Tag Archives: wonderland

Strange Comic Trends: Women Lying Down on Strange Backgrounds

trends001This is not so much of a comic only trend, but it is one which is evident enough in popular culture, specifically music videos.  As a design element it is common enough to find in music videos a female singer lying down on an eclectic background as she sings, with the camera panning around her, usually with them squirming a bit on the background as they sing.  For some reason this has been an influence in music videos long enough that it was evident in some of Britney Spears earlier songs as well as recently showing up in videos for Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande.  Certainly there are only so many inspirations that can exist for music videos, but this is one which is evidently very female, as no male singer has ever been shown to do it.  As such it would seem to be sexual in some way, even if there is no real implied sexiness associated with it.

Since the introduction of Grimm Fairy Tales from Zenescope it has perhaps been the covers which have gotten the worst press for the company.  While the covers do often depict its female characters in suggestive poses it is also a series which is noted for the abundance of mostly well written strong female leads.  As such over time the covers have taken on different context.  While there are still some which are sometimes exploitative and even overly sexual, there are lots which also just pay homage to iconic imagery of women as presented in the media, whether that be a woman waiting at a train stop or an updated depiction of Rosie the Riveter.

wonderland035aOne of the three main covers for Wonderland #35 depicts Calie Liddle in the previously mentioned pose, though in this case it would seem to be almost a bit tongue-in-cheek.  Although this trend of using female stars lying down on different backgrounds is not really fully described as a concept, it evidently exists enough in the public consciousness that this title could almost be said to be lampooning it.  At first sight the image doesn’t look too different but when looked at more closely it is very much not the norm.  Instead of a background which is normal, Calie is instead lying on the scales of what appears to be the neck of a dragon, an abnormal place for this as compared to the pop stars who more often than not are lying on a carpet with a strange design.  In so doing it takes this design element and removes part of the hidden sexuality of it and replaces it with strength, incidentally something which Zenescope is known to with its female characters.

 

Review: Wonderland #35

wonderland035bThere is an interesting moment near the middle of this issue.  It is reminiscent of the original source material, but at the same time very different.  This singular moment acts as a microcosm for this series as whole.  It is now very much different from the original source material, but it retains the same spirit, and as such acts as a logical interpretation of the evolution of this series.  The creative team has taken what has come before, both from Lewis Carroll and from its predecessors at Zenescope and taken it in a new direction while still retaining enough from the past to make it maintain its continuity.

The present version of Wonderland has taken on what is essentially a fantasy setting, with inspiration from the original world of zany madness.  Calie and the Cheshire Cat are aided by the Squire, who spends the issue hunting for her adversary before joined by her allies.  Calie and the Cheshire are busy at the beginning dealing with their own peril, including the scene which pays homage to the beginning of the classic book.  This involves an interesting scene involving a literal cat fight which plays out in the background while the series heroine has to find the artifact which she is after.  Meanwhile a group of evil fairies aim to imprison the villain for this story arc, but in doing so they risk unleashing his true power.

The entire story here flows well, with the action balanced equally with the plot.  The plot is going almost full-on fantasy, with Calie playing a similar role to many other iconic heroes from the genre, all the while retaining her ties to Wonderland and the real world.  For a story arc which started out a bit slow, it has picked up all the momentum that it needs here, and it promises a memorable enough resolution.

Story: Erica J. Heflin Art: Manuel Preitano
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Wonderland #34

wonderland034The ongoing story of Calie Liddle has been one which has left many questions unanswered about the realm of Wonderland.  Most of the early stories featured characters that were close facsimiles of those from Lewis Carroll’s books, although with a more violent twist.  As the series moved away from the focus on Wonderland to a focus on Calie trying to protect her daughter from its perils, the land once again was ignored.  With the eventual and recent ascension of Calie to be the White Queen of Wonderland, at last the land was freed to be explored.  With a focus on fantasy the realm is given the potential to be a rich landscape, especially with the tie-ins to the literary background, but at the same time it is necessary to find a landscape which fits both influences as well as Calie’s ties to the real world.

