Return to Wonderland - SKleefeld
(from Kleefeld on Comics)
Let me start by saying this was my first real look at a Zenscope book. I'd seen some of their previous releases on the shelves, but largely ignored them because I'm generally not interested in horror and/or cheesecake, which seemed to be their focus. I can't argue that there's a market for their stuff, but I don't think I'm it for the most part.
That said, I was curious to see what Raven Gregory and Rich Bonk would do with Wonderland. (As you might guess from the image at the right, though, I opted for the not-likely-to-piss-off-The-Wife cover variant.)
The story opens with Alice as a wife and mother. Her eldest daughter, Calie, is in high school and prone to drug use and promiscuity. Alice's son Johnny isn't quite as old and seems to be more interested in death, blood and gore. Dad (Lewis) is having an affair at work. Alice herself can evidently slip into an almost catatonic state periodically, presumably from the trauma of her prior visit(s) to Wonderland. Her one tenuous grip on reality seems to be a pet albino rabbit that she seems desparate not to part with.
Not surprisingly, this first issue is mostly set-up. The guys here do a solid job of introducing everyone and what their relationships are to one another. It's actually handled rather well and flows pretty smoothly as part of the overall narrative.
I like most of the conteporization of the classic icons/elements of the original story. Calie uses recreational drugs, Alice plays solitaire, Johnny's fetish includes looking at pictures of decapitated bodies... There's no question that this is a darker tale than Carroll's original, but it's also not a direct adapatation. It's a story that takes its general direction from Carroll, but then contemporizes them and forges its own path. This is made easier for fans of the original by not using Alice as the protagonist. It's clearly a different story.
An interesting, and pleasantly refreshing, element I saw was that Calie is clear in her love for her family. I think it would've been very easy to make her a stereotypical angry, rebellious teen who hates everyone. But while Calie still shows rebellious tendencies, she A) is still following in her parents' footsteps and B) recognizes and accepts that she has responsibilities/obligations to her family. It's definitely not the type of family you'd see on Leave It To Beaver, but they're not a wholly disfunctional family that you might see on The Simpsons either.
However, with all the positive aspects of the book that worked, I wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Particularly, the scene in which Calie dreams that Johnny has hacked their parents to death and is serving their severed fingers at the dinner table. It was drawn well, certainly, but it was a bit more disturbing than I was prepared for. Although that admittedly was probably part of the point, it made me a more uncomfortable with the remainder of the issue than I would've otherwise been.
Now, I don't think of myself as a guy who's especially averse to blood and gore, and I'm not one to admonish a comic just for utilizing it. But for whatever reason, this one page (and that's all it really was) somehow tainted my view of the whole issue. Not so much that I won't be coming back for #2, but just enough that I wouldn't give it an unconditional thumbs up.
Like I said, though, this is my first Zenescope book, so that may be par for the course and it's simply something of an acquired taste. The storytelling is solid, the art is well done, and it's definitely a unique spin on the Wonderland mythos. I'll let you know if I get more accustomed to it as the series progresses.