Welcome to the month twelve roundup. The last one. Ever!

This month there were no Thumbs Down titles.

There were zero No Thumbs titles.

We had twenty three Thumbs Up titles. Less than last month.
Fables (1): Legends in Exile – Bill Willingham
Fables (2): Animal Farm – Bill Willingham
Fables (4): March of the Wooden Soldiers – Bill Willingham
Fables (5): The Mean Seasons – Bill Willingham
Fables (7): Arabian Nights (and Days) – Bill Willingham
Fables (8): Wolves – Bill Willingham
Fables (10): The Good Prince – Bill Willingham
Fables (11): War and Pieces – Bill Willingham
Fables (12): The Dark Ages – Bill Willingham
Fables (13): The Great Fables Crossover – Bill Willingham
Fables (14): Witches – Bill Willingham
Fables (15): Rose Red – Bill Willingham
True Faith – Garth Ennis
Rose – Jeff Smith
100 Bullets: Dirty – Brian Azzarello
100 Bullets: Wilt – Brian Azzarello
The Losers: Ante Up – Andy Diggle
The Losers: Double Down – Andy Diggle
The Losers: Trifecta – Andy Diggle
The Losers: Close Quarters – Andy Diggle
The Losers: Endgame – Andy Diggle
Fables (17): Inherit the Wind – Bill Willingham
Fables (18): Cubs in Toyland – Bill Willingham

This month we had five Double Thumbs Up titles. Less than last month but it was a short month.
Fables (3): Storybook Love – Bill Willingham
Fables (6): Homelands – Bill Willingham
Fables (9): Sons of Empire – Bill Willingham
Fables (16): Super Team – Bill Willingham
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore & David Lloyd

This month was dominated by Fables which has been on my shelf for a while as you can see in the picture. A very good series. As was The Losers.

My star was definitely V for Vendetta. This is the pinnacle of what you can achieve in graphic novels and almost 25 years on it is scarily relevant.

See you next month – Oh no, I won’t! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

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V for Vendetta – Alan Moore & David Lloyd

V for VendettaThis isn’t just a graphic novel. From the very first chapter you get a sense of the weight and majesty of this piece. This is literature – English Literature. Drawing on the finest traditions of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, H. G. Wells, right back to Jonathan Swift and Shakespeare we have a satire that urges you to be alarmed by what you see around you.

Written in the 1988 reading this is like a literary time capsule. Although set in a dystopian future this can take you right back to the politically charged fervour of the eighties. But strangely enough it has proved deeply prophetic and is even more relevant to our modern apathetic, indoctrinated society than one could have imagined.

The art is truly unique. It is like one of those old black and white Laurel & Hardy films that has been artificially colourised. Imagine watercolours gone bad, or psychedelia filtered through Big Brother’s approved grey spectrum. It never departs from rigid straight edged panels three rows deep, even when it forces you to turn the book through ninety degrees at one point. Despite the tiny frames there is a lot of detail and an equal amount of creativity present. The central character’s look, styled after English terrorist Guy Faulks, has now entered global pop culture twenty years later.

This isn’t just a well-drawn thriller or political allegory. It stirs the entire barrel of the human condition dredging up discussions on authority, religion, existentialism, the nature of freedom, terrorism, revolution, gender, sexuality and more. This is truly a profound work that gives so much more than it asks of you. Not to be read lightly and certainly “never to be forgot!”

Double Thumbs Up!

365/0

Fables (18): Cubs in Toyland – Bill Willingham

Fables 18The main tale here touches on the dark side to most fairy tales and reminds you just how creepy toys can be. There is an excellent atmosphere and a brooding sense of trepidation and fear. The childish overtones really provoke your unease.

The other tale is one of those standalone pieces tangentially linked to the Fables plot. It is narrated by Ambrose giving a story within a story. There is little need for this technique other than to mark it as a Fables work and make us curious about the fate of the Wolf family.

Buckingham draws the main part expertly which has some wonderful colouration too. Gene Ha steps in to do the second story giving a very different feeling and some really dense tones. Special mention must go to the lettering as the small but clever choices add to both works.

Thumbs Up!

364/1

Tomorrow: TBA – The final book in this lengthy quest.

Fables (17): Inherit the Wind – Bill Willingham

Fables 17This is a brief volume with a main story concerning the choosing of the new North Wind, a Christmas one-shot about Rose Red and a series of mini stories. At first sight these mini stories seem to be the weak link but peer closer and you see they do subtly weave into the main plot.

The art is good as always but seems to have a bit more polish. Brighter colours and more detail on the faces seems to be the order of the day. The Mini stories also get to showcase new artists and styles.

Not the greatest book in the series but still an integral part and a Thumbs Up!

363/2

Tomorrow: Fables (18): Cubs in Toyland – Bill Willingham

The Losers: Endgame – Andy Diggle

Losers 5This is the conclusion of a great ride. The shit hits the fan as it all goes nuclear.

There are some quite surprising twists here. Max has an interesting development that you don’t see coming and the extent of his plan is audacious in the extreme. This isn’t the usual slugfest finale of many a lazy writer.

