What’s a game night with old high school friends without some vengeance, ritual, horror, and gore?
Grimm Tales of Terror Quarterly: Game Night
Story: Joe Bursha, Dave Franchini, Ralph Tedseco, Kevin Townsley; Artwork: Vicente Cifuentes, Marcelo Salaza, Rodrigo Xavier; Colors: Vinicius Andrade, Grostieta, Maxflan Araujo; Card designs: Ashley Vanacore; Letters: Kurt Hathaway
July 21, 2021
“Games can bring us together in a time we’re so far apart. It’s about creating meaningful connection,” says Sam Christian as he welcomes his guests to his game night. Sam is now a very wealthy game designer who credits these “friends” with his success, having come up with the idea for his business while suffering through one of their many high school tortures and humiliations. Eight of the people he invites to this game night with the promise of one million dollars to the winner are his high school bullies, and another is a woman who was also prey to their machinations. Each participant has their own motivations for being willing to accept Sam’s invitation, with money being high on the list. The eight friends do at least have the decency to offer apologies — or excuses — to Sam for their horrendous treatment of him several years earlier, though not all the players are sincere.
Given the number of people involved in creating this issue, I expected this to be a collection of short stories, similar to previous Grimm Tales of Terror I have read, where the “moral” of each tale is that you cannot escape Death, the alluring entity who graces the cover of the book. Death doesn’t make an appearance in this form beyond the cover, but her presence is certainly felt as the evening presses on.
With introductions done, Sam introduces the night’s entertainment, which seems to be a simple card game. Though not an anthology, the story is broken up based on the cards drawn, with each section of the story interjected with a full-page image of the card. Ashley Vanacore’s card designs are simplistic, featuring an icon that symbolizes each game, rendered in white and grays. Text takes up the rest of the space in a basic sans serif font with large lettering, with instructions detailed beneath.
There is no box, and Sam provides updates on the rules throughout the story. The main rule is that, if a card is drawn, no one can leave until the game on the card is complete. The games themselves might be familiar to some as they all seem to be or be based on urban legends that even my kids have played in hushed tones. Games like Midnight Man and Cat Scratch take on new, though somewhat predictable meaning when they manifest within Grimm Tales of Terror. Though the prologue makes it clear where these games can go, for our main players, the game starts innocuously, allowing them time to address their disbelief over the actual price they may have to pay.
Though he’s frustratingly calm and magnanimously forgiving, Sam’s motivations seem clear. But Grimm Tales of Terror are all about those plot twists as we learn more about each player and about the origins of the game itself.
Each character is depicted uniquely, if unremarkable, though the fact that the main eight have not changed much in appearance, much less habits, since their days of tormenting the other two is meaningful. What is really striking is the intricate detailing that goes into the scenery, from patterned carpets, to appetizer tables, to opulent chandeliers, to the bright and colourful wall art and the moody lighting of the city skyline as seen through the windows or from the roof.
When the monsters start to appear and leave blood and guts in their wake, it is done with gore in mind, but also subtlety, heightening the fear and the mystery for guests and readers respectively. We don’t necessarily get to see exactly what is causing harm, but the results are clear.
As always, Grimm stories from Zenescope prove to be a delightful sidetrack from my usual comic book reads. Their take on myths, legends, and fairy tales always offer twists that are unique and enticing.