Escape From Wonderland #1

Writer:  Raven Gregory

Artist:  Daniel Leister

Letterer:  Crank!

Colorist:  Nei Ruffino & Blond

Zenescope Entertainment

Release Date:  August 12, 2009

Review By:  Jeff Marsick

When we last saw Calie Liddle in Escape From Wonderland #0, she was stepping through the Looking Glass, on a mission to rescue her daughter, Violet, from the clutch of Wonderland.  This issue leads off with Calie emerging from the reflecting pool on the grounds of the Queen of Hearts’ estate, undergoing a neat five-panel transformation from Girl Next Door into Wonderland Warrior (deliciously gussied up in the latest in dominatrix activewear) replete with Warcraft-ian sized battle-axe that in no uncertain terms screams: “I mean business”.  She storms into the Red Queen’s throne room (the Queen of Hearts was deposed and replaced in the pages of Tales From Wonderland) and after putting on a quick demonstration of her bad-assedness, Calie is Jabberwocky bound, departing the castle on the Red King’s ominous portent:  “It doesn’t matter what she does.  NO ONE escapes from Wonderland.” 

Raven Gregory sets a stalk of a pace for the first nine pages, but the A story’s momentum is broken in order to insert a digression illuminating the machinations of Calie’s psychotic little brother, Johnny, better known over here in the lee of the Looking Glass as the Mad Hatter.  Johnny and the Jabberwocky are thick like the Emperor and Darth Vader, and with the former in possession of Violet, the road to Wonderland’s redemption as well as Calie’s success leads right through this axis of evil and, given the nature of this title, most likely through their eviscerated corpses.

The issue, however, never really regains the footing and intensity it established in the opening scene, and the remaining three scenes function more as housecleaning and set-up for the next issue than actual propellant for the current one.  But that’s fine, because like most event series, it’s fun to see disparate players from the overall mythology (like the Carpenter, the Tweedles, and Charles Dodgson) all come together for the big show.  Charles Dodgson is especially important, as his Faustian deal is what nurtured the madness in Wonderland in the first place as well as fathering the legs it needed to spread out and over into our own reality.  His is going to be an integral piece to Calie’s quest, and I’m guessing that he will be the necessary sacrifice needed to seal the portal to Wonderland once and for all.

Wonderland is Raven Gregory’s baby (with an assist from Zenescope’s captain and executive officer, Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha), and it’s a project he’s put a lot of care into writing for over two years.  He has a knack for injecting clever humor into tightly wound drama (when Calie reaches the forest of signs, each one wears a random senseless phrase, the best one being ‘Megan Fox should play you’.  Indeed!) which more than makes up for the occasionally over-long and unnecessary voice-over or narrative.  This is a satisfying first issue, made even better with a terrific artist in Daniel Leister, who draws his women stacked and stunning and the action violent and kinetic.  One drawback is that I feel newbies to the mythology may find themselves somewhat lost trying to figure out the whys and whats of the whos involved, which could make it inaccessible for the mildly curious.  If you’ve never read it before, though, stick with it.  This is going to be a great series, and a phenomenal bookend to Zenescope’s successful title. 

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