Writer: Dave Franchini
Artwork: Jordi Tarragona
Colors: Robby Bevard
Letters: Taylor Esposito
What They Say:
It’s serial killer princess vs queen of … well, hearts, in this high-octane coming of age bloodbath of a story … filled with love, loss, lost love, lost heads, and, well, quite honestly, a lot of lost things including someone we won’t mention’s sanity. Hrh-hem, so Cinderella, now back in the real world and looking to make ends meet, is launched into a crown-on-collision with the Queen of Hearts, who is just trying to live life. Sounds fun … we know.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
As Cindy wanders within a nonsensical landscape of a classic television show, there was one person who is out of character as she bursts into the room screaming her real name, the red headed Heartman refuses to follow the script as she nags this unknowing lead to wake her from this dream, but as the shaking becomes more violent and this troubling blonde ignores any advice, it is not long until some sense of sanity finally takes over, while the briefest inkling of this fantasy lingers in the real world. However, as Julia angrily questions why this madwoman insists on calling her by a strange name, the lunacy of her derangement continues as she wonders if they are going to have a spa day since they are best friends, ignoring the fact both were tranquilized and are now restrained, with the argument becoming more heated with each passing second due to someone’s misguided delusions. It is then when the robotic ambulance driver calling herself Ai-Mie interrupts and greets her prisoners, boldly stating they are being taken to the LEAF Industries Experiment and Disposal Division, and while Cindy cannot but happily agree to this treatment, it is the clear headed Heorte who understands the true meaning of their destination – they are being taken there to be experimented upon and then killed.
While an optimistic Cindy vehemently denies this veracity, questioning their driver for the truth, it is the rational Ai-Mie who praises the Queen of Hearts for the correct interpretation of their situation, but as Julia mockingly praises herself for exposing such an obvious secret, it is then when she prompts her eccentric partner to help find a way out this place, only for Monroe to confess she is still numb from the tranquilizer darts and any deeper thoughts are still going back to wondering if they will have a television at their final destination. Frustrated by the uselessness of this blonde, the feisty red head tries to rub her restraints against a rough metal corner, causing this same witless woman to loudly compliment her escape attempt, which in return allows the robotic jailor to condemn such an grievous error of judgment on their part, the wickedly grinning face becoming alert and rotating as it raises a charging cannon to end their resistance. Barely able to leap out of the way, Julia sarcastically thanks her partner as Cindy gives a sheepish apology before complaining to be released, and while thinking better of the effort, tosses Carnage back to its owner so that she can free herself, not wasting any time hurling herself forward to struggle with the gun before it can fire again.
When we first met an insecure Cindy back in the original Grimm Fairy Tales Volume 1 #2, she was a troubled student starting college and wanted to find a place of acceptance, only to laughed at by the popular girls of Sigma Beta who immediately rejected her for not being pretty enough, with her life thereafter forever changed after hearing Sela’s lecture about her namesake fairy tale filled with vengeance. Several issues later in #45, the now confident and transformed young woman was the sadistic president of Delta Zeta Delta, the most popular sorority on campus, who took great pleasure in tormenting new pledges under sickening rituals to see if they were the right material, perhaps with a sense of retaliation in being rejected by those who looked down on her, and yet she never felt fulfilled with these juvenile antics. However, this life took an unexpected step forward after a visit from Uncle Fenton in order to repay an unknown debt, with that benefactor being the Dark One, but to then watch as she takes up Carnage during training was chilling, later becoming the personal bodyguard for Malec, but still remaining isolated due to her dangerous nature, with her personal relationships never improving after her idol’s defeat, the psychotic blonde unable to find anyone who could relate to her violent tendencies. Yet as Monroe was forced to once again face an uncaring world, writer Dave Franchini cautiously took up her hectic cause with a fitting change to an unbalanced personality, his intensely amusing tactic to throw Cindy into unpredictable environments which causes our Serial Killer Princess to unleash pent-up rage against anyone unwise enough to face her, with Cinderella vs. The Queen of Hearts the latest escapade in her wild adventures to find a new friend to fill the hole which she longs to make herself complete.
