Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Fairy Tale…er, Fairer SEX, Part XIV, Call of Wonderland #2




Mash-up of so many elements that it has to be good, right?


As I kid, I was kind of an anal little fartknocker. I kept most of my toy's boxes, for at least as long as Mom would let me. I didn't like my food to touch on my plate. I held my books so that I wouldn't bend or crease the spines. 

And forget about buying me Play-Doh. I hated the stuff, because to play with Play-Doh you essentially ruin it for all time. Once you attach one color of Doh to another, forget it. The molecular structure bonds in seconds. Suddenly what was separate pieces like blue circles inside a green square on a red triangle instantly changed into a blob of brown nastiness that needs tossing in the trash.

That's what happens when you mash too many things up together.

Or at least that's what I thought back then. And it's also what I thought when I first encountered Zenescope Entertainment's Grimm Fairy Tales comics and their offshoot books.

The premise to me seemed simple: combine a standard domestic abuse or doomed-to-fail relationship story as a wrapper around a Grimms Brothers' fairy tale done up in a nihilistic 00's morality bent and then use a sexy pinup in a Halloween costume that never appears anywhere inside the book as a cover to sell the thing to the horny male comic-buying audience. 


They were surprisingly popular.

So popular in fact that they spun off titles set in Oz, Neverland, Mowgi's Jungle, Myst, Sherwood Forest,  and (a personal favorite) Wonderland. The whole shebang wrapped up in 2014 by tying most of these stories into one cohesive narrative.

Okay, maybe that should read "trying desperately to tie all of these into one cohesive narrative."

"Herding cats" might be another way to put it. Or trying to stick globs of Play-Doh together and have the colors all stay separate.

What was this over-arching storyline? A league of dark forces was vying for control of all these imaginary lands and Earth. Each land also had a protector from these ancient evils. And in Alice's Wonderland that evil force had been taking the souls of children for years. His name?

In Wonderland they called him the Jabberwocky.

On Earth, he/she/it had another name.

Cthulhu.

Yup. They went there.

They took my favorite Lovecraftian creature and played him against my favorite sexy Wonderland Halloween costume models. I don't know what to do with that. Because that has to end up worse that that Tim Burton movie that came out a few years ago.

I'm going to give it a go, though. For you, gentle readers. For YOU!

So the story opens with two very attractive female leads who are drawn to one another by mysterious forces. We begin by meeting Salome Gray, the owner of the tattoo parlor Anarchy Ink. Her work day is soon to be one she won't forget. Her first customer is this side character, a young lady in for the final hour of work on her back tattoo. 
 

While wandering the shop, she also exposes some crucial clue as to the bad guy of the piece.



Yes, this isn't just some random piece of exposition. Salome's little cousin vanished into Wonderland. Seems that in the previous series Alice Liddle had defeated the evil Red Queen. Bubba-boy here was her suitor, the Red Knight, and he now seeks to destroy all the realms by unleashing an ancient evil. 

And as a child, Salome was his best friend.


Should I be worried the customer is getting a tentacle tattoo or turned on?

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself and the book, but only so you can see where this thing is going. There are LOTS of converging plotlines here and like that Play-Doh, they end up getting pretty gray and twisted.




While all this exposition happens, we turn to this page next of straight up exposition about Cthulhu coming to Wonderland that MIGHT be spoken by the Red Knight. It doesn't appear to be attributed to anyone really, just kind of stuck in there.

And where is the Red Knight exactly? Why on the following page, of course! He's torturing this gentle fellow by the name of Father Time. This is occurring in Wonderland and the Red Knight seeks information on how to set that Great Old One free. 

Father Time is kind of like a sundial floating above an hourglass, and I have to give them a "A" for character design with that. He fits the comedic children's story feel of Wonderland in design. Too bad things don't end well here.
  


The Red Knight is determined to "bring the pain," as it were.

While they discuss how he can't step through into our world and how it is protected by a "guardian," we shift scenes to the second female lead. Julie Sands found a journal written by her favorite author, H.P. Lovecraft. The journal outlines some outlandish things from his life that make it sound like the mythos he invented was real. Inside the journal was a card for Anarchy Ink.

Curious about the book she takes a bus trip down to the tattoo parlor. While on the bus, she decided to continue reading the journal.

Now before I show you the story in the journal, I want to state that THIS is the moment when I feel the book jumps off the rails quite a bit. No, they don't get HPL right but that isn't the sin. This sin is TOO MANY STORYLINES in short choppy succession. The tattoo parlor, the ancient mythos tales, the Red Knight, Julie Sands and now H.P.L.'s adventures as a young man are each shoved at us one after the other. That normally wouldn't be so bad, but the tonal changes between each piece is jarring and gives the book the same feeling you get doing 45 mph over a row of speed bumps. Nothing is given air and allowed to breathe. It is rapid fire storytelling and in the end the colors all meld to gray.


 

Or sepia tones. Here is HPL stalking a neighbor who is doing some unsettling and supernatural things.




Like chunking kids into mirrors.
 
From a basement window, HPL watches as he pitches a young boy into Wonderland through a magical mirror. When they talk of doing it to her sister, Lovecraft takes action. He sneaks into the empty basement. First he scratches a message into the mirror, rendering it useless to them while they bring down the girl.

As they scatter to see who messed up their mirror, they leave the girl with this one guy. And Howard Lovecraft, man of action, goes to work.




Then he looks at the guy's prone body and says "Take a seat" in a thick Austrian accent. Or says "I'll be back." Or something. They are not really channeling the HPL vibe here, but I'll just go with it.

And speaking of go with it, they do. The girl escapes. HLP? He isn't so lucky.

Now the boy couldn't have been Salome's brother, since HLP would have been a young man a decade after the turn of the century. The one in the 1900's. So I have no clue how this relates other than it is similar to what happen to Ben/the Red Knight.

Anyway, back to Julie, whose bus crashes a few yards from Salome's studio. And by crashes, I mean flips end-over-end like this was a "Fast and Furious" sequel. She escapes with a few cuts and bruises, wanders down the street toward her meeting with Salome.

Salome has just wrapped up the customer with the tentacle tat, when Julie busts in, bleeding. We get this real rushed piece of dialogue which is pretty much the entire story up to this point. 

 
When suddenly a cry from the other room makes both rush in to find…

 

I'm oddly and disturbingly turned on by that and I'm gonna need counseling now. It's sexy Cthulhu, ladies and gentlemen. How will the girls get out of this?

As we turn back to Wonderland, we find that the Red Knight has killed Father Time and is gloating about his ability to reach the two guardians of Earth even if he can't be there himself to defeat them.




And that's where the issue ends.

I've never been a fan of these books. They smack of sexploitation. You have to ignore the hot chicks on the covers and realize the insides are not going to deliver on that promise.

I tried concentrating on the story only with this one. Its tale is a bit meh, but other Grimm's books in the Crapbox fair much better. So ignore that tease. You may find the story inside to your liking better if you do as a few of them have decent payoffs.

Just tell them to keep their hands of my mythos, would ya? Daddy is not impressed either.


No comments:

Post a Comment