Writer: Dave Franchini
Artwork: Julius Abrera
Colors: Jorge Cortes
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Lettering Assistant: Mariano Benitez Chapo
What They Say:
The Legacy has been passed on, the Age of Camelot has come and gone, and Skye Mathers’ Odyssey begins! The Realms of Power are in chaos after the fallout from the Age of Camelot and now, Skye Mathers must figure out a way to save her mentor, Shang, while still fulfilling her role as Guardian of the Nexus. Teaming up with new allies, she will face her biggest test yet as she goes on an odyssey to restore power to the Grimm Universe!
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
As Skye finally finds herself standing before the man who has caused torment and suffering for so many people, the Guardian unfortunately cannot force herself to act due to one final act of treachery, Stephen has forged the final piece of the Armor of Camelot – its missing gauntlets. And now that Mathers has donned these accursed coverings, Merlin cannot but sadistically taunt this once proud but kneeling woman and force her to lead his Knights of the Round Table to conquer the remaining realms, however his cunning plan is not coming to fruition, as he has wanted. Although Skye may fleetingly recall the trials and tribulations which have lead to confront this warped wizard, for some unknown reason instead of becoming an obedient servant mechanically following her master’s orders, this defiant girl opposes this treacherous tyrant. With a burst of brilliant light, the Guardian of the Nexus willingly opens a portal of her own and through it steps her allies to challenge this cowardly charlatan: Puck, the Black Knight, Jasmine and Samantha, a handful of the ones who have felt the heartache this degenerate pretender has forced upon others, all in order to mold his will upon the weak.
While Skye openly provoke the Knights to defend themselves so that their upcoming punishment can be justified, the confused magician cannot comprehend how his scheme has been so horribly distorted so as to end in this manner, until he faces the one responsible for fashioning the final key – the weaponsmith. Unwilling to directly harm the one who had saved him so many times, Stephen jokingly mocks the self-proclaimed god with a comic flair which is certain to lead to his doom, even as Merlin openly dares the Guardian to attack as he continues to torture his belligerent prisoner. With her anger building by the second, the glowing skull mage shows little concern for the idle threats to release his captive, instead he continues to mercilessly inflict relentless pain upon the boy, until it elicits what he wanted from Mathers – openly attacking the madman. However due to the unfettered ferocity to save her friend, Merlin is ill prepared to protect himself from Skye’s powerful attack, with the Grail being the only shield which might withstand her unadulterated rage. Unwisely targeting the source of his power, the resulting explosion stuns both forces and leaves all dazed, and yet even within this confused state none of the fervor which drives them to stand for their profound ideals is diminished, in fact the forceful defiance which both leaders embody only emboldens their all consuming zeal: to fight for a selfish lust for power or the more virtuous sense of justice for the weak who cannot defend themselves.
Ever since Merlin was revealed over two years ago, we have been wary of this corrupt magician, with writer Dave Franchini creating a marvelously calculating villain who kept us guessing as to his ulterior motives, never revealing too much of his plans before were fully realized. And yet at the same time, his thirst for power has always been the truest motivation, allowing others to do his dirty work while securing elements to unlock his ultimate goals of releasing Camelot and obtaining the Grail. And yet it all began with the innocuous task of gaining Skye’s Book of Fables, and as such creating new minions to further his objectives, and though the Musketeers and Black Knight turned, Morgan remained loyal to the end. Even as we learned of his background and hatred for the Order of Tarot plus betrayal of his brother Arthur, this ambitious man never strayed too far as he also created his own Knights of the Round Table, with familiar faces such as Baba Yaga and Lance scattered within. But of course, as we can ascertain from any megalomaniac, his complex personality was always centered around acquiring more strength and utilizing it to further his own vile intent – and it his case it was to shape the Realms for his own personal liking. While he may have been maniacal with his intentions, the true foundation was never out of reach until he became too greedy, with the intensity of the Grail always outpacing his hunger, thus requiring the Armor of Camelot in order to control the relic’s strength. But at the same time, it is ironic these pieces would become his downfall with the Guardian beginning her Odyssey to seek them out in order to defeat this godlike being, thus gaining valuable allies but also connecting her to the Grail itself in order to perpetuate a thrilling conclusion. Franchini has fabricated a movingly complex narrative which seemed to wander at times, but as we finally approached this well earned ending, all of the pieces fell into place, even as we knew in the back of our minds that Merlin could never truly defeat our heroes, no matter how hard he may have tried.
And yet even within this at times clichéd story, one cannot deny it is the initial opening panel which grabs our attention and never lets go, propelling readers headfirst into this monumental visual masterpiece thanks to the skillful illustrations of Julius Abrera and captivating color palette of Jorge Cortes. Those stunning sapphire eyes of Skye’s are hypnotic, the wide expanse of her blue tinted sclera drawing us into the story and made all the more provoking as we notice the blank look on her face, only emphasized by the menace of overly confident villains standing behind her. But this awe inspiring presence is not shattered even within the sepia accented flashback, with the excellence of vividly moving faces expressing a varied array of emotions, made all the more haunting when taken in context with Abrera’s elegantly portrayed events which encompass the struggles of the Guardian. Although as we slowly become smothered by the horror which is the Odyssey, one cannot but cheer as we witness the bravado of heroes being displayed before an ethereal energy portal – the strength, confidence and beauty being communicated so wondrously we cannot but be in awe. However once the intimidating coldness of a midnight blue skull and cold coal colored eyes presents himself as Merlin, this singular panel shifts the immediate mood and prepares the audience for what is to come: the beginning of the ultimate confrontation between good and evil, made all the more audacious as this wicked sorcerer pushes his valiant foes too far. The spectacular details within each frame only amplify the thrilling momentum of the battle, and while the pictures may be static, it is Abrera’s strict attention to detail and Cortes’ commanding control of tonal lighting and shadows which make every page a graphical paradise to peruse in order to seek more valuable treasure we may have missed on our initial viewing. And while we may laugh at comically descriptive special effect text, it is the build up of these fantastic images toward the climax which makes the wait tolerable, with the spectacular double page layout of both dynamically ferocious forces dramatically confronting each other an enthralling piece to extenuate what has been a wild ride for Skye and reader.
Grimm Fairy Tales Volume 2 2020 Annual has made this final conflict as difficult as possible, pushing Skye both physically and more importantly, mentally to her breaking point in order to create a woman who is ever more admirable than before, emerging as someone who may be prepared for the cruelty yet to come. The opening sequence of presenting a flashback allows for the Guardian and readers to movingly relive the past, bringing us to the present and ultimately triggering what would be the turning point of the story – the arrogance of Merlin pushing frustration too far and igniting Mathers’ smoldering temper to settle what has been twenty-five issues in the making. Thanks to spectacular illustrations and awe inspiring colors, this finale for a major story arc has come to an emotionally draining conclusion, made all the more welcomed due to these talented artists unerring attention to detail. In short, we are presented an annual which made the journey worthwhile and the upcoming adventure something to sincerely look forward to within the near future.
Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: June 24, 2020