As this wild title sadly comes to a frenzied end, knowledgeable readers could have never guessed the Queen of Hearts would willingly cooperate with the former Queen of Swords, with the only plausible reason being shared foes Mr. LEAF and Perl, they being the source of greater ire than a certain blonde who brings out the worst in the redhead, barely able to keep her temper in check with a constant struggle not to lash out against this lunatic killer, who ironically brought down the wrath of this curious pair due to a failed mission to exterminate Julia, which as of yet has not been explained why her elimination is so important to some hidden plan. However, as we watched this crazy murderess attempt to find a way to make some easy money, one cannot but humorously remember her ludicrously feeble attempt to sneak up on Heorte via a cardboard box disguise, resulting in their initial dynamic battle and unfortunate destruction of Julia’s first hideout, with the police immediately surrounding the explosion site and their resulting trip to the hospital. But as the supposedly concerned detectives who interrogate this disparate pair of collaborators are dismissed after a call from their superior, it is soon made apparent someone is pulling the strings behind the scenes, allowing a certain pigtailed secretary and her deformed neon followers to massacre anyone in their way, all as a deluded Cindy thinks she is safe from harm since it is her employer who has come to clean up her mess, even as Perl alludes to the obscure reason why she is after Julia, with their capture easily remedied by several tranquilizer darts and the unfortunate death of Ernie, with both women now suffering from the loss of furry friends.
It is from paired traumas that these contrasting women have another common goal, no matter how much Julia may regret admitting she shares something in common with Cindy, particularly when this stupefying blonde can be so infuriating, and whether she acknowledges her actions are on purpose and/or from a lack of thinking through on her thoughts, this clever comical injection into the narrative allows Franchini to never allow the numerous mistakes by Monroe to never be taken serious, almost as if someone else did it. It is these painful consequences which cause Heorte to become exasperated almost to the point of violence within this final opening, watching her vent her frustration almost allows the audience to detachedly do the same, ourselves separated by the fourth wall and the Queen of Hearts by a moral code which is slowly being eaten away by the insanity of Cindy’s proximity, that crippling restraint almost crumbling with every nonsensical minute spent by her side. At times we have to wonder if this psychotic blonde is doing things on purpose or if is it a sick joke, for when we first saw the shy college girl would become the Serial Killer Princess, she seemed to be a rational person like Julia, only changing after hearing Sela’s version of her namesake fairy tale and being influenced by the Dark One’s persona, and yet perhaps there is some inkling of her former self, or was it consumed by the cruelty she witnessed on a daily basis.
Yet as this dire attitude has been ingrained itself upon the audience, we watch the introductory scene of amusement and cannot but chuckle with the one-sided rescue attempt, Julia knowing this ambulance trip will be their last even as Cindy cannot but try to make friends with Ai-Mie, the reader shaking our head in resignation knowing our heroic red head will have to save them herself, with no amount of convincing going to change her partner’s attitude without having to submit to some unreasonable demand to placate her bruised ego of not being friends, which cannot but cause us to smile at the ridiculousness as we all know this agreement will cause trouble later on. If this opening was not exhausting enough, it is the revelation of Monroe’s hidden lair which will make even the most seasoned fan gawk in amazement as to how Cindy was able to conceive of such a place, the secreted asset of Dolores only serving to make us once again curious how she comes up with these ideas, each oddly making sense in a ludicrous manner, and yet at the same time, the childlike execution of a plan so ill-conceived seems impossible to work, and yet it does. For while we may once again shake our heads at the ridiculous nature of the plan to get revenge, the audience cannot but appreciate Franchini’s scary ability to appropriate Cindy’s mindset, her immature tendencies to only do things when they suit her mood or after Julia’s acquiesces to a new juvenile demand which seems will only land them in more trouble later on, each time allowing us to laugh at these outrageous escapades and Monroe’s simplistic reactions.
