Writer: Joe Brusha
Artwork: Vicente Cifuentes
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Taylor Esposito
What They Say:
The first-ever Grimm Spotlight featuring the return of Peyton Parks (a.k.a. The Black Knight). As a defense lawyer, Peyton takes on a baffling case involving multiple murders. When a sinister new enemy attempts to kidnap Peyton’s client, she is forced to use her skills as The Black Knight to battle the mysterious Lord of Flies. Find out what happens in this stand-alone story!
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
New York City has been having a fly problem lately, however due to that inconvenience for the populace, the police have also been able to find recent murder victims more easily, for better or worse. Each of them having too many things in common: not a mark on them pointing to method of death, no sign of robbery since everything remains intact and all three work for the same laboratory, which coincidently the C.E.O. has gone missing. But the next day in Manhattan Southern District Court attorney Peyton Parks is defending the same absent and mentally incapable man, a homeless vagrant named Mooney who used to run the company where these people worked, now being accused of killing his employees. However as District Attorney Sinclair declares to the judge he has evidence to connect this man to the crimes, his defender objects to these accusations since his identity was established from witnesses who are known drug and alcohol abusers. It is then when the magistrate asks Peyton if she has a bail request, with the bold blonde asking for her client to reprimanded into her custody pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is promptly granted with the hearing to be reconvened in ten days.
But when they gather back at Parks’ office later that night, her assistant Brin cannot but ask why a billionaire playboy would give up an extravagant lifestyle to live on the street, to which Mooney can only respond that madness is everywhere. However when the women excuse themselves to talk alone in the hallway, the astute red head cannot but question why her boss took on such a questionable case, with her only conclusion being so that Peyton can play as the Black Knight once again. This baseless accusation frustrates the infuriated blonde, with her pride wounded in thinking her friend can come to such a blunt conclusion since she never chose to have these powers, but at least she can make the most of them by helping people. It is only then when Lang disapprovingly leaves by stating she hopes this false bravado doesn’t get Peyton killed, all as Parks knows these words were only said out of disapproval of wanting to be the aide to a lawyer and not a squire to some armored crusader. And yet later that night as the attorney tries to work amid the annoying buzz of flies, her worries are only confirmed as she hears Mooney’s panicked scream from the next room, and after donning ebony plate bursts in to find the poor man huddled in a corner with a disgusting and nightmarish creature standing over him. While her trusty blade finds no problem in decapitating the foul beast, this mortal blow impossibly does little harm as the head is reattached and it retaliates with a stunning blow which hurls the confused defender out the high story window, leaving the Black Knight to question who or what is after her client and how can she stop such a formidable foe.
It has been less than a year since we last had an adventure with Peyton in Belle vs. Black Knight One Shot, and while this may seem like a long time, due to any true character definition with this formidable protector there is understandably a lack of any lasting memory from her escapades aside from an alluring woman being squeezed inside skin tight ebony armor and forcefully pummeling those who unwisely face her for a fight into surrender. For all of the amazing female heroines who populate the Grimm Universe, the Black Knight is disappointingly the one who has the least amount of emotional impact when depicted within her infrequent stories, even if we know the history of a girl who lost her policeman father in the line of duty, which drove her to become a public defender to honor her parent, none of these necessary facts have been reiterated to forge any lasting connection between Parks and the reader. And so I was looking forward to seeing a different direction taken when Joe Brusha was announced to write this newest one-shot, and yet as with previous iterations under her name, sadly this book also lacks any lingering poignant influence which we expect from Zenescope, instead replacing it with what is expected for her normally villainous namesake – killing or forcing foes to surrender after being battered into submission. Although I do not fault Brusha for continuing this lackluster narrative crusade, even as he attempts to briefly remind the audience of Peyton’s judiciary prowess, this is where the spotlight falls short for several key reasons: we are never given a true understanding of Mooney’s past, how inhabitants of Wonderland came to live on Earth or why the Lord of Flies is after him. Instead the brief background introduction feels rushed in order to progress to what we are expecting, which ironically is summarized by Brin after she confronts her friend in stating ”Are you sure you’re not just looking for an excuse to play Black Knight again?”, allowing the reader to leap headlong once again into the anticipated action and excitement which this franchise is known for, all while watching this beautiful blonde sultrily transform into her alter ego. Although it is welcoming for Lang to voice her and our concern for this boss and friend, it is that underlying frustration which unexpectedly returns to stinging her later, creating a version of Brundlefly and thus welcomingly creating an absent connection which these two never had before, always treating each other as business associates with the fiery redhead never wishing to interfere with her employer’s after hours escapade, although sadly this may now lead to a rethinking of their relationship. However as with all other partnerships in other Zenescope titles, it is always the truest of friends who end up the closest of companions within their struggle against evil, and hopefully this encounter will not lead to an exception to that predominant rule.