The most recent issue of Wonderland represents the middle issue of only the second story arc since Calie was let loose on the land to free it of the remaining pieces of its madness.  In the previous issue Calie is led top the Antipathies who can reveal her true dreams to her, but at the same time a new warrior arrives to fight those that have been using dreams to fuel their own evil.  This acts as the second issue of what is a longer story arc and doesn’t have as many big moments, but manages to move the plot along well enough as Calie enters the pool of the Antipathies and as she comes face to face with the new warrior.  While this is an intermediary issue, it does also highlight the depth to which the new series writer Erica J. Heflin is willing to take to layer more into the realm.  Some of it is too convenient to fantasy (dragons) but much of it is not, and while this issue lacks a lot of big moments, it at least shows the logical approach that the writer is taking to make the series emulate and give homage to the source material as opposed to distorting it.

There is less to expect from this issue, though as opposed to the previous week’s White Queen tie-in to Realm War, this at least works to get the non sequitur out of the character’s path and to get her back on track for her own stories.  Those picking up this particular issue for the first time for a look into the well developed characters will likely be a little bit unimpressed as this is really not the strongest issue around to highlight what is so special about the character.  Nonetheless this issue does what it needs to, moving the plot along and setting the stages for another memorable story arc.

Story: Erica J. Heflin Art: Manuel Preitano
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

 

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Tithe01_CoverAWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Brett

Top Pick: Nutmeg #1 (Action Lab Entertainment) – There’s been such a fresh amount of releases of comics that break the mold of the traditional comic recently. This new series is another example of that focusing on some high school girls and their revival. Yup, it’s that simple, yet so welcome.

Archie vs. Predator #1 (Archie) – The first issue is great, mixing in classic Predator moments with a style that’s all Archie. So subversive. So much fun.

Bloodshot Reborn #1 (Valiant) – The Valiant left a very different Bloodshot out there at the end. This series picks up from there with a new status-quo and one I’m fascinated to see.

The Fox #1 (Archie/Dark Circle) – Archie’s going dark and mature with their new line of superhero comics. So far so good, and this first issue has very lofty expectations from me.

Letter 44 #15 (Oni Press) – It’s been six months since the last issue, and all hell has broken loose.

Edward

Top Pick: The Tithe #1 (Image Comics) – Comics are all the much better when they mix interesting concepts with social commentary.  Such seems the case here with a group that robs from mega-churches and gives the money to the poor.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad #2 (Marvel/Disney) – This is not just a Disney ride.  Instead it gives a different take on the Western genre, while staying true enough to the roots of the story.

Ms. Marvel #14 (Marvel) – Those getting caught up in the Batgirling of all comics forget that Marvel did it here first without the fanfare.  This standout series delivers more of what has given it such acclaim.

Thor #7 (Marvel) –  This “Love It or Hate It” title should just be just the former.  Since the introduction of the new Thor there has hardly been a misstep.

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Wonderland #34 (Zenescope) – Erica J. Heflin’s run on Wonderland has been great so far, and this story arc promises more to come for Zenescope’s most complex superhero.

Review: Wonderland #33

wonderland033Calie Liddle has been getting a lot of focus recently, between two Grimm Fairy Tales miniseries in the past year that have tied her into the larger universe, and her own ongoing series.  While the other series are great in that they increase the exposure for this complex character, they are also not where the true strength of this character rests.  For the majority of the character’s existence her complexity was derived from a simple question, trying to figure out how much of her madness was within and how much came from Wonderland.  Now ruling over Wonderland as its White Queen, the series has been redirected to a completely different direction, focusing instead on her quest to rid the realm of the madness which infects the others.

In terms of the new direction, it was relatively seamless, her victory not resulting in the end of her stories, but rather serving as the continuation of what has come before. The first story arc of this new direction featured Calie battling a menace on both Earth and in Wonderland, and presumably operating under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” concept, this second story arc is laid out in a similar pattern, as Calie goes to hunt for a bizarre group known as the antipathies, but not before getting kind of creeped out on Earth.  While the format is the same, the presentation is not.  While this issue suffers a bit of a bump is in its presentation of new characters, it is only a minor setback compared to the interpretation of this fantastical setting as well as the surprisingly close relationship between Calie and her cat.  By the end of the issue with what lays ahead, this may end up being a noteworthy story arc.

