In two days, UNLEASHED PART FIVE will be released.
While the series goes for six issues, the final issue is an epic epilogue that ties up character arcs and sets things in motion for what’s next for these character. Part Five is the devastating climax.
The Being. Sela. Van Helsing. Roman. Masumi. Elijah. Belinda. Samira. The Maker. The Innocent. Shang. Ilys.
We’ve been following their tales for a while now… and by the end of this issue, we’ll be saying goodbye to more than one of them. Death and betrayal abound as the Being’s true plan comes to light. Sela reckons with the daughter that had been stolen from her. Belinda discovers the truth of her resurrection. Van Helsing, Roman, and Elijah are faced with choices that will change their paths forever. Masumi buckles as the weight of her loss crushes down on her. The Maker and the Innocent stand to watch a battle that they cannot fight.
After this… nothing will ever be the same.
Written by me, art by Miguel Mendonça.
COMMENTARY on DEMONS: THE UNSEEN #3
DEMONS: THE UNSEEN #3
Written by Pat Shand
Art by Matias Bergara
Colors by Ben Sawyer
Letters by Jim Campbell
Edited by Hannah Gorfinkel
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Matias Bergara, the artist for this issue, picked up the ball in a major way, making the book look consistent with what came before but also entirely his own. He’s strutting his stuff with some wonderful character/emotion work here, and the action he shows later in the issue is perfect as well. Colorist Ben Sawyer also helps make sure the book looks consistent in the art department. Overall, the art on this book leaves me a very happy writer.
I have had this conversation before, almost word for word. It was painful to write, because really both of my big UNLEASHED tie-in series, VAMPIRES: THE ETERNAL and DEMONS: THE UNSEEN, are about failing relationships. VAMPIRES was different in that it was about the lead character, Samira, returning to her lover, Blaine, after having gone through a spiritual awakening. She realizes he doesn’t fit in her life anymore, and she ends it in a way that you’ll have to read about when that book comes out in trade. Here, in DEMONS, Masumi and Gerard are two people who obviously don’t belong together. She’s damaged and she’s got a mission, and he’s intent on protecting her from the thing that makes her special. They don’t work, and they’re destroying each other. And yet, they’re so in love that they could never rip away from one another. This is equal parts me writing the “Can someone whose passion and whose reason for being IS their work ever truly give themselves to another person?” (which is something I’ve struggled with as a writer and as a human) and part allegory. Allegory for what though… I’ll let you decide.
I’m loving the panelization here. Matias has his panels rip across the page, which works as this is the thing that is tearing Masumi and Gerard apart.
I think having a character say “I love you” has to be so earned. It can come off as very trite, and very melodramatic. I know it’s such an every day thing, but I don’t think it’s something that should be used as a crutch in relationship drama. Here, when Masumi tells Gerard “I love you,” it’s two things. It’s a goodbye, and it’s a promise that she’ll return.
Jim Campbell’s lettering in this last panel is an example of why I’d be pleased if he is the only letter I work with for the rest of my career. He’s just… well, the shit.
Writing these commentaries helps me see plot/style things I do a lot. I’m fond of the quick cutting back between two action scenes to either juxtapose what’s happening between two different characters, or build tension as two different goings-on are about to merge. I just did that in the script I finished last week, WONDERLAND: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS #4, so I think that’ll be the last time I do it. Gotta keep things fresh.
I think one of my favorite things about Masumi is how unapologetic she is about thinking her mother is a piece of shit. It’s a bit of a cliché in genre fiction to have the warrior so reverent to his or her parents and/or master that even speaking of them badly means your life, and Masumi loves to subvert that. Her mother is both her parents and her master, and yet Masumi doesn’t respect her. She believes that her mother’s choices have damned her to this life, and yet – here she is, doing the exact same things her mother did.
There is a lot of body horror in DEMONS. The character being possessed by the seven deadly sins here has been drawn by Jason as an attractive, friendly woman – and Matias twisted that and turns her into this nightmarish, twisted creature. I remember getting this page, and asking to go more horrific, and Matias knocked it out of the park.
Here’s when Masumi puts it together – we, the readers, found out last issue, but the fact that the Seven Deadly Sins are the ones attacking here has been kept from Masumi. The fact that there is an Eight sin called Despondency, and that is the demon bound to her sword… that was a bit of improv here. I thought of that last minute and threw it in, because I thought it was pretty poetic with what Masumi is about to face. It also added a personal thing between Masumi and the Sins, and having that relationship between hero and villain revealed at the last moment adds a layer of meaning that makes me look way cleverer than I am.
