Rating if the Book Were a Movie: R
Story: Raven Gregory, Ralph Tedesco, and Joe Tyler
Writer: Raven Gregory
Artist: Al Rio, Rich Bank, and Daniel Leister
Colors: Thomas Mason and Nei Ruffino
Letters: Artmonkeys and Alphabet Studios
Cover: Talent Caldwell and Thomas Mason
Editor: Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco
Story: 4.5 Stars
Artwork: 4.6 Stars
Cover Artwork: 3.8 Stars
Dialogue: 4.1 Stars
Mechanics: 4.4 Stars
Editing: 3.9 Stars
About the Book:
We all know the tale of how Alice fell through the rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland. She had many adventures there before returning to our realm, Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Return to Wonderland tells us what happened after Alice’s return home.
Alice grew up, got married, and had children. The madness of Wonderland never let go of Alice. She attempted to kill herself; but was found by her daughter, Carroll (aka Callie), before it was too late. In the aftermath Alice is a shell of herself. She finds herself having weekly appointments with a therapist, who suggests to her husband that she needs a pet.
The husband obliges. He gets Alice a white rabbit that she is instantly attached to. Everywhere Alice goes she has the rabbit with her. One day the rabbit gets loose. Alice is frantic. In an attempt to calm her mother down Callie looks for the rabbit. During her search she falls through a hole and finds herself in Wonderland.
I saw Zenescope titles on the shelves at my local comic book store for years before I read my first one. With the way women were portrayed on some of the covers I wasn’t interested. I thought I was looking at titles that were thinly veiled “special romance books”. It appeared that they were targeting fat and skinny guys that couldn’t get a date.
I had a chance encounter with some of the people at Zenescope’s booth at Emerald City Comic-Con in 2019. The Zenescope team had models dressed as Princess Leia there. They were doing photo ops with fans. My buddy Gandalf didn’t think I would have the stones to get my picture taken with the girls and post it on social media where my wife could see it.
I did. My wife laughed when I told her what Gandalf said. My friend Trails saw the picture. He showed it to his wife and asked why he couldn’t do something like that. Trails found himself in the doghouse for a while for that comment.
At the table by the girls one of the creators was handing out free signed copies of Grimm Fairy Tales: Genesis – Heroes Reborn #1. I took a copy and headed on my way to try to get a book signed by a creator that was never at their table when I went by. I never got that book signed. Fun fact, I had lunch at the table next to that creator on the first day of the con. They were with a friend and I didn’t want to interrupt them.
When the pandemic came along in 2020 everyone suddenly had a lot of free time on their hands. The people at Comixology were offering free digital copies of the first issues of a lot of different titles. One of those titles was Grimm Fairy Tales #1. I read it and loved it. I started to look for Zenescope titles in online auctions to get more content from this universe.
One of the first Zenescope books I bought was the first issue of “Se7en”, by Raven Gregory. It wasn’t part of the Grimm Universe; but I liked the movie and wanted to compare the two. The difference between Gregory’s work and the movie was the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing a bullet. I was thoroughly impressed with how well he developed a character with no speaking parts that, being generous, had five minutes of on screen time.
I started following Mr. Gregory on social media hoping for hints about other work he had done because I wasn’t smart enough to just use a search engine. When he mentioned having written stories about Wonderland I went shopping. The individual books all had collector prices. A lot of the TPBs were out of my price range as well. I had to hope to find these titles in my buck box treasures.
When Mr. Gregory announced that he was working on a new title involving Wonderland, I had more of a sense of urgency; but prices were still too high. Then he announced that Zenescope was having a sale on their website with a lot of $5.00 TPBs, including Wonderland books. My patience was rewarded! I ordered 10 different books to get up to speed with Wonderland before the new title hits the shelves.
Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Return to Wonderland is the beginning of this saga. Mr. Gregory continued right where he left off with regards to character development. Carroll, which is a terrific homage to “Through the Looking Glass” writer Lewis Carroll, is very relatable.
Because of Alice’s mental health issues she was forced to grow up too soon. Between school and her home life she feels trapped. Carroll is intelligent and has an edginess about her. That makes her dangerous when provoked.From the word go Mr. Gregory blazes a trail that makes it very clear that this is not the Wonderland story that the mouse gave us.
We immediately see the effects of mental illness. I’m okay with that. This country treats mental health issues like an unspeakable disease. Making it clear what can happen if warning signs go unchecked is just the slap in the face some people need.
We get to see many facets of mental illness, as well as how it feels to experience them, in this story. We see how in some instances people bounce between the world they are physically in and the world their mind has placed them. We see what happens to some people on medications. They are never happy. They are never sad. They are simply existing.
I enjoyed how the sequence of events when Carroll arrived in Wonderland paralleled the story we are all so familiar with. Right up to the point where it doesn’t. Then we get a roller coaster of adventures and surprises that make us want more.
I loved the origin story for the Mad Hatter in this universe. We see the potential early on. Then, like in “The Killing Joke”, it only takes one bad day for madness to take hold. I’m looking forward to the next time we see him.
From what I can tell, this universe’s view of Wonderland is more in line with American McGee’s Alice. There are dark undertones everywhere. There are differences. Most recognizably, some characters have changed sides.
On a grander scale we learn that Wonderland is one of the many names that the Abyss goes by. Some of the worst of the worst have hailed from there. Hitler once called Wonderland home. More like him are trying to cross over to our world. This is promising for future installments.
I liked the classic look of this cover. It is timeless. The playing card style allows us to get a hint of what’s to come. We also get to see a new character, which creates intrigue.
As I have read more and more titles from Zenescope there is one thing that I have come to accept as fact: no matter which artist/artists are working on a title you can expect greatness in the interior pages. The work in this book is no exception. From start to finish we get vivid lines and rich colors that completely immerse the reader into the story.
We get a version of the Cheshire Cat that is jaw dropping. The carpenter is formidable. The caterpillar looks like he’ll help you or kill you, depending on his mood. I loved the page when Carroll demonstrated the appropriate response to an attempted sexual assault.
Full disclosure, this book is not for the faint hearted. There are adult situations that may take you by surprise. There is adult language. In short, this is not a children’s book. In fairness, it isn’t marketed as one.
As a geek on a budget I strongly recommend reading Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Return to Wonderland. Coupled with great artwork, this is a story that will completely change your perspective of Wonderland. If you’re able to take advantage of the sale Zenescope has on their website you are getting a bargain. Get your copy before they sell out the remaining stock!