"Return to Wonderland" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Written by Raven Gregory
Illustrated by Daniel Leister and Rich Bonk
2007, 186 Pages
Trade Paperback released on August 4th, 2009
In the world of comics, not every issue is a great jumping on point. Unfortunately for me, I jumped into Zenescope's Wonderland trilogy with the final entry, Escape from Wonderland. I knew I had to find out how this story started a few years back with Return to Wonderland. While some of the other books in the publisher's headline title, Grimm Fairy Tales, were firmly set in a twisted version of the fantasy worlds of the stories told to all of us as children, the Wonderland trilogy puts a unique spin on it. It's focused on the real world with Wonderland being an alternate dimension that feeds on madness. It's held at bay by a human sacrifice made once every generation. You might know the last sacrifice: Alice. She made it out alive, but didn't come back fully intact.
Alice made it through Wonderland, but when she returned to the real world she was changed. We're not told exactly what happened to her while she was there, but fortunately Zenescope will be elaborating on that in the upcoming Alice mini-series. She went on with her life, married and had two children, Callie and Johnny. Then, when it came due for the sacrifice once more, things started getting rocky. Alice regresses further and teenager Callie is stuck taking care of her. When Callie follows a rabbit downstairs she enters Wonderland and needless to say, it's a very different version than what Disney would have us believe.
The Wonderland created by author Raven Gregory is downright terrifying. You can see how this world thrives off of the insanity in ours. Everything about it is just a little off, while the characters are all bloodthirsty. Callie encounters a demented Mad Hatter, an absolutely brutal Queen of Hearts, and my personal favorite, a version of the Chesire Cat that would make saber-tooth tigers cry in fear. Gregory has built a huge mythology here, but it's one that is very easily accessible.
The art in Return to Wonderland is broken up between two artists. Rich Bonk handles the first two chapters and Daniel Leister brings the book home. Bonk's style looks a little more polished which works for the beginning of the story as that's before everything descends into madness. Leister's characters often have strange pouty expressions, but he really excels when Callie takes a deeper dive into Wonderland. His designs for these creatures are amazing. I've said it before, but this version of the Chesire Cat is something that can easily give you nightmares. It's downright vicious.
Return to Wonderland is the first volume in a trilogy focused on Alice's daughter Callie. It really is her story. Alice might have started it, but the focus is clearly on Callie. While this is tied to the overall Grimm Fairy Tales universe, it stands on its own as a great story that's not bogged down by continuity. If you're looking for a sexy, yet gore-filled version of Wonderland, you should be reading Return to Wonderland.