It probably comes as a surprise, even for the disparate fans of Zenescope that there is a board game featuring one of the company’s properties. It is the case however, as the company seemed interested in expanding its covering of different media beyond just comics to board games. In essence there is probably no better series of characters to draw upon than those of the Grimm Fairy Tales Wonderland setting. In terms of the quality of writing it has consistently been the best that Zenescope has to offer, featuring main characters that are being driven insane even if there is a good reason for this insanity (their connection to Wonderland.) As the characters explore their own issues they keep coming up against the question of the chicken and the egg in terms of their own approach to life and how to deal with the realm of madness.
Although the series has been a standout for Grimm Fairy Tales and Zenescope it also begs the question about how to interpret this to a board game. While some fans might be drawn to the game because of its association to the comics, it is really worth questioning as to whether that is a good idea. The game draws on one of the mechanics of the series, that enemies have to be defeated in both on Earth and in Wonderland, and this is done through the Liddle House which was the source of so many troubles for the family. The usual suspects are here, and it is a nice association with the comic universe, but the mechanics are overly basic. As opposed to some popular games which use unconventional boards and strategies, this game is a relatively straightforward hunt and kill concept based on a grid movement system. The only real twist in the game is that the board is reversed when moving to Wonderland.
It is unfortunate that Zenescope went ahead with this idea as it was. It took a fairly popular series and reduced it to a game which could easily be designed and playtested in single day. It draws well from the comic material, but for fans who are unfamiliar with this material they might also wonder why certain characters are attacking each other and trying to kill one another when this is not the case in the original novel. As it stands this is a pretty weak entry as a board game, and while it would be nice to see Zenescope try again, hopefully it wouldn’t turn out like this did.
There may be no comic book writer who needs to not only be in his exact element of genre, but also to have the exact right characters to make his stories happen as Keith Giffen. Giffen is perhaps best known for his work in the late 1980s and early 1990s when his humor infused comic book writing acted as a counterpoint to the super-serious and dark approaches used for other heroes. The problem with Giffen then as now was that he needed the right characters to work with in order to make his sometimes serious and sometimes comedic stories work. For instance, when writing Justice League he used Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle as main characters to focus the comedy around through some odd hijinks. The problem was that the pair did not really work well together most of the time instead resulting in some awkward situations. The same could be said for the first issue of this two-parter where Gifffen tried to play the humor of Lady Quark and Lord Volt against one another. For the most part this failed and the first issue did not bode well for the second issue.
That is until the arrival of the Ambush Bug. Put together with the titular hero in this story, the two play off each other well in this story. There are still some groan-worthy moments, but mostly the action and banter keeps itself going pretty well throughout this issue. And while other parts of Convergence have introduced the Extremists who are rip-offs of Marvel characters, this has perhaps the strangest pseudo-appearance of another character, with Convergence’s version of Spider-Man showing up.
This issue ends up being what is perhaps one of the better indicators of the impact of Convergence. While this follows along with the overall story line, it doesn’t dwell on it, and instead focuses on the fun dynamic between Supergirl and Ambush Bug. It doesn’t always work, but it works a lot better than the plot has so far in most of the Convergence tie-ins as well as the overall story. This is maybe a forgettable entry into a sub-par crossover, but it is also one of the more entertaining thus far, even if the story is far surpassed by the interaction of the characters.
Story: Keith Giffen Art: Timothy Green II
Story: 7.7 Art: 7.7 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read
This series continues to prove that it has what it takes for a long run, despite the relative unpopularity of the main characters. So far in this series an underlying theme has been the diaspora, in trying to find out where the Inhumans can call home after theirs was destroyed and thrown into the New York harbour. While this theme is still underlying most of what is written, the story took a turn in the previous issue with the return of an Axis infused Medusa, keen on a different level of diplomacy. While the degree of Axis influence seems to vary between other heroes (for instance it is the main inspiration for Superior Iron Man), here it seems to have worn off after a couple of weeks and an honest heart to heart with a stranger in a bar in Chicago.
While the diaspora theme has been interesting in this series, what has really been noteworthy is the strong writing especially as it relates to the characters. With Black Bolt absent from his throne, it falls to Medusa to rule in his place. Her depiction has been a standout in this series, as she deals with being the apparent loss of her husband, the constraints of womanhood and monarchy and the need to lead her nation to a place of stability. While this character seemed to take a vacation for the one Axis issue, she is already back here. What is more, the interesting characters on the run from Ennilux, only introduced two issues previous, are already engaging enough to carry most of the story by themselves.
This series continues to be an unheralded standout for Marvel, one that many people aren’t talking about, but one that people should be, especially with a new focus on the Inhumans companywide. This entire issue was engaging and fun, and never in a superficial way. Everything that was here had its place, and the issue flowed so smoothly that the somewhat surprise ending came all too soon.
Story: Charles Soule Art: Ryan Stegman
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
If one of the main criticisms of the Grimm Fairy Tales imprint is the way in which the main characters in the main series are handled, then this issue should perhaps go down as the first piece of evidence. The character of Cinderella started out in Grimm Fairy Tales as a fairly interesting character. She had been a bit of a reject and dreamed of being recognized and beautiful. In so doing there was a morality tale to say that this is not everything that people should be worried about. Now down this long road into her own series, she never was the awkward girl, was always beautiful and powerful and has always used this as the fuel for her plans and desires.
In this miniseries she was given the task of killing Hades by the Dark Queen to kill Hades, and after failing initially (in the previous issue) she sets a bizarrely bad setting for an ambush, by hijacking a ball which the Dark Queen had planned. This is both out of character for the Dark Queen and too much of a stretch of character for Cindy. The action sequences might be well paced and well choreographed, but the absurdity of the scenario makes them seem just as fluffy as the setting. This entire absurdity continues on throughout, leaving little of note behind and ending with a conclusion that was maybe apparent, but also bizarre and somewhat pointless.
This is the first Grimm Fairy Tales series dedicated to the character and it should have had a lot of potential for at least telling a fun if not not necessarily compelling story. Instead it puts Cinderella into a convoluted plot, paying homage to her past, while still trying to make her a modern versions of the 1990s bad girls that were all over comics. The creative minds at Zenescope are capable of some interesting and thought compelling series, but this miniseries proves that the central core of the Grimm Fairy Tales universe is in a bit of a mess, with far too many legends, fair tales, and mythology mixed together. This series suffered because of it.
Story: Pat Shand and Joe Brusha Art: Ryan Best
Story: 2.5 Art: 7.0 Overall: 2.5 Recommendation: Pass