Category Archives: Reviews – Zenescope

Don’t Forget the Secret Handshake

Conspiracy #2
Writers: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini & Hans Rodionoff
Artist: J.G. Miranda
Colors: Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Leonardo Colapietro/Sheldon Goh & Sanju Nivangune
Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

Whenever Zenescope Entertainment releases a new comic that doesn’t feature a buxom, scantily-clad heroine plucked from fabled stories, it prompts me to pause and take a look. While it’s clear the foundation of the publisher’s business is on such good-girl/bad-girl comics, I always hold out hope it might have something more to offer, something more interesting and less superficial. Conspiracy certainly goes against Zenescope’s usual focus, but doesn’t mean there’s greater depth or quality to be found here instead. Conspiracy is a clumsy exploration of conspiracy theories, lacking the complexity and intelligence necessary to make such far-fetched concepts palatable or plausible. The writers seems to focus exclusively on establishing a foreboding atmosphere, and the plot suffers as a result. The art, meanwhile, is serviceable but ultimately unremarkable.

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The Hills Have Knives

Peek-a-Boo #1
Writers: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco & Victoria Rau
Artist/Colors: Marcelo Basile
Letters: Charles Pritchett
Cover artists: Riverio; Eric J; and Derlis Santacruz
Editor: Jessica Rossana
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

An advanced review copy of this comic book caught my eye because it was a Zenescope release that didn’t feature buxom, scantily clad woman on the cover (of course, I later discovered that one of the variant covers did fall into that trap). A horror story struck me as a nice change of pace as well, so I delved into the book. Fans of slasher flicks will find some material here that should appeal to them. The writers have touched upon the number of the conventions of the genre. I didn’t care for the gore, but your mileage will vary. The real problem here is a lack of clarity in both the script in the yard. There’s a fairly large cast of characters serving as potential victims for the monster men that serve as the antagonists, and it’s difficult to discern who everyone is. The characters aren’t differentiated enough from one another visually, and the script doesn’t give us much background on the mournful family at the center of the plot.

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History Channelled

Mankind: The Story of All of Us Volume One
Writers: Marv Wolfman, Nathan Edmondson, Shawn Brock, Neo Edmund, Devin Grayson and Joe Brusha
Artists: Tom Derenick & Bill Sienkiewicz, Dennis Calero, Giovanni Timpano, Lara Baron, Javier Aranda, and Matt Triano & Mike DeCarlo & Wes Huffor
Colors: Dash Martin, Dennis Calero, Falk, Stephen Downer, Vanessa Banos, Alberto Muriel, Marc Reuda and Josera Bravo
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover artists: Neal Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz & Dennis Calero
Editors: Joan Hilty & Shawn Brock
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $14.99 US

Zenescope Entertainment has developed a reputation for and a niche market with its bad-girl comics, offering buxom heroines and villains from fairy tales and fantasy, so it’s easy to overlook it when the publisher offers something outside of that milieu. This anthology — spinning out of the History Channel’s documentary series of the same name — features a nice mix of experienced talent and newer creators. The overall tone of the storytelling suits the brand nicely. There’s a matter-of-fact approach to the narration and dialogue throughout the book, but some of the stories offer a strong, personal tone that makes it easier to relate to characters that are far removed from the audience, both in terms of time and culture.

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Leave the Money on the Table (Not at the Store)

Whore original graphic novel
Writer: Jeffrey Kaufman
Artist: Marco Turini
Colors: James Brown
Letters: John Hunt
Cover artists: Felix Serrano & Jeffrey Kaufman (regular)/Michael Golden & Serrano and Alex Saviuk (variants)
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment/Big City Comics Studio
Price: $9.99 US

I’ll give the people at Zenescope and Big City Comics Studio credit for this: they put forth a hell of a promotional effort for this project. For a couple of months, I couldn’t avoid mentions of this project online, notably on my Facebook feed. However, the title of the book and the accompanying image of a guy surrounded by supermodel-type figures didn’t appeal to me, so I didn’t absorb any further information about it. Then a review copy of the graphic novel landed in front of me, and looking for something outside of the comics mainstream super-hero genre to review, I decided to peruse its pages. It turns out the story isn’t about prostitution literally (which I had assumed it was), but rather about a government hitman/cleaner who finds himself forced to freelance in the private sector. I was surprised at the convincing tone of his military-quality skills and his ability to read and manipulate others. But overall, the stiff nature of the artwork and the over-the-top male fantasies passed off as the protagonist’s missions elicited more in the way of eye rolling than a sense of entertainment.

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Under the Hood

VariantVariantGrimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood #1
Writers: Joe Brusha, Raven Gregory, Ralph Tedesco & Pat Shand
Pencils: Dan Glasl
Colors: Tom Mullin & Jason Embury
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover artists: Eric Basaldua/Greg Horn/Stjepan Sejic
Editor: Hannah Gorfinkel
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

Though I can’t think of a specific example, I doubt this is the first time we’ve seen the Robin Hood legend go through a gender bender, but there’s no denying it plays right into Zenescope’s wheelhouse. I’ve never been interested in the bad-girl riff that’s the publisher’s bread and butter, but fortunately, this origin story doesn’t incorporate much of that motif (though it’s coming, I’m sure). Zenescope’s spin on the legendary archer hero is well timed, given how archery has resonated strongly in pop culture as of late thanks to Marvel’s The Avengers and The Hunger Games, and curiosity about how the adventure classic has been tweaked here might allow Zenescope to attract some new readers. Robyn Hood doesn’t represent great comics storytelling, but it’s capable and accessible.

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Quoth the Raven

The Waking Dreams End #1
“The Waking, Volume 2: Dreams End”
Writer: Raven Gregory
Pencils: Novo Malgapo
Colors: Michael Garcia
Letters: Crank!
Cover artists: Ale Garza/Eric Basaldua
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Raven Gregory is a comic-book industry workhorse who’s developed a small but apparently successful little empire in that industry, but his niche readership is small enough you’ve probably not heard of him. But with Grimm Fairy Tales, various other titles and a lot of cheesecake covers, he’s tapped into a demand for particular material and carved out his own corner in the marketplace. I don’t think I’m a part of the demographic he and his colleagues at Zenescope are after, but there’s no denying the outfit publishes professionally crafted comics. After reading this comic, I was impressed with the unusual premise, but the script made something else clear: the Zenescope staffers believe they’re reaching a loyal readership and don’t seem all that interested in growing the audience beyond one dedicated group. Still, there’s a strong foundation here, as well as some capable, straightforward comic art that doesn’t reflect the gratuitous nature of so many Zenescope cover images.

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