750 copies with art by Martin Abel. This has two beautiful women, one dressed like the classic ideal Alice, the other in Tim Burton-esque black and white colors, sitting on a wicked looking, light green mushroom. Pointy dark violet vines grow behind them and a gorgeous mountain skyline is in the distance. This is a cute cover and the colors are good. This also has gold foil on the logo. The Zenescope Exclusive edition, limited to 350 copies, also has art by Abel. The women’s positions have been reversed, though the background is the same, and the colors are also different — with the sky now being a hot pink. This is just as good as the Diamond version. There’s also a Zenescope Exclusive limited to 50, also by Abel, but I couldn’t find a copy of it online, so good luck finding this one! The final variant cover is the Islander Comics Exclusive, limited to 250 copies, by Sarah Giardina and Ula Mos. The mad tea party is shown, with a buxom blonde wearing a revealing costume that shares the same color scheme as the classic image of Alice, laying atop the party’s table surrounded by several cups and saucers. Below her are several oversized roses that seem to be bleeding. Sitting in the largest chair, just behind Alice, is Violet as the Mad Hatter, with a small version of the Cheshire Cat on her shoulders. She’s pouring herself a cup of tea as the feline flashes a ferocious smile. The art is good and the coloring excellent. Overall grades: A A-, B A, C A, D A+, E B+, Diamond Exclusive A+, Zenescope Exclusive (350) A+, and Islander Comics Exclusive A

The story: Calie cradles Cheshire Cat as she carries him through the Forest of Grinning Teeth in Wonderland. He was wounded last issue, but he states to her, “I…still…serve.” The cat begins to regain his strength, but he’s been gone from his land for so long he can’t return to his gigantic size. He urges Calie to resume her status as the White Queen, so she taps into the energy of the land and becomes the White Queen once again. Just as she takes back her magical form, another Cheshire emerges from the brush to confront her tiny cat. The beast tells them that a gigantic battle is expected to begin and it wishes to join them. Some backstory of Wonderland is given by author Erica J. Heflin, showing how there’s always been a cycle to the land’s existence. Once this information is given, the battle between sides is engaged and the book moves to the final showdown between the Ace of Spades and the White Queen. A fairly recent addition to the Wonderland cast makes a reappearance in this issue as she’s drafted, by the Cheshire, to assist in the battle. After this, the Cheshire assumes a new name and his story got really interesting. His transformation is terrific and what he does is outstanding. I was really rooting for this kitty and he did not disappoint. Back in the Graveyard of the Gods, the battle reaches the point where Calie confronts the Ace and it has a very surprising moment on Page 25. Can Heflin really do this in the final issue? Is the series really going to go out like this? It would truly be a surprise if it does! Before revealing that this is indeed one character’s final fate, Heflin moves the story back to the reluctant recruit, who has a sensational two page action sequence that deals a mortal blow to one villain. When the story moves back to Calie and Violet versus the Ace, there’s a tremendous surprise. How the Ace is dealt with is epic. Really, if a reader thinks that he or she has seen all there is to see of Wonderland, they haven’t seen this! The final page also held a surprise, one that I didn’t think was necessary. This page discounted what Calie said she was fighting for in the previous pages and issues. There is an Epilogue issue that follows next month, and I admit to wanting to see what this does for the saga. Overall grade: A-

The art: J.G. Miranda does the visuals for this book and some pages look great, while others aren’t as good. The first page shows decent character work, but the background looks too sketchy. The second page fares much better with the Cheshire taking much of the focus and the point of view moved around in every panel to make the tension strong. The third page is beautiful as Calie regains her abilities. Pages 4 and 5 are set up as a vertical double-paged spread, with the White Queen composing the center image and the Cheshires’ story surrounding her. The characters look good, especially little Cheshire’s new look. The backgrounds, however, are again lacking: look at what she’s standing on — Is that ground or liquid? Look at the bushes and flowers; they are very basic. The two pages on the history of Wonderland are amazing. I really like the supernatural characters on these pages. The double-paged splash that follows is the epic battle below the castle. Don’t look into the background too much because the characters are really sketchy with spears being primarily shown to give the reader an impression of many soldiers. 12 and 13 look are very strong pages as Miranda has Cheshire with the recruit. The six pages that follow this are exemplary work with the Cheshire battling a terrific foe. These pages look really good. 21 has the action return to Calie and Violet now in the castle battling the bad guys, but the work is not as strong; the backgrounds are minimal, when they appear, and the characters don’t look as good as they did on earlier pages. Page 25 puts the focus on the an action and not the ultimate result, which lessens this major moment in Calie’s life. The character reacting to the events looks incredibly old, and this character shouldn’t. The two page interlude on 26 and 27 looks great, as if it weren’t the same artist. 28 returns the action to the castle and now the characters look incredibly well drawn. Now skip forward to 34 and 35: is this even the same artist? All the characters look entirely different. The last page looks just like the first, but it seems as if three different artists worked on this book. What gives? A very mixed visual experience. Overall grade: C-

The colors: The work of Leonardo Paciarotti gives this work some nice punch to the visuals, making the settings seem very much in the world of fantasy. The opening page’s pinks instantly identify the world as not of Earth. The Cheshire’s purple coat makes him a stand out on every page. The use of whites on 3 are incredible; outlined with light blue, they are amazing. 8 and 9 aren’t the best illustrated of the issue and Paciarotti does what he can, but there’s just way too much orange and red. It’s extremely difficult to find a focus beside the pair in the foreground. The use of grotesque greens on 14 is perfectly obscene. The new color scheme on Cheshire looks great! 24 and 25 don’t have great colors, but that’s due to the illustrations giving him very little to work with. 26 and 27 are better drawn, so the colors look much better on them. Page 36 has a terrific use of orange and gold that match the illustration flawlessly. Paciarotti shines when he has something to work with. Overall grade: B

The letters: Scene settings and dialogue (the same font), Cheshire speech, narration, Ace of Spades speech, sounds, and yells are brought to life by Christy Sawyer. I prefer scene settings and dialogue to have a different font since they’re two different forms of communication, but they don’t hurt the book too much. I love the unique fonts for the Cheshires and the Ace. A good job done throughout by Sawyer. Overall grade: B

The final line: A powerful conclusion with art that does not rise to the occasion. Worth reading if one has been following the saga of Calie Liddle, with one more installment to come in the form of a separate Epilogue. Overall grade: B

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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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