Another bit of subversion Masumi does here – I don’t much like meaningless death, but I don’t get supernatural heroes who don’t kill their supernatural villains. I wanted to give Masumi a real battle here, facing a demon she couldn’t kill, because of the fact that it’s bound to a host. A host that the readers have been following since even before they met Masumi in this series, so hopefully are a little emotionally invested in. The relationship between Kaitlyn (the host of the Sins) and her husband grew organically to reflect Masumi/Gerard, which was never my intention until I found it happening before me. So much of this series came about naturally through living with the characters.
Bhagavad Gita and Oppenheimer reference with “Now I am become Legion.”
Writing Legion was difficult. I essentially had to create a Big Bad that is almost as powerful as the Being… but that could be defeated because it thinks it knows Masumi’s way. The art here, the way Matias and Ben show the blurs of Legions motions, and the reactions of the characters to its presence, goes a long way to quickly and visually establish how Legion is not your every day villain.
This was one of the hardest pages I ever had to write. I remember when I first got the lettering proof, I was visiting my parents. I was on my laptop, seated across from my mother, and I was already emotional because, having written the thing and approved the art, I knew where it was going of course. But when I scrolled to this page, I literally screamed aloud. There were probably whimpers through reading the rest of this. Much with the tears, too. It was a thing. I think it may be the most shocking thing I’ve ever done. I normally like to give major characters who we kill very graceful deaths, but I think having Legion just kill Gerard horribly, blowing him to bloody chunks, is more realistic and better demonstrates why he never should have been there in the first place. And, from Masumi’s point of view, why she should have never let him into her life.
Every panel here, from Gerard’s gory death, to Masum’s face in shadow, to the shovel Gerard used when he first met Masumi clanging to the floor… perfect. Matias and Ben brought this to life (and, you know… the other thing) in a gorgeously horrific way.
Another shocking thing to read after having distance from writing the issue, is how quickly Masumi abandons her code and kills Kaitlyn. In truth, Kaitlyn was dead from the moment the Sins entered her body – how do you come back from that? But to have Masumi kill her as a reaction to Gerard’s death was hard for me to choose to do, because I love Masumi and I think she’s a good person at heart… but Kaitlyn’s death is a tragedy, and now she’s as involved in it as Legion. We follow through on the promise of #1, that Masumi is a “bringer of death.”
All of the UNLEASHED tie-ins (with the exception of HUNTERS: THE SHADOWLANDS, which is a prequel) happen between UNLEASHED #1 and UNLEASHED #2. In #2, Masumi joins with Sela and co. AFTER the events of this series, but that comic came out three months before this one, so Masumi’s despondency (see there?) had to be kept in mystery.
This silent page, especially the blue coloring in the final two panels, makes me almost regret taking Gerard away from Masumi. Her reaching to touch his spot in the bed just had to be dialogue free. And just to show how brilliant Matias is, he spaced the panels out so it takes the eye longer to move from panel to panel, so readers don’t just see a lack of dialogue and skim the page.
I love the Being for his mercy kill here. It’s violent and it’s wrong, but it shows the dark brand of compassion that we can only get away with when writing this character. It gives Kaitlyn’s husband the escape that Masumi is not allowed to give herself. Giving into the perfect despair.
The Being playing Masumi and Legion against each other adds to the intrigue of the Being. At this point, we still don’t know what the hell is plan is. This page is a bit monologuey, but I’d do it all again just for that “Look at me. Talking to ghosts.” bit. It’s horribly sad, but at least Kaitlyn and her husband’s spirits are together here.
I almost wanted to end the story on Page 20, just for that last panel of the Being… but I needed to check back up on Masumi here, and I think adding the Samantha bit follows through on the fact that this is, in fact, a tie-in series. It gives the book a firm “before/during the first half of UNLEASHED #2” timing, and readers have been asking for timing clarification for the UNLEASHED series a bunch.
I originally wanted these pages blank, but I was re-reading the script and wishing that I could give Masumi and Gerard their happy ending. Then when I saw that Gerard had said that very thing, “At risk of being corny, that sounds like a happy ending,” I instantly saw the harsh dichotomy between what he and Masumi hoped for, and what ended up happening.
And this, this sad story ends. It’s depressing and it’s harsh and it’s maybe even a little mean, but I’m also thinking it may be the comic I’m most proud of. I love these characters enough to mourn for them every time I read this and, to me, that means something. I hope it means something to you as well.