The whole thing seems well researched and for a conspiracy theory story it feels surprisingly authentic. There is a disappointing moment of exposition where it all bogs down as the plot is revealed through a massive monologue. Diggle could and should have handled this better but it is over quickly and relatively painlessly.

The art is really good and has gained more detail over the volumes but it isn’t applied consistently. The backgrounds often have more detail than the characters. There are some excellent full page spreads at key moments and really intelligent uses of colour.

This is a deeply political book,it has a lot to say about the world around us and the conviction to shout about it. Because it is a comic it slips under the radar and can get away with calling spades spades. There are some important lessons to think about after you finish reading.

A great end and a high Thumbs Up!

362/3

Tomorrow: Fables (17): Inherit the Wind – Bill Willingham

The Losers: Close Quarters – Andy Diggle

Losers 4This is a fantastic volume that builds on the success of the previous ones. All the pieces are falling into place and the mad dash for the final showdown has begun.

We travel to England, which for many an American writer would be their undoing. But as a native Diggle has no trouble portraying a realistic setting and unearthing some of the more remarkable parts of it.

The art is great and receives a good deal of spit and polish. The ragged style is gone in favour of much smoother lines. The panels are dynamic to the point of chaotic and the visuals really click with the essence of the story.

Another great Thumbs Up!

361/4

Tomorrow: The Losers: Endgame – Andy Diggle

The Losers: Trifecta – Andy Diggle

Losers 3This series keeps getting better and better. We have reached the halfway point and it is time for the origin story. What really happened on Operation Draw Venom? Well now you know and it proves to be just as complex as everything else in these muddy waters.

Some more artistic talent joins the team and art style gets a little less blocky with some finer lines and more detail being added. The origin story is told as a flashback which has a curious washed-out look and some unusual shading to it.

Another good volume that ensures you definitely want to stay to the end. Thumbs Up!

360/5

Tomorrow: The Losers: Close Quarters – Andy Diggle

The Losers: Double Down – Andy Diggle

Losers 2The first book was all action and let you down by lack of character development. This corrects that with each character getting some attention and Pooch in particular getting a fleshed out family. The action is still there and because you are getting to know and care about these people it makes it more effective. The humour and occasional pop culture reference really draw you into this world and give you plenty to invest in.

The politics is as blatant as ever. You could easily see this as a Garth Ennis or more likely Micah Ian Wright work. The prescient quotes at the end of each volume show you this is more than just a brainless action-fest and there is a message you need to take note of.

The art is good but the garish blocks of digital colour don’t do it any favours. The thick lines and low detail do add a certain cartoonish charm that complement the over-the-top action but much of the good ideas are painted over.

A really enjoyable work that appeals on many levels and brings its own style. Thumbs Up!

359/6

Tomorrow: The Losers: Trifecta – Andy Diggle

The Losers: Ante Up – Andy Diggle

Losers 1A Special Forces unit goes on the run from their masters who tried to kill them and… well you know the rest.

This is a romp. Undoubtedly an action-adventure romp. Part Ocean’s Eleven, part A-Team, here is a wild and wonderful ride. With a twisty turning plot, Hollywood violence and plenty of explosions this will make you smile, and chuckle too. Characterisation is reduced to a series of shortcuts but that never stopped James Bond so why should it inconvenience us. It begins in the middle of the action and never lets up. Before you know it you are finished and are wondering what hit you.

The art is very bare bones. Few lines and big blocks of digital colour. But this straightforward approach is perfect for the cartoonish action it depicts. Realism doesn’t get a say in things with backgrounds replaced by emails, spreadsheets and flags to speed up the reading pace when exposition happens.

This is the Energy Drink of comics – snappy dialogue and a pace that makes your head spin. Definitely a Thumbs Up!

358/7

Tomorrow: The Losers: Double Down – Andy Diggle

100 Bullets: Wilt – Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets 13There will be blood. How else do you think it will end? Sadly not a lot of explanations though.

This is a mighty twelve issues that rumbles on as one continuous juggernaut. It twists and turns and jumps back and forth. You can’t really get a handle on things as so many people are trying to fuck each other up. This is the ultimate Mexican standoff as The Trust backstab each other and Minutemen blow each other away. Occasionally these cross over.

The last page is satisfying. There is no final answer or neat resolution. Art reflects life in that these things always end in a bloody mess. There are some satisfying points along the way and as long as you accept the fact Azzarello is writing the story the way it should be told and not the way you want it to be then all will be well.

It has been a long journey. The finesse and patient character development has passed in favour of tragedy and perhaps kismet. You might have hoped or expected something different but Azzarello stuck to his guns and the irresistible force met the immovable object. A bittersweet finale. Most Shakespearian.

The art is good with some nice standout moments but there is so much conclusion being rammed in that it doesn’t get a chance to stand on its own. The last few pages are without dialogue so it gets to shine one last time.

Thumbs Up!

357/6

Tomorrow: The Losers: Ante Up – Andy Diggle