One of the main criticisms of most Zenescope titles is that they rely on selling scantily clad female characters, and otherwise it is just a bunch of boring fairy tale stories.  The same can be said for a lot of comics not just for Zenescope, and those that think so are missing out on a lot of interesting stories.  This can be especially said for Wonderland, what is Zenescope best series and product by a wide margin.  In some respects this issue falls a bit short of the expected, especially in the replication of the format which came before, but as always there is more depth here than in a lot of comics and so this issue, while maybe not a standout, serves as a good example of why more people should think of this series as a standout.

Story: Erica J. Heflin Art: Manuel Preitano
Story: 8.8 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

 

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

HOWARD001_COVWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Brett

Top Pick: Howard the Duck #1 (Marvel) – Chip Zdarsky is generally hilarious. Just search for his history with Applebees. His writing Howard the Duck hopefully will be half as funny. I’m expecting it to be just insane, and beyond entertaining.

Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Hopefully this comic series based off of the two films is excellent and not heinous. While I somewhat expect the latter, I love the first Bill and Ted film, so hoping for the best.

Ninjak #1 (Valiant Entertainment) – Valiant is the best superhero universe out there right now. They consistently put out fantastic comics with great art. This series puts the focus on Ninjak, the sometime MI-6 and Unity team member. It’s an awesome first issue, with amazing art, another solid debut from Valiant.

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 3 #1 (Archaia/BOOM! Studios) – Mouse Guard is consistently a fantastic series with a beautiful story and art to match. A new volume is always something to celebrate, especially since the series is perfect for kids and adults alike.

Southern Cross #1 (Image Comics) – NOW BOARDING: Southern Cross, tanker flight 73 to TITAN! Alex Braith is on board retracing her sister’s steps to the refinery moon, hoping to collect her remains and find some answers. The questions keep coming though—how did her sister die? It’s science fiction meets a murder mystery.

 

Edward

Top Pick: Thor #6 (Marvel) –  Neither gods nor readers yet know the identity of the new Thor.  Answers are unlikely here, but the path to finding out has been pretty fun so far.

Ant-Man #3 (Marvel) – The first issue was a gem, and the second was a bit of a dud. Which will the third issue be?

Postal #2 (Top Cow Productions/Minotaur Press) – The first issue of this mystery series from Image was compelling, combining unexpectedly engaging characters with a one-of-a-kind setting.

Spider-Gwen #2 (Marvel) – After a near frenzy of excitement over the alternate universe Spider-Woman/Spider-Gwen, the first issue somewhat failed to capitalize on it with a good story.  It will be interesting to see if they are going to.

Wonderland #33 (Zenescope) – Calie and the Cheshire go on another quest to rid Wonderland of madness. The first was pretty great, so the second arc looks promising.

 

Elana

Top Pick: The Humans TP (Image Comics) –  My top pick of the year. 1970 outlaw bikers: they are animals! The animals are us! Literally. Tom Neely and color artist Kristina Collantes’ art puts others to shame. Mind blowing scenes of insanity with period-accurate costumes (I’d know) and bikes (they tell me) composed by an artist with the best chops around. It feels like a real underground comic from 70 but more accessible, action-heavy yet character driven. It is living proof of the value of hand lettering. It has an online soundtrack of garage punk/metal/ “is this a john carpenter movie?” soundtrack. https://m.soundcloud.com/the-humans-soundtrack

Oh and it’s by the Henry and Glenn crew. This has a cult-like following. One of us!

Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift #3 (KaBOOM!/BOOM! Studios) – I haven’t read this yet but I need to. She’s a remarkable creation and I’m glad they keep making series with her in the lead. Do you know a kid that digs this series? Let me know in the comments.

Ms. Marvel #13 (Marvel) – Some day your kids will ask you “Parent, did you read Ms Marvel when it was coming out? I learned it revolutionized the industry and was utterly charming.” And you will say yes, or you will be ashamed. SHAMED!

Silver Surfer #10 (Marvel) – I’m no expert Whovian but this book is less Doctor Who then I expected. It’s more something of its own and I think that’s because Surfer’s voice is unique. At times Dawn feels too childlike. But with art this fun I’ve got to keep buying it.

Southern Cross #1 (Image Comics) – The panels from this that have been trickling out on social media are stunning. Colleen Doran’s art is dark and beautiful. I don’t even know the concept. I’m getting it anyway

 

Nevada

Top Pick: Roller Girl (Dial Books) – Junior high school was a really difficult time for me so I can relate to Roller Girl’s challenges as she navigates that minefield. Wish I would’ve had roller derby—can’t wait to see Roller Girl in action!