COMMENTARY on UNLEASHED PART FOUR
UNLEASHED PART FOUR (Grimm Universe #5)
Written by Pat Shand
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
- MAIN STORY
Art by Butch Mapa
Colors by Jason Embury
- “HAUNTED” BACK-UP STORY
Art by Ricardo Osnaya
Colors by Rohvel Yumul
UNLEASHED is a complicated beast. It’s an event with six series… one main UNLEASHED series that takes place in all of Zenescope Grimm Fairy Tales titles, and five tie-in spin-off series (Vampires: The Eternal, Werewolves: The Hunger, Demons: The Unseen, Zombies: The Cursed, and Hunters: The Shadowlands). When Raven and I were plotting this beast, we wanted to make sure that you could perfectly understand the UNLEASHED storyline no matter which of the tie-ins you read. You should be able to approach each book and get the whole story. While having read the entire crossover paints the biggest picture, each of the pieces should be clear – at least that’s what we attempted. I think, by the end of this all, we’ll have mostly pulled that off. That sort of extends to the beginning of this issue. The main story will be divided into two trades, with #0-3 in Volume One and #4-6 in Volume Two. I wanted to start this comic and just give a very fluid recap to what happened in the first three issues. Just the essentials… because we’re about to get into some pretty weird stuff.
The Keepers are interesting characters. Besides the Innocent, who appeared to Sela and Belinda in THE DREAM EATER SAGA, we’ve kept these characters mostly cloaked. Raven revealed that Love is actually Alice Liddle, and in the last installment of UNLEASHED, I revealed that Hate is Venus while also taking off the Maker’s hood. These characters are essentially the avatars for the word they represent – the sort of gods of the Grimm Universe. I was hesitant to bring back Venus after just killing her in Godstorm #4 this January, especially because I also resurrected Belinda in UNLEASHED, but I can’t think of a character more appropriate for the avatar of Hate than the fallen goddess of love. Plus, with no arms, she’s got the Venus de Milo thing going on, and that’s too cool not to use.
UNLEASHED is a story about faith, but we tried to keep it from getting too too religious. I edited this script twice after it went into production to make sure readers didn’t think we were saying “the Maker is, flat out, GOD.” He IS the Maker, and he is a creator of life, but as an agnostic, I didn’t think it was my place to give this overarching universe a be all end all god.
And here we are. The origin of the Being. We’ve been building toward this since the Greek gods first appeared, and now we’re getting to the meat of things. The Being’s motivation is still cloudy, but now we know where he came from.
A lot of people have been surprised at the outright emotion the Being has expressed. It’s ironic because he’s literally invading the world, allowing millions of people to die, but when he’s about to kill Heather Angelos in #1… he pauses and apologizes to her for what he has to do to her. A lot of that stems from this – when the Being tries his hand at creation and fails, you can see the rage and sorrow in his face. He’s been carrying that with him, stewing in it, and it’s come to define him. Look at that last panel. When the Being threatens to kill Sela in #1, he tells her that he’ll mourn her. He’s not lying.
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Butch just nailed this page. The last sequence of panels, where the Maker lies to the Being, knowing what it means… the emotion on the faces is perfection. Such great storytelling.
The Being is every bit as powerful and intelligent as the Maker… so he catches on rather quickly. But it’s too late for him.
Here’s where we really explain the mythology of the Shadowlands. The Maker created this pocket of space to use as a prison, and sealed it with his blood – the blood of a god. He thought that only the Keepers would ever been seen as deities, but then the humans began to worship the Greeks… and it’s the power of that worship that elevated them to gods. So their souls now, to Zeus’s dismay, also function as keys to the Shadowlands.
I might do the montage splash page too much, but each artist has pulled it off so wonderful and brilliantly.
Also, though it’s a small panel, I can now say that Robyn appears in Unleashed! See if you can find her here.
The Keepers dialogue bubbles never have tails… but we’ve also never had such elongated scenes with them. I almost wanted to say give the bubbles tails so we know who is speaking, but letterer Jim Campbell did a wonderful job laying out the bubbles so we can tell who is saying what.
Here we explain a bit of the Keeper mythology I got into before, and answer the questions of how Venus and Alice are alive HERE… and how they helped created the Realms, if they died on Earth fairy recently. It’s a little bit of a cheat, but I think we’re safe – in bringing back Venus and Alice, we are giving Hate and Love some weight that could pay off the next time we see them. And Raven has been using Love in Wonderland, so I’m pumped to see where he takes that.
The Being has been keeping Shang in that chair for… if the timeline is right, over a YEAR now. He must need a shower at this point.
The Being’s connection to the Maker is so strong that he can sense the Maker on the planet. Be aware, though – the Maker and the Being are never in the same physical space in this issue.
When the Being tells the Maker that he has missed him for too long, when I was writing it, that was honesty. He wants to see his father as much as he wants to take his vengeance.
