Pullbox Reviews: Grimm Fairy Tales #35 – A villainous monologue, & a trek through Wonderland

  • Grimm Fairy Tales #35
  • Zenescope
  • Written by Dave Franchini
  • From a story by
  • Illustrated by Cleber Lima
  • Colors by
    • Jorge Cortes (pages 1-14 & 20)
    • Maxflan Araujo (pages 15-19)
  • Letters by Taylor Esposito
  • Art Direction & Design by Christopher Cote
  • The Grimm Universe created by Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco
  • Available February 12, 2020

Skye has made it to the realm of dreams, but Wonderland is far more nightmarish than anything the Guardian of the Nexus has seen. As she travels through this land of madness, certain truths will be revealed, and things become curiouser and curiouser as Skye finds out everyone is all a little mad here. Will she be able to make it out with her life or at the very least her own sanity?

One of these days, the CW network is gonna realize that there’s a whole new comicbook franchise just waiting to be picked up. Having recently binged through the latest Arrowverse crossover (I had the flu, so there wasn’t much else going on), and even more recently perused some of the latest issues of Zenescope Entertainment’s Grimm Universe, I’ve come to realize that they’re made for each other. There’s just too much shared DNA to ignore forever.

So there’s this bad guy who looks a lot like Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, and he’s taken over a pretty major chunk of real estate in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts was pissed, but there were these giant tentacle things coming out of the sky and whirlwinds and stuff, so what can you do? Anyway, Skeletor… I mean… damn, I actually have no idea what the Big Bad’s name is because it doesn’t show up anywhere in this issue. And I’ve been through the issue a couple times now, looking for it.

What were we talking about?

Right! The Big Bad has set up residence in Wonderland, usurping the palace of the Queen of Hearts to establish his very own Camelot Reborn. He has in his possession The Grail- which looks nothing like a golden cup, or even “the cup of a carpenter” for that matter, but which Skeletor… sorry, the Big Bad… plans on attaching to the legendary armor of King Arthur so that he can control the Universe!

Cue maniacal laughter…

Meanwhile Skye Mathers- the current Guardian of the Nexus & she who defends the Universe against the forces of chaos with the help of her mentor, Shang, and the book of Fairy Tales- is a little lost. She’s making her way through the madness that is Wonderland, trying to get to… okay, I think she’s trying to get to Camelot Reborn where her friend Stephen is being held captive by Skel… The Big Bad. See, the Big Bad wants Stephen to work on this suit of armor for him, cuz he’s descended from Hephaestus and that’s totally his kind of gig. Really though, most of this issue was spent listening to Big Bad monologue about how awesome he is, and Skye doesn’t even show up in her own book until past the halfway mark.

Let’s be honest here, the folks at Zenescope aren’t trying to compete with the works of Shakespeare or Neil Gaiman. What they’re focusing on are the comicbook equivalents of Michael Bay blockbusters. I’d have to say that in most cases, they succeed pretty handily… and then along comes an issue like old #35 here. Not a single explosion to be seen. In fact, with the exception of a minor skirmish toward the end, writer Dave Franchini has turned in a comic that’s filled mainly with exposition on the part of the Big Bad (if I slip & call him Skeletor again, I’m gonna get sued). In a lot of cases, that would make for a slog of a comic to get through, but Franchini makes it relatively painless. He uses bits of dry humor seeded throughout his dialogue, and at times it seems as though Skull Face Man is fully aware of his role as monologuing bad guy. In the end, the issue sets up for what will hopefully be a much more dynamic Bayfest.

On to the artwork, fair readers! In the past, one of the hallmarks of Zenescope’s titles has been in their… ahem… artistically drawn female heroes, many based on the fairy tales from which this comic takes its title. They’ve settled down a bit lately, giving their ladies of action a bit more… ahem… coverage as they go about their daily business of defending the weak and slaying the monsters. In the case of this comic, the team of Cleber Lima, Jorge Cortes, & Maxflan Araujo have done a fine job. Again, the majority of this issue centered on the Big Talk Making of… that one guy… so there wasn’t much by way of dynamic action to be found. I will say that much of what we did get was fairly done & was over with pretty fast. In the end, the illustrations here got us through to the end of the issue, & everyone was happy.

For his part, Taylor Esposito knows his business & is actually one of the letterers I recognize by name in comics. As we’ve already established that most of this issue is talky-talk word speaking, Esposito gets to strut a bit and there isn’t a single dialogue balloon that’s out of place. Beyond that, Esposito might have had a little fun in the sound effects, as well as a few panels when Skye gets into an argument with the book’s peevish narrator.

If I were going to cite a negative in this review, something I generally don’t like doing, it would be that it isn’t very new-reader friendly. We’ve established that we go through the entire issue without the Big Bad’s name being used. For all of the chitchat he engaged in, you’d think he could’ve belted out at least one, “I, <insert name here>, will rule the universe!” Skeletor did it all the time, not that the two are at all similar. A few more recaps could have been helpful, mainly in the introduction of some of the characters not named Skye, just to give a non-regular reader (that would be me) a chance to get a foot in the story without losing interest.

Bottom line, despite never getting the chance to really catch up with the plot in progress, I was still entertained. Working on the assumption that this is one of the goals in writing comics, I’d have to call it a success on the part of the Zenescope family. New readers are going to have trouble jumping onto the moving train, but it can be done… ComiXology is liable to have a sale on back issues eventually.

Final Score: 8

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