Review by: Ed Allen
Written by Pat Shand and drawn by Noah Salonga and Wagner Souza, Realm Knights is a done-in-one comic from Zenescope and it’s my first foray into their Grimm Fairy Talesfranchise.
Regular readers of the Grimm Fairy Tales universe need no introduction to the franchise from a newbie like me but for those of who who are uninitiated it would probably help to have a little background before the rest of the review gets going. If you were expecting a modern retelling of traditional fairy tale and fantasy characters in a shared universe you’d only be half right. Characters like Little Red Riding Hood (now known as ‘Red’) and Robin Hood (now ‘Robyn’) have been reinvented as sassy young women with deadly skills at their disposal (alongside a couple of macho guys) and they’ve all been given a new mythology to explain their powers, binding them together into a grander narrative of good ‘highborn’ against the sinister ‘falsebloods’ with ordinary humans caught in between. Amongst all this the Realm Knights emerge as a Justice League/Avengers style group of highborn heroes, tasked by a secret government agency with taking down enemies who can’t be controlled by conventional means.
In this one shot the plot is centred around the formation of the Realm Knights and their mission to rescue hostages from a group of falsebloods who have taken over the United Nations building. Events in the comic are not entirely self-contained, with an important subplot taking place behind the scenes of the government agency which promises to have wide-reaching effects upon the Grimm Fairy Tales universe.
So far so good... but Realm Knights is not without problems. Half of the 45 page comic is spent on talk and posturing amongst the Knights and their shadowy G-men handlers, which I see as something of a failure to capture the potential for snappy storytelling and immediate thrills that’s offered up by its premise. Shand’s dialogue sometimes felt forced, with many of his characters looking to one-up each other with quips that often fall flat, and there’s an unnatural quality to some of their interactions that isn’t helped by the way that some of these characters seem to have fairly interchangeable personalities (though I’m willing to admit that the committed GFT fans out there could probably prove me wrong on this). There’s also a strangely jarring moment on page 28 (several pages into the issue’s main action sequence) when the artwork switches from one penciller to another, each with their own distinct styles.
Despite my criticisms, I do still think there’s plenty of potential enjoyment to be found in Realm Knights. This might sound contradictory but amongst the sometimes awkward dialogue there were more than a few jokes and witty remarks that I found genuinely funny and I think that Shand’s script carries just enough self-awareness to be able to poke a little fun at itself, allowing us to find additional comedy in our reading of the comic. There’s an excellent moment where the Knights are told by an agent that they’ll need more “appropriate” clothing than the bare-legs and cleavage-revealing costumes they start out in, only for them to switch to armoured variations that are somehow even less “appropriate” for the task at hand, a sure sign that the creators (and probably the fans as well) are fully aware of the inherent ridiculousness of the comic and are simply trying to get as much fun as possible out of it. Neither artist’s work is bad on a technical level, especially for readers who enjoy seeing plenty of scantily-clad and ass-kicking ladies in their comics, and if you’re willing to overlook the sudden change in style between the two it actually works quite well for the dialogue-heavy parts of the comic to be drawn in a smooth yet fairly static style while most of the action is rendered with a looser, more kinetic line.
My main issue with Real Knights is that the strengths of the Grimm Fairy Tales setting and characters can only really come to the fore in the later stages of the comic, with so many of its pages being dedicated to build up, sarcastic remarks and occasionally needless dialogue. Once the action really kicks in and Realm Knights begins to deliver on the promise of its “one shot” format with some cathartic beatdowns in the punchier art style I found myself enjoying the comic without any irony or reservations. More of this sort of thing please Zenescope.
At $5.99 this isn’t the cheapest way for new readers to start finding their way into Zenescope’s Grimm franchise but with the variety of characters on show and the launch of important new plot lines, it is a viable option. At that price I'd ideally like to see more plot but for 45 pages (mostly) of self-contained action it's not an unreasonable investment.
For dedicated fans of the Grimm-niverse I would certainly recommend Realm Knights, it’s clearly of some significance to continuity and there’s quite a lot of fun to be had with it if you approach it with in the right frame of mind, but for outsiders like myself I wouldn’t be so sure. Readers who already know that they don’t like the kind of comic Zenescope publish are extremely unlikely to have their minds changed by it. I can’t honestly say that this issue appeals to my tastes but there’s enough individual elements within the story which I liked that I’m prepared to give Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales another shot.
Score: 2/5 (long term fans of Grimm Fairy Tales would probably score it higher - sorry guys)
Writer: Pat Shand (with Grimm Fairy Tales co-creator Joe Brusha)
Artist: Noah Salonga & Wagner Souza
Release Date: 5/29/13