If the Innocent seems a bit bitter here, it’s not without reason. She’s been involving herself in the lives of Sela and the others in a bunch of different titles, attempting to help them, to save the world, while the Maker has just sat by. All the Maker did was raise Shang from the dead, hoping he’d guide Sela… but clearly, the Innocent doesn’t think that’s enough.
And now, we’re getting a bit X-Men-esque. The Maker has punged the Being into their shared mindspace, so their consciousness can duke it out. We had a lot of debate over this at the writer’s summit – I forget who, but someone thought it was a bit too unreal. I totally see that, but I think Butch was able to make it work and really sell the emotion of this war between these two beings that essentially share a spark that no other creature in creation has ever had.
Is it just me, or does the Maker look like a pissed off dad here? I think the Being just took his Corvette for a joy ride.
But really… can you die in a dream (space)?
My favorite stuff to write the Being say is when he’s just incredulous that people think he’s evil. It’s indicative of his warped sense of reality, but also his longterm plan… which won’t be revealed in this issue, of course.
I wanted to really tread the line here – the attacks that the Being is throwing at the Maker are as much creations of the Maker’s fears as they are the Being’s will. They are both mentally throwing everything at the other.
I may have teared up a bit when the Being screams at his father, “How could you do that to me?” It’s so human, and a little childish – at this point, we’re trying to subvert the idea of what a Grimm Universe villain is at every turn. He is not what you expect…
Wanted to make it clear, here, that the Maker isn’t dead. One draft of the previous page had his head explode, and even though it’s a vision, I thought it was too much. I made sure to have him speak a lot here, so he doesn’t appear to be even mortally wounded. His entire objective was to weaken the Being – but he does, indeed, have a role to play in the next issue.
PAGE TWENTY-TWO and TWENTY-THREE
One of my favorite shock endings. The Maker was distracting the Being so Sela, Belinda, Samantha, and the hunters could take him down with their best shot.
Bet no one saw that coming this early, huh?
Sela’s looking mighty evil in the ad for the next issue…
Might be the Angel fan in me, but I love the classic monster-chases-civilian opener. I’d been dying to write a Belinda solo series since the first time I wrote for Zenescope, and this short gave me a little taste of that.
Fun production story. The issue originally didn’t have this story at all. I’d intended this issue to be a shorter comic than the rest of the series, so we could price it at $3.99 and advertise it as a jumping on point. Everyone else thought, correctly, that the structure of UNLEASHED was a lot in the first place, and that keeping each of the main series priced similarly would work better. So I was tasked with creating a new short story… even though #4 leads directly into #5. So I wrote this little Belinda tale that takes place BEFORE the main action of this issue. It’s set back when Sela, Belinda, and Helsing were researching the Being in UNLEASHED #2. I think it works rather well as a fun little character driven capper to this mythos-building issue.
Belinda’s got this delicious guilt on her shoulders. It’s not like she’s a redeemed hero at this point. In the Grimm Universe timeline, she was out there killing people and ruining lives two, three years ago. The people she’s hurt and still around, and having her surrounded by them, having to live with that, is something this character will be facing every time I write her.
Belinda was always a fan favorite, and while UNLEASHED was absolutely the right place to bring her back, we also resurrected her in the middle of a series that introduces a giant new and exciting cast, and the buzz has really focused a lot on Helsing. I’d like to see some fan reaction to Belinda’s new role in the Grimm Universe.
Whoa, there’s a throwback. Who remembers the sorcerer Belinda worked for in THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE issue? That was centuries ago in the Grimm timeline, but it still haunts her.
As Belinda is being haunted by her victims here, all I can do is think, “Hey, that dude kinda looks like Roman.”
Been trying to get Baba Yaga into this series for a while. I originally had her show up in VAMPIRES: THE ETERNAL #2 instead of Masumi, but it didn’t feel organic so I cut it. As soon as I decided to focus this short on Belinda, I knew I had the perfect role for her. Question is, is she true friend or temptress? At this point, no one knows. I’m still waiting for Baba to whisper her secrets…
At this point, Belinda is now fully relying on Sela, her one time mortal enemy, to guide her on her path to redemption. That, readers… is a slippery slope.
-Pat Shand, 8/31
UNLEASHED #1 spoilers
So… both UNLEASHED #1 and VAMPIRES: THE UNSEEN #1 are out next Wednesday, 4/24. There are some early reviews for UNLEASHED and some folks have gotten the digital copy already. While I’m excited to hear everyone’s thoughts… as I’ve teased before, the issue features a major character death. Obviously, if you’re read the issue, please refrain from spoilers for a while. Most people still get their books from their LCS on Wednesday!
VAMPIRES: THE ETERNAL #1
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