When Grimm Fairy Tales #100 ended on a big damn cliffhanger in which all the magical realms of Wonderland, Oz, Myst and Neverland merged with Earth to create an altogether new realm, my jaw pretty much dropped. It was a monster ending to a landmark issue of one of the most fun titles I’ve read in the last two years. Zenescope’s Age of Darkness event was all building up to this in the last 9-10 months, and it was gratifying to see a big ending like this. But of course, this was just the start of something new, for while the villains had been ascendant up until this point, now it was the heroes’ turn to put their best foot forward.
Realm War: Age of Darkness #1 and #2 deal with the fallout of Grimm Fairy Tales #100. The heroes were beaten back at great cost to themselves and both Lucinda the Dark Queen and Malec the Dark One proved the power of their Dark Horse decisively and without any real contest. Now, they consolidate their rule on the merged realms and much of these two issues deal with what has happened since the cliffhanger, bringing us up to date with all major surviving characters and creating new story tangles in a way that is intrinsic to Grimm Fairy Tales.Realm War #1 starts off with a recap of what has happened on Earth, from the perspective of the American military, or what remains of its leadership at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. We are introduced to a world that has suffered greatly at the hands of the Dark Horde and its two masters, with more than three-quarters of the world’s population either killed or missing. Missing because four different realms have merged with Earth and large areas of the planet are now just… gone.
The picture that is painted for the reader is rather bleak, because we see that the rule of the Dark Horde has not been benevolent in any way. A massive fantastical invasion, mass genocide, Realm Knights splintered, various sundry heroes scattered, no government, token resistance. That is what the Grimm Universe is like right now. Not a fun place to be, not a good place to be, not a bad place to be either. It is a really, really bad place to be right now.
And I kind of like it, you know. Throughout the Age of Darkness, we’ve seen how the villains have gained their ascendancy bit by bit, taking out heroes left and right. Realm Knights: Age of Darkness and Grimm Fairy Tales #100 definitely made that quite clear, and this is what we have to face in the new arc that is going to run for a year from last month.
As hinted throughout the event, the alliance between Lucinda and Malec isn’t one of equals or allies, for the former has often ridiculed the latter and it is clear that he is in a subservient role to her, rather than being her match. That is what Joe Brusha spends part of the page-time on in this issue, to show the cracks in their alliance widening every further. And even their other allies, such as the goddess Venus or Wonderland’s resident nut Cindy, they all have plans of their own that don’t necessarily jive with Lucinda’s.
Joe Brusha’s characterisation is top-notch here, maintaining consistency with how the characters have been portrayed in other issues by other writers, and that is gratifying too, since there has been pretty much a legion of writers working on Age of Darkness. And he often threw in a really wild twist to the story, such as the one at the end of Realm War #2, something I really hadn’t expected, but something that does make sense given the character’s history and recent events. Plus, I’d say things are still open and the story can go a number of different ways.
But yeah, Realm War has to be Zenescope’s bleakest titles to date.
And that’s where the art really comes in. Sami Kivela is the penciller, with Maxflan Araujo on colours and Jim Campbell on letters as usual. The cover for the first issue is by Anthony Spay and Ivan Nunes, while the second cover is by Paolo Pantalena and Ula Mos. Blood, gore, beheadings, headless corpses, ritual sacrifices, pools of blood, heads on spikes, these and more can be found in the pages of Realm War. It was rather startling, I admit, since the previous installments of the event have been rather… conservative, but with this new mini-series, it looks like Zenescope is taking things to the next level and again, I do kind of like it. It reflects aptly on the changed nature of the Realms and that’s fitting.
Good start to what is promising to be an even better series!