by Jessica Greenlee
Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, written by Raven Gregory and Pat Shand makes it very clear that Wonderland is a place of madness, not wonder. The protagonist, Johnny, who is possibly insane himself, is trapped there. Trying to fight his way out, he is following the advice of his talking knife, the Ebony Blade. So far, it has led him to the realm of the spider-snake and to a trapped girl, whom it advices him to leave behind and continue his quest.
Carrol’s Wonderland is a strange place in its own right: Proportions do not remain the same, rules are flexible, and no one is at all reliable. Gregory and Shand are taking this further, turning it into a nightmare. The distrust rescued and rescuer display toward one another after the spider-snake cave shows just how bad the situation is. Neither is sure the other is even human, or if human, sane. This suggests that a strange and twisted tale is coming in the following issues. No one is going to fully be able to trust anyone, Johnny cannot trust himself, and the reader might not cheer for Johnny’s escape. Perhaps his sister was right to exile him.
The tale itself seems to follow its own rules, with some awkward transitions: At one point the tale jumps from Johnny and the still-unnamed Adina to a queen talking to someone else. This occurs again in a later fight scene. Is this second scene happening in someone’s mind or is it in fact another location with different people? In either case, why the transition? There is no apparent thematic connection between the events to point the way.
Sawyer’s coloring does a lot of work here; an early conversation between Johnny and Adina is bathed in a sickly-green glow, emphasizing the illness around them. The Forest of Signs is a creepy blend of blues and purples, with plenty of shadow. One difficulty with the art is telling the difference between the different tall, well-endowed women, two (or is it three?) of whom are wearing rather less than the average human. The pencil work varies: Johnny’s face changes shape rather oddly at times, and there is one point where he appears to be sticking his knife into his eye. There are also more positively memorable panels. In one scene, Johnny asserts his sanity while the knife gives back a reflected, blood-stained view of his face, smiling smugly back at him, and with a hat hinted. It is a moment that raises questions about both Johnny and the knife, hinting at further difficulties to come.
This is issue two of five; things may become clearer as the tale moves forward and Johnny meets the adversary introduced in the final page.