One of my favorite things about being a part of the team here at Graphic Policy is that I get the chance to review the titles published by Zenescope Entertainment. Honestly, getting to read Zenescope’s comics has been one of my highlights during this train-wreck of a year. I love that their comics fracture fairy tales while adding in science-fiction or horror elements. In Cinderella Annual: Bloody X-Mas, characters from folklore and horror elements are combined with Christmas to create a holiday adventure.
Cinderella is back in this Christmas themed annual, written by Dave Franchini. In a savage twist of holiday spirit, Cinderella is pitted against Krampus, the child punishing demon from Central European folklore. I’m new enough to Zenescope’s Grimm Universe that I don’t know Cinderella’s back story in this world. This annual doesn’t give the reader any details on Cinderella’s history other than a footnote of her last comic book appearance. On one hand, the reader doesn’t need to know her history to jump right into this annual. On the other hand, I spent the entire issue thinking that Cinderella is an odd choice for Uma Thurman’s character in a Kill Bill styled revenge story. Yes, this is a fractured fairy tale, but I kept thinking that Cinderella is the last princess who has a reason to be vengeful. I mean, in her fairy tale, her stepfamily gets their comeuppance and she gets to settle down with a handsome prince without all the borderline date-rapey subtext of princesses like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. I found it odd that Cinderella would be out for revenge against anyone, let alone a Christmas themed demon.
Throughout the story in Bloody X-mas, Cinderella came across as a knock-off Harley Quinn. She spends a good chunk of the story talking to herself and making quips. Harley Quinn is one of my favorite characters and so I actually enjoyed Cinderella’s punchy dialogue, even if it was derivative of another publisher’s creation. I did enjoy the pop culture references, including the nods to Terminator, Star Wars, Charlie Brown, Gremlins, and a myriad of Christmas movies. I thought the homages to How the Grinch Stole Christmas were especially funny. At the end of the day though, the story is heavy on dialogue and light on action and these pop culture references do little to elevate it beyond nostalgia and cheap humor.
Another detail about Bloody X-mas that I found confusing was the fact that so many different artists worked on it. Seven different illustrators and two colorists contributed to this issue. For the most part, all the artists do a good job of meshing their styles together. Unless a scene is an homage to another creative property, it’s hard to tell that multiple people drew this annual. Unfortunately, there is one exception to this. The level of detail put into the characters’ faces changes noticeably, and sometimes dramatically from one page to the next. Regardless of who happens to have the art duties on any particular page, the flow of the story is always clear and the action sequences are drawn well. If I’m being honest, the artwork in this annual did not blow me away. None of it is bad, but there’s nothing impressive or nuanced about it either.
For those who have been following Cinderella’s adventures through the Grimm Universe for the last few years, you’ll probably want to pick up Bloody X-mas. For everyone else, this comic may turn out to be hit or miss. The story is dialogue-heavy and full of attempts at cleverness. For me, not all of the jokes and quips landed, but humor is subjective so individual reader experiences may vary. I enjoyed Cinderella’s character, but recognize that there are those who would quickly become annoyed by her. The artwork isn’t bad, and the various artists work well together. However, few of the pages stand out as exceptional and some might find the random switches between artists to be visually jarring. At the end of the day, Cinderella Annual: Bloody X-mas accomplishes its goal of telling a wacky Christmas story. For those who decide to read it, here’s some advice. Don’t think too hard about what you’re reading and just enjoy the ride.
Story: Dave Franchini
Art: Manuel Preitano (1, 43, 46-49), Salvatore Cuffari (2-10, 44, 45, 65), Adrián Gutiérrez (11-23), Dario Tallarico (24-32), Eduardo Garcia (33-42), Moy R. (50-58), Marc Yarza (59-64)
Color: Manuel Preitano (1,43, 46-49), Leonardo Paciarotti (2-42, 44, 45, 50-65)
Letterer: Taylor Esposito (of Ghost Glyph Studios) with Rienna Bates
Story: 5.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Read
Zenescope provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – Zeus Comics