Story: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini & David Wohl
Writer: Dave Franchini
Artwork: Babisu Kourtis
Colors: Jorge Cortes
Letters: Taylor Esposito
What They Say:
Taking over after the death of her mother, Sela, Skye Mathers is the new Guardian of the Nexus. With the help of Shang, her mentor, and her friends at Arcane Acre, she is learning the extent of her new powers and trying to figure out her place in protecting the universe.
Skye “Snow White” Mathers is home again, and is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. But the world has changed, a new evil is emerging, and Skye will find out firsthand that nothing at Arcane Acre can ever be the same.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
Over a hundred years ago in the small village of Dunwich, the Whateleys lived in isolation, with none of the people of the town knowing Lavina was about to give birth, but her father liked it this way as his daughter bore twin boys, and since the family had secrets to keep with the less who knew of their forbidden powers, the better it was for all. However, as the years passed and their privacy was harder to keep hidden, there were times when this taciturn group needed to interact with those outside their farm, buying cattle to feed themselves and grow as the boys matured, and while the citizens of this hamlet liked to keep to themselves and not interfere in each other’s business, the day came when a disturbing mutilation caused them to look toward the family which hid the most mysteries. This incident forced these paranoid people to move against the Whateleys, a family who was whispered to have cursed the town, and while Lavina and her daughter fled to another village to safely live out their lives, the unyielding mob murdered the twins and their grandfather, only to soon learn some secrets are better left undisturbed.
As Tamora finishes her tale about the village of Dunwich before the gathered Musketeers, the trio finds it hard to believe this storyteller knows the details of what happened so well, doubting the validity as the narrative must have become distorted over time, until she states this is how she remembers events as they unfolded, with her statement raising even more disagreement since this all happened over a hundred years ago, but their argument comes to a screeching halt as a crash of thunder and the sudden burst of the door startles all assembled. The soaked and irate pair of Skye and Sam advance through the entrance, and while the fledgling heroes ask about the success of their retrieval mission, it is Tamora who coldly takes the book and acknowledges her friend knew the risks of her task when told about her death, but even as Mathers attempts to challenge her unsympathetic reaction, Darren recalls the disagreement they had with Shang when he neglected to divulge all of the facts, even as the walks away without any sort of response or meaningful reaction.
While experienced readers have gradually acclimated to the introduction of Lovecraftian lore into the Grimm Universe, all thanks to the inventive method from story creators Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini, and David Wohl of utilizing the original source material as a basis, and allowing writer Franchini to craft the current story arc around that foundation, it within this issue where there is an odd divergence from what we know into a new frontier for the unknown, allowing an unsettling adjustment to mold around Tamora and how she more involved than she claims to be, all as Skye, Sam and the audience feel their frustration compound as more mysteries become unraveled with each passing page. And though her past may have been kept intentionally vague, it is through this telling that we learn of how this witch has been hiding key aspects of her past, showing she is not as helpless as her first appearance, all as the creatures of the Cthulhu mythos begin to converge around the deceptive woman and make things more difficult for the faculty and new students of Arcane Acre as we delve deeper into this horrifying disaster.
It is from the opening page where we are exposed to a new glimpse of Lovecraftian lore, with this issue’s introduction loosely formed around a short story called The Dunwich Horror, and while loyal fans may enjoy how Franchini has adapted the tale into a grim reminder of how foolish paranoia can lead to rushed conclusions and in turn, unnecessary suffering, it is from the aspect of knowledgeable readers who will wonder why such important information within this anecdote has been left out, thus making the conclusion of Tamora’s telling feel hollow, specifically when the main reason for the town’s betrayal is kept hidden from the audience and the listening trio. If the Musketeers paid attention from the beginning, they would have immediately wondered if Lavina gave birth to twins, why only one boy is shown throughout the prologue, and while we cannot know if this the same child depicted, it is curious that both are not shown at the same time, especially when Old Whateley would have needed help on the farm to feed his growing family. Due to this lack of information, the observant should have picked up this essential clue, particularly if they know the original story and realized the closing panel shows what truly happened, making us understand that an old man and one child could not have killed all those people, even if the narrative does state both grandsons met the same fate. Then we when take into account that Tamora confirms her story is formed from memories, it makes us question what other secrets this witch is hiding, such as the fact that the tale happened over a hundred years ago, which makes us wonder if she is a survivor of Dunwich or more ominously, a member of that cursed family. But as tempers flare and events begin to collapse around this white-haired woman, with shamblers being summoned to kidnap her, it seems to confirm our suspicions that another sinister being will be coming soon, and if the audience carefully read the ritual which brought the abominations to our world, they will know its name is Yog-Sothoth, which adversely is also connected to the missing information from the introduction itself.
Even as these foreboding facts begin to sink in, one cannot but sincerely recognize it is Babisu Kourtis’ crisply delineated illustrations that grant the unfolding of this story an eerie mood from the opening panel, magnified with an ominous presence due to Jorge Cortes’ extremely limited palette of dark gradients and muted tone, and even when the scene called for more vibrant colors, the overall brightness of the pages only seems amplified due to contrasting frames isolating each panel, causing the audience to consider with caution if there is something sinister slowly approaching with each turn of the page. One cannot but stare in awe at the efficiency of Kourtis’ images, with his attention to detail not buried within the intense use of blacks upon the opening splash, instead he utilizes the shadows to create a lingering sense of darkness for the Whateleys and builds upon that tension, allowing Cortes’ clever coloring to never bog down what has been established but subtly layer on top, with each panel emphasizing what we have seen and edging the audience closer to the bitter conclusion, with a sickening glimpse of deep purple energy signaling what is to come. But even when Skye and Sam’s soaked and captivating forms enter the story, their foul moods seem influenced by what we have seen before, with each successive illustration never departing from the suffocating tone which was created from the start, their dour expressions made callous by Tamora’s ambiguous attitude until everything is eclipsed when the shamblers make their grand entrance, with whatever hope we may have had for an understanding to be reached snuffed out by impossible foes, which viciously slam the door in our faces until they rescue an evasive ally.
As the once apprehensive story arc takes on a more ominous tone, and new foes and possibilities are introduced, readers cannot but wonder how a once aloof Tamora now seems at the center of all this menace, with her evasive attitude and unwillingness to cooperate with Arcane Acre only fueled by a need to protect herself, now endangering herself and supposed allies due to her own stubbornness. With sensational illustrations and oppressive colors that amplify the tone of the narrative, all to the point in which the audience cannot but question if this build-up can become any darker to the point of being suffocating, the synergistic artistry is impressive on many fronts, all as we wonder if these talented people can top themselves after such an amazing effort. And yet as more mysteries are uncovered while others remain shrouded in darkness, the focus of this search for answers seems more distant with each passing issue, even as the threat of defeat lingers with each encounter and our heroes question if the next shadow is hiding a more formidable foe than the last.
Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: October 26, 2022