Artist & Models: The Glamour Art of Kent Steine (Binary Publications) – Love the cover of this volume and look forward to perusing the pages filled with glamour art & photographs as well as commentary by Mr. Steine.

Constantine #23 (DC Comics) – I’m a big fan of the show and new to the comic so I look forward to giving this a look to see Constantine on the page. Love his attitude and supernatural noir sensibility.

Juxtapose #171 (High Speed Productions) – I always feel so in the know and cutting edge when I read Juxtapose, with its up to the minute art and graphic news and lavish layouts; this Underground Art issue looks like one not-to-be-missed.

Lisa Simpson Figurine (Monogram Products) – I love Lisa and share many of her interests and concerns, so I’ll have to get this figurine for my desk to inspire me when I’m feeling somewhat misunderstood—just keep playing that sax, Lisa! Also it makes me want to listen to jazz music.

Review: The White Queen #2

WhiteQueen_AOD_02_cover BRolling out of the pages of Age of Darkness comes this unconventional entry into the Grimm Fairy Tales sagas.  The farther that the stories get away from the shared universe, the stronger that they tend to be, and that is the case here.  In the first issue, the Dark Queen was introduced into Calie’s world and despite her inability to control Wonderland she proved quite capable of controlling Calie.  After all it was only the Dark Queen that controlled the one thing that could kill Violet.  This second issue picks up from there, and while it doesn’t necessarily go in the direction that one might think, it still builds well in the path that it chooses.

Early into the issue, there is a strange recollection by Calie of a childhood dream where she met the Dark Queen.  This is a bit of retroactive continuity for a character that was made into the Queen of Wonderland more as an afterthought after her own struggles, but aside from this literary shortcut, the entire issue works well.  At one point the Trickster lines up a myriad of foes against Calie, but the battle is not shown, rather only the victorious cutaway afterwards.  While some might feel cheated out of the fight, it also fits in a difference sense, as the real fun in this story is when Calie manages to summon the spirits of the previous rulers of Wonderland, and the creative teams deserves credit specifically for its presentation of the Jabberwocky, both in the art but especially in the speech.

This is a short series, with the following issue being the last,but it has been unexpectedly entertaining in its relatively short run.  The character are not written for depth, but they don’t really need to be as they are well established elsewhere.  Instead it is the concept which drives the interest here, and it works.  It might not if it were drawn out longer, but in this shorter version, the miniseries manages a better focus.  By the end of this issue it is well set up for a showdown in the final issue and it looks equally as fun.

Story: Troy Brownfield Art: Luca Claretti
Story: 8.1 Art: 8.1 Overall: 8.1 Recommendation: Read

Zenescope provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

Three Grimm Fairy Tales Characters That Should Have Their Own Series

Zenescope’s flagship franchise, Grimm Fairy Tales, has one of the strangest track records when it comes to its main characters.  There are very few comic companies that have their own shared universes (DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and IDW to a limited degree) but among them Zenescope is one where the majority of its main characters are female.  Not surprisingly, the brand does very well with female readership, even if most of them are initially turned off by the often exploitative covers which are evidently in place to draw in unsuspecting male readers.  While it is a relatively large publisher, it still struggles at times to produce its own ongoing series, instead often relying on sequences of mini-series.  The only ongoing series for the company have been the main Grimm Fairy Tales series, Wonderland, Robyn Hood, and the now canceled Myths and Legends.

With such a rich background of characters, there are still lots of options to explore to introduce new characters, and new characters to highlight in their own series, but which characters deserve their own series the most?  Here are three options.

Britney Waters/Little Red Riding Hood

britIt came as a bit of a surprise when Robyn Hood was given her own series over Britney Waters, who is after all the first cover girl in the series, with series lead Sela not even appearing until the second issue.  What has a tendency to work at Zenescope are the properties which are the furthest away from the magical land of Myst, that realm so often muddying or confusing the main storyline from its own focus.  Britney is a character who interacts most often with the other main characters, but also one for whom Myst is less of a connection, she has ties there, but they do not define her like they do for the other characters.  Instead there are a lot of popular characters in popular fiction at the moment that have a supernatural aspect to them, and Britney’s werewolf like powers fit well within those.  After every other major female lead has had a series focus on them, it is probably Britney’s turn for the spotlight to see if she can handle her own ongoing.