However, it is the ultimate confrontation with Perl and Mr. LEAF which once again makes us question the reasoning behind these unexpected enemies, the robotic employer finally revealing the meaning of his name being Learning Evolving Artificially Free of Man, which is contradictory to his constant cooperation with humanoid allies such as his assistant, making it an oxymoronic acronym that is also ironic due to the current worries of artificial intelligence being indistinguishable from reality. Then we have the pigtailed woman who wants revenge for the chaotic event which brought Julia to this world, the coincidental moment depriving her of beloved dog named Maximus Decimus Meridius, which overzealously is named after the main character of Gladiator, and less problematic the loss of her hands, blaming this interdimensional traveler for something which she could not prevent, but at the same time, making her the third woman suffering from a shared loss. While the individual battles are uniquely clever of how Cindy is able to utilize her comical randomness to outwit a computer, it is the touching attempt of Heorte to sympathize with Perl via the loss of cherished pets which makes their battle more fulfilling, causing this misunderstood villain to finally comprehend how haphazard acts can lead to unwanted loss, only to have her promising victory be miserably spoiled by a foolish companion, with a fitting end lost within the craziness that is the Serial Killer Princess.
As anxious fans await the conclusion of this unusual title, one cannot deny it is the amusing portrayals of our heroines which maintain our attention throughout the amusing run, made more humorous due to the normalcy of Jordi Tarragona’s dramatic imagery and Robby Bevard’s ordinary color scheme that aligns with what may seem ridiculous within a plain world of delusions, and yet as we chuckle at the parody which launches the finale, it is the delight of interpreting strange variations of Cindy which makes the opening so welcoming, even if a rare few may not be familiar the persons she is imitating. Yet as Julia rudely stirs our resident psychopath and the audience from a pleasant dream, the infectious expressions that Tarragona displays upon these contrasting women cause our mild disappointment to transform into overflowing joy, with Heorte so enraged it would not be surprising if she started punching something and Monroe appearing if she just woke before the teacher was about to punish her for falling asleep. While we may understand this anger, it is the fascinating background details which are elegant during the interim, allowing Bevard to accent each element with a distinct tonal charm that causes simplicity to become visually endearing, for even if this may be a matter of survival, the unique combination of imagery and color makes the unfolding of events serious in its dour mood, only to be broken by the creepy smile of Ai-Mie. To witness this robotic ambulance driver talking while driving is reminiscent of Johnny Cab from Total Recall, for while both guides are doing their jobs within restrictive programming, it is the cold and monotone nature of this interaction that makes the conversation so eerie, and though a normal person might be unnerved by this efficiency, it makes Cindy’s calm reaction to the straightforward answer so genuine within her nature. Yet it is the infuriated reaction from Heorte which once again sparks a growing bonfire of anger within the restrained red head, but as we watch and giggle during this unfolding, the audience can almost hear the rusty gears within Monroe’s head grind to a halt, a blank stare on her face, knowing this is the inevitable trigger of the insanity of which is to come, closely followed by sincere smiles which will balance the uncontrolled violence which we enjoy so much within this too brief series.
Cinderella vs. The Queen of Hearts is a delightful treat for devoted fans, enveloping the sincere lunacy of a blonde psychopath as she brings a normally stoic vigilante into the madness which she calls life, but as swiftly devolving events cause the world to collapse around them with no plausible explanation making any sense, we cannot but smile and chuckle at their haphazard antics, with each violent event becoming another crushing domino to topple from the disaster which started it all – namely the clumsy attempt of Cindy trying to assassinate Julia. Yet as we wonder how anyone could bungle such a straight forward job, it is the intensely infectious imagery and simplistic coloring scheme which makes this title so genuinely charming, their endearing escapades may be portrayed as ordinary, but as the wildness of each moment unfolds before us with unrestrained hilarity, we cannot but feel a bit unnerved by how much we are smiling with each humorous page. However, as the title sadly comes to an end, we but chuckle cannot at Julia’s impetuous act of satisfying retribution for all the misery this ill-suited partnership has caused, yet one has to wonder if this will be the last we see of these two unintentionally cooperating partners, with the Queen of Hearts allowing the former Queen of Swords to live another day, even as inklings of new darkness loom in the near future, with a certain woman lording over all of the danger which they have seen and is yet to come.
Series Grade: A+
Age Rating: T (for Teens)
Released By: Zenescope
Release Date: July 05, 2023