Today’s Wonderland celebration starts now!
The Story So Far is my own special subtitle for this review of the first trade paperback from the ongoing Zenescope series Wonderland. I want to go over some of the essential story bites, so there will be some vague spoilers here or there. Each issue starts with a bit of “previously in Wonderland” exposition, but honestly I think one of the best primers was seen most recently in the pages of Robyn Hood, which I have also written about:
For centuries, it was assumed that fairy tales and fables were fictional stories passed down from generation to generation. However, that is not entirely true. Beings from four different realms linked to earth do in fact exist. These realms are known as Myst, Neverland, Wonderland, and Oz.
The ones born of these powerful realms are known as “highborns” and those with both human and highborn blood are known as “falsebloods.” Each of these beings has some form of supernatural ability that sets them far apart from mortal men. And while many of these beings are good, there are many others who carry evil inside of them. Not all falsebloods have yet realized their destinies and as they discover their abilities, all will eventually need to choose a side in the war between good and evil that is on the horizon . . .
That’s really the perfect set-up for the whole Zenescope universe. Now being one of the major realms, Wonderland has a bountiful treasure of stories being told in it. I love the Zenescope business model – making miniseries their bread and butter has helped keep them away from the major reboots and re-launches other publishers make their fans endure. After all this time the tales told in the Wonderland ongoing do have quite a bit of backstory though, and some of the earliest lines of the first issue cover my thoughts on that nicely:
Why don’t you start at the beginning? No, not at the beginning. The beginning is the past. The past was a nightmare. I don’t want to talk about nightmares, not anymore. Then where should we start? Where do we begin? We start here. We start now. In this time. In this place.
I think that’s just a beautiful piece of writing, which launches us into the story of Calie Liddle and her daughter Violet. They are on the run from the madness of Wonderland, constantly moving and hiding to escape being pulled back into that world. It reminds me so much of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. That show detailed the adventures of Sarah Connor following the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where Sarah Connor tried desperately to rage against the machine, while also trying to protect her son from the future that his destiny was hurtling him towards. Violet can never live a normal life, and every attempt to do so makes things infinitely worse. The mother-son and mother-daughter relationships in these two stories are very similar, and the Wonderland story so far really does kind of feel to me like Terminator with fairy tales.
Most of the horror comes from the Hatter lineage, which has its madness preserved and spread now through the wearer of the hat. That madness also spreads to the dialogue, which can become quite singsongy, and seems to have enough method to it to hop along merrily skipping with one foot on the ledge of sanity, and the other floating over it. So watching the hatters hack their way through town is where we get our gore from, but no Zenescope review would be complete without taking a look at the ladies! The early issues have a softer sensuality to them, and then things heat up more towards the end. Calie gets a great costume in chapter four, and then chapter five is just an explosion of hearts and cleavage! Volume one of Wonderland collects the first five issues, but at this point issue six is actually out as well. Issue six continues the trend of re-introducing more characters from the Wonderland legacy into the ongoing. I kind of miss the claustrophilic storytelling that focused on Calie and Violet, but I understand that the Wonderland ongoing is all about exploring that world and those characters with a greater sense of continuity, so over the course of the series I’m sure there will be room to come back to that feeling. I also have some great news about this trade paperback – you might not even have to pay for it! Zenescope is allowing us to give away a free copy of it to one lucky fan who participates in our Wonderland celebration through social media! Keep checking back for the contest announcement, and for the celebration to be capped off tonight by my interview with Raven Gregory!