Long ago when I was still dipping my toes back into comics I heard of this book called Escape from Wonderland, the cover looked suggestive but I bought into it. I was lured by the idea of a dark, gritty spin-off to the story that was broken down into an all-ages classic by Disney. As I read on to the story, the art, although very skilled continued to make me more and more uncomfortable. Unnecessary nudity, heavy and continuous suggestions of rape, and it was clear the selling point was the cheesecake art. They sure fooled me with it. I’m no stranger to appreciate some cheesecake here and there, but this was just way too much. Ever since I’ve scoffed at everything Zenescope has done, every cover, every title draws disdain from me. It’s been at least 7 years since I read a full issue from any Zenescope title, and Coven #5 came out this week. I decided to give it an honest try, no predispositions on it, even see if they can win me again. I understand I’m jumping not just in the middle of a story, but at the end of a short series. But I’m a believer that you can jump into any comic and be able to enjoy the story, as long as that first page catches you up, and it’s understood that things could be lost here and there, but get the general scope of the story, make me go and seek the back issues even. So I dove into Coven #5 expecting nothing, and hoping for a positive outcome.
The “previously on” page is seems to be a bit of a mess, the story jumps from one point to the other, with the reader having to somehow connect the dots. It’s as if a 13-year-old child had been playing at the park all day and runs to meet you at the end of it, then begins to shout absolutely everything that happened to her/him while trying to catch their breath at the same time. I’m led to believe the New Crusaders are the ones responsible for kidnapping women, I assume Dartanian is part of the New Crusaders who have Wizards, I think? and I believe he has deflected to find Avril, who is a descendant of one of the most powerful witches, and now in the hands of an evil witch called Liza.
The story picks up with Dartanian and Baba Yaga (apparently a recurring character in the GFT universe) are gearing up to go rescue Avril, and she finds out what they’ve done to all the disappearing witches. Baba Yaga loses it, but continues to work with the New Crusader to rescue Avril. They gear themselves up and go save the young witch from Liza who’s about to consume her and her powers with the notion to protect more witches.
The story clears itself further as I read the issue, the questions I had were answered as the story moved along. The transitions are rough, sometimes I wasn’t sure who was fighting whom and whether some things were spells and summons by a witch, or just the wildlife attacking our rescue duo. Some of the characters had strong voices, whereas some didn’t, Baba Yaga was set up to be a very strong and wise witch, and a scary one (a ferocious woman in Slavic folklore), but she lets many things slide with Dartanian, including joking and bantering, which also reduces the importance of the rescue as a whole. Speaking of jokes...
“The back door?” What kind of joke is that? I can see only one connotation to this and it’s both offensive and nonsensical to the rest of the comic or the story overall. I may toss it off to something established within the relationship between the two main characters in this issue, but I see no scenario where they are about to get the jump on one of the strongest and most twisted covens and it’s ok to make a joke with sexual connotations.
The art is packed with talent. The main cover is a lot more inviting that what I’ve seen in the majority of cover work. As a metalhead I appreciate a good goth outfit this one dabbles into cheesecake but doesn’t bask in it as most of the Zenescope titles are known for. Every fighting panel works very well, it matched the story with inks and color on a story with a lot of magic involved. Wide panels and action shots reminds me of something I would see in a Marvel book with pencils and inks by Stuart Immonen. It flows well, barring the transition problems I mentioned earlier, but I was into it mainly for the art. Diego Galindo is an artist who should be working for the big two. If I had also seen his work on the cover, there would have been less doubt to pick this title up.
The unfortunate situations is that the art falls into to the mistakes that dragged me away from Zenescope in the first time, although there may be a lot of strong female characters in this issue, I found it very hard to get past the obvious fact that Dartanian is covered from head to toe in a neo-Templar outfit, while there's’ no lack of cleavage and the one character without it still wears cut-off jean shorts. In a swamp. At night. In Manchester. And it sure didn’t stop her from ending up completely naked at one point.
Coven seems to be a title that didn’t really end the story, but rather a mini-series that transitioned the characters into a bigger story, although their immediate goals had ended there, there is a larger thing they will be part of in the future, which in a way works for the Grimm Fairy Tales world but doesn’t really give a sense of closure for this particular story. Zenescope comics has done certain changes to bring depth to their characters since the last time I read a book from them, but fall back into the niche they’ve cornered themselves into by not straying away from the cheesecake art which continues to become more and more outdated in the world of comics. A pointlessly semi naked woman with a badass attitude is still pointlessly semi naked.
Coven #5 Story: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, and Zach Calig Writer: Zach Calig Artist: Diego Galindo Colorist: Michael Bartolo