Akili

akiliThe stories of the Jungle Book as told by the Zenescope writers was one of the most surprising series that the company has published.  Instead of focusing on the adventures of the characters, it explores some deeper themes, and interacts its characters in a playful but meaningful way.  The series have mostly focused on Mowgli, as the presumed agent that will eventually free Kipling Island from its propensity for war.  Supporting her are two other major human characters of the island, Bomani and Akili.  While Bomani acts as somewhat of an antagonist to Mowgli, Akili is more of an ally, and her sensitivities to the smaller creatures of the island are also an interesting theme which could be explored.  The series writer, Mark Miller, has said that this third installation is likely the end, and it raises the question if the main characters will be thrust into the Grimm Fairy Tales Universe as all other characters are.  Either way, it might be time to let Akili have some of spotlight.

Trickster

WhiteQueen#02C cover-Tucci-IvanColors (1)Little is even known about this character that has shown up in only one issue thus far, in the White Queen miniseries.  While the character is far from developed, there are at least some factors which could make the character appealing to readers at least in a design way.  Part of what has made the Wonderland series popular is that the design of the characters tends towards the zany at times, counterparts in design to Harley Quinn.  Harley Quinn is herself an enigma, though while able to express major violence and lack of empathy, on her own she is a crazy intersection of much of the DC Universe, kind of like what Ambush Bug was like at another time.  Although it is unlikely that the Trickster could carry her own series, a miniseries to fill out her background and to show her true motivations would be interesting, especially as she could almost be billed as Grimm Fairy Tales’ Harley.

Review: Wonderland #32

WONDER032_cover AErica J. Heflin has done some interesting things since taking over this title.  Previously the series and all spin-offs had been under the overseeing gaze of its Zenescope creator, Raven Gregory.  Since taking over the helm, Erica, has proven that there are a lot of good stories left to tell with the main characters of the Wonderland series, but she has pulled off some other notable successes as well.  One of them is with this issue, and ties indirectly into the previous issue.  In fact, it is quite indirect as it really has nothing to do with it, other than the fact that both have been stand alone issues of good quality, which is a relative rarity in modern comics where every story seems to be part of some story arc or some new direction.

The story here even focuses very little on one of the strongest parts of the series, the protagonist and hero Calie Liddle.  Instead it focuses on the Cheshire Cat.  In the madness of Wonderland where anything is possible, there are still some things which feel out of place, but the writer is capable of making a community of laughing maniacal cats seem to be at place, even when the leader of the cats dwarfs the other large cats.  Cheshire has returned home to be judged by his peers and his community after having long since left.  What follows is an unconventional story as he is forced to fight for his life in unforeseen ways.

What ends up transpiring is story which should feel out of place in the land of Carroll, but instead fits right in.  Of course this is still the Grimm Fairy Tales version of Wonderland and is thus a bit more brutal, but the manner of the cats and Calie’s eventual response to them is close to being a perfect mix for the modern Wonderland as can be found.  As the next issue promises the lead-in to the next story arc, the previous two issues almost makes the reader wish that another story arc was not up next, as the stand alones have been fulfilling reads.

Story: Erica J. Heflin Art: Vincenzo Riccardi
Story: 8.8 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Zenescope provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

 

Preview: Wonderland #32

Wonderland #32: The Forest of Grinning Teeth

Written by Erica J Heflin
Art by Vincenzo Riccardi
Colrs by Ben Sawyer
Letters by Christy Sawyer
Edited by Pat Shand
Price #3.99
Release Date: 2/11/15

Callie Liddle is the White Queen. Now she cares for the realm that once existed to torment her family.  With the White Rabbit and a newly reformed Cheshire Cat by her side, she seeks to transform the tainted realm back to its original glory…but it will not be an easy task.

PREVIOUSLY

The Dark Cheshire was once a ruthless killer, corrupted by the madness of the Wonderland.  But now, under the rule of the White Queen, he attempts to atone for his past evil actions.  When judgment approaches, all Cheshires must answer the call of their kind.

WONDER032_cover A

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