Even as we begrudgingly accept these narrative complications in favor of anticipated exhilaration, it does not mean the visual entertainment itself is not sincerely welcomed, especially due to the outstanding illustrations of Vicente Cifuentes, enveloping the reader within an overwhelming torrent of details from the opening scene with nauseating distinction, every captivating close-up of the bloodless murder making us feel as if we are witnessing it first hand, serving a necessary purpose until it materializes into the center of horror within this special – the Lord of Flies. While the previous images have an amazing amount of distinction within each textural element: clouded over eyes, perceptible folds in fabric and hair, or stunning attention to unimportant background scenery, none of that comes close to the chilling realism which Cifuentes delineates within this repulsively menacing fiend: with insect-like appendages covered by a chitin layered exoskeleton, ominous claws, and of course that disturbing face with a repulsive grin from a mouth lined with razor teeth and covered in thick saliva, all clothed with a long flowing cloak which covers his head and is fascinating by the amount of wrinkles within the tattered layers. And yet none of these haunting environments would have the same sobering results if not for Ulises Arreola’s muted color palette to reflect futility for the detectives, with the gloomy alleyway building up to the menace of the villain dressed in his dark robes, hiding the sickening physique of earth tone muscles encased within a layer of chilling darkness, emphasizing every detail of his terrifying countenance, but made all the more imposing thanks to the blackness of his eyes, with but a single point of light piercing from within to make the gaze all the more repugnant. However as the reader turns the page to witness Peyton fearlessly defending her client, it within this challenging atmosphere where Cifuentes shows another side of his illustrative skills, highlighting the tenacity of this formidable woman as she does battle within the judicial arena, with subtle shadows and crinkles in selective areas reflecting minute inklings of the actors’ emotional determination, even as we consciously recognize their mental states without verbal communication. However even if this brighter color scheme from Arreola casts a more positive mood on the story, it does so to make the upcoming action all the more exciting, accenting the beauty of Parks and Brin as those nuanced facial expressions are made all the more noticeable due to the slight shading to accentuate underlying bone structures upon their emotive faces. But even within the build-up of this tedious melodrama, it is the anticipation for what is to come which makes the wait all the more tolerable, especially knowing that the arrival of the Black Knight brings with it a tantalizing flush of alluring cleavage and exposed skin, all straining to be contained within skin-tight ebon armor, made that much more enticing thanks to an unexplainable backlit smoke bomb explosion which sets off the stunning curves of our heroine, signaling that something exciting is about to happen. But during the next time we see the Lords of the Flies within this more illuminated mood, it makes him seem more grotesque, if that is possible, with the room lighting magnifying each detestable insect swarming around and how sickening one foe can be, with this clash of foes a signal of what is to come.
Grimm Spotlight: The Black Knight vs. Lord of Flies attempts to expose a new side of our indomitable defender, allowing the reader to witness how Peyton is sincerely affected when her friend Brin is dragged into her battle as the Black Knight. While the story feels rushed to push forward into the excitement of the action, neglecting to inform the audience of necessary plot points, it is the outstanding illustrations and enticing colors which propel us forward this non-stop battle for dominance, sometimes feeling it cannot be contained within the limited space of this one-shot. But as this troubling story comes to an end with too many questions left unresolved, it opens a new path for Peyton to walk toward an uncertain future, hopefully one which will not be an isolated journey for our outspoken protector.
Rating: T (Teen)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: February 10, 2021