This is an odd volume. It isn’t really one big story or a series of one-shots. The plot kind of lurches onward in a series of semi-connected steps. We are back to the feeling of not really knowing what is going on and being merely a spectator. You aren’t sure how this fits into the bigger picture but given Azzarello’s pedigree you are sure it will all make sense in the end.
Some more top-notch art and superb colouring. This really is a dream team at the top of their game and the characters really pop off the page.
You are getting closer to the end but aren’t sure how or why. Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Wilt – Brian Azzarello
This is a tale set in the world of BONE created by Jeff Smith. It concerns Rose and Briar in their youth and so can be seen as a prequel. But you don’t need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one. If you are familiar with the BONE series you already know what will happen. You may enjoy seeing Grandma in her youth, but the Bone family are obviously absent so this doesn’t feel like the stories you are used to.
The art is great and in full colour; another departure from the original series. Many of the little vignettes are stunningly beautiful and have an olde worlde folktale feel that conjures up the perfect mood. Various creatures speak in their own tongues and are given a different colour speech bubble to differentiate the languages and who can understand them. There are also some lovely dream sequences and recollections, all expertly done.
The tale is a simple one and the plot is tactfully signposted. There is also a nice introduction – lifted straight from the main series – that tells you all about the world and its impending peril. This and the fact the book is chopped into neat chapters every ten pages makes it very friendly for the novice reader.
Not a must read for the Bone follower but a solid stand-alone work and a charming Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Dirty – Brian Azzarello
This was the second comic Ennis ever wrote. At a mere 20 years old it was quite an achievement. You can see he is off to a flying start. There isn’t much narrative trickery or pretentious razzmatazz just a very good story, natural dialogue and interesting characters.
Religion is a hot topic and it seems clear which side of the fence Ennis is showing you but he does it in a sincere and thoughtful way. Grant Morrison who writes the introduction is much more barbed. There are some interesting metaphors and it really evokes the feel of the period (1989) when it was written. There is also an unsubtle political commentary that shows you the roots of Ennis’s anarchic style.
The art is very distinctive. Black pen outlines and detail with ink washes. The whole palette embodies the dreary miasma of the Eighties. There are some very emotive facial expressions too.
Preacher or Wormwood may have tackled this subject more eloquently but there is a raw honesty here, and a sense of confusion common to anyone emerging from adolescence. The story is unpredictable and many of the fancy twists and reveals common today came long after this book which will be coming up for its 25th Anniversary soon.
Another Thumbs Up for the Ennis collection.
Tomorrow: Rose – Jeff Smith
After fifteen wonderful volumes juxtaposing antique stories with the modern world Willingham cements his genius by turning to modern heroic stories. Namely comics. There is a wonderful examination/ parody of comic conventions and storytelling. The “assembling” of a super team of Fables, with a clawed wolf-man, a bestial creature, a man in a metal suit, etc. is just brilliant. “The F-Men” indeed.
There is a standalone story that shows us what has been happening in the fallen Empire’s capital city and no doubt sets up the next storyline. There is also one concerning Bufkin and the goings on in the Business Office too which launches another new plotline.
The art is great with Buckingham taking care of the main story and providing a sketchbook at the end. He does a Silver Age style very well. The star is the Bufkin story that not only has astonishing levels of detail in every panel but such astounding colouring that it almost turns the very environment into a character. Most of it is virtually monotone but decidedly richer than you have seen before. Then it switches to oversaturated glorious Technicolor (think of the film reference) at the key moment.
For this masterful colouring a great volume turns into a Double Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: True Faith – Garth Ennis
OK, so now this is officially the new biggest ever volume of Fables. It’s got everything. An origin story; an epic battle; births, deaths and marriages; standalone tales; humorous interludes; literally everything. There is even a sketch book, a prose story, a board game and a cut out puppet theatre (not that you would cut it out). There is even the milestone issue 100 too. Plus reader questions from celebrities – albeit minor ones.
With all this content there are lots of artists at work. As usual Buckingham tackles the main story leaving the little tales to the guests to show off their wonderful and distinctly individual styles. It is great seeing the mix of medium and technique and you are bound to find some new people whose work you want to check out.
This is truly great and deserves the highest possible Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Fables (16): Super Team – Bill Willingham
Here is another great volume from Willingham. With the crossover out of the way we can get back to doom and woe as usual. Here we learn how Mr Dark got into the box in the first place. Then in the second tale lots of exciting events unfold in Fabletown. Finally we return to Haven for a game of baseball, and a murder.
These are all great stories but the final one really tugs at your heart strings and presents you with a fierce emotional quandary. Willingham is a great writer and presents small personal tales just as well as shocking intrigue or epic drama. It is all about the deep and vibrant characters he has created.
The art is great with three artists presenting three tales. The Mr Dark origin story is a recollection from long ago. To make it stand out from current events they came up the brilliant idea of dropping the trademark borders. The art goes full bleed to the edges and it makes much more of a difference than you would expect. Another great choice.
Once again, Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Fables (15): Rose Red – Bill Willingham
It’s a crossover which is just a big scam to con money out of you by making you buy comics you don’t want and leaving you confused about who these characters are you have never met.
But this is a Fables Crossover which actually means that it isn’t too bad. It primarily crosses over with Jack of Fables which is the spinoff miniseries following what scrapes Jack has got himself into since leaving Fabletown. And it is good to have him back. He brings his unknown retinue with him which whilst confusing does intrigue you enough to want to check out his series.
There is a massive “end of the world” threat which is quite a unique one and features a lot of comics and literary in-jokes. Unfortunately this does interrupt the previous “end of the world” threat that was just kicking off last issue making the whole thing look rather farcical. Which maybe is the point. The fourth wall is broken but as it is largely Jack doing it we forgive him.
The art is top quality stuff with multiple artists. However all are working hard within a shared style so you could easily believe this is Buckingham all the way.
Despite the confusion and the ditching of sincere emotion for clever literary gags this does get a Thumbs Up! Now back to the real Fables.
Tomorrow: Fables (14): Witches – Bill Willingham
Every fable needs a bad guy and with The Adversary out of the way what are we to do? Find something darker and more deadly of course. Willingham wastes no time in upping the ante and bringing all the joy of the previous volume crashing down. There is a really emotional core to this book as well as a sense of creeping dread. Not to mention a wry dose of social commentary and musing on the nature of dictatorships. This volume has pretty much everything.
There are quite a few artists working on this book and we see a welcome return of the wonderful Michael Allred and his beautiful style. The book is divided up sensibly amongst the artists with each playing to their strengths and Buckingham tackling the meaty plot.
Another Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Fables (13): The Great Fables Crossover – Bill Willingham
War! What is it good for? Entertaining reading. This sees the beginning, middle and end of open warfare with The Adversary. But before that Blue and Red resolve their burning issue. Then Cinders gets a two part mission, which goes the way of all missions.
Willingham does an outstanding job of spreading tension and anxiety throughout the war, especially when things are going well. He imaginatively blends modern and mediaeval styles of conflict with the magical and fantastic, as well as utilising the unique gifts from many of the Fables’ individual stories. With Blue acting as a messenger between the different locations having the reader follow him and read his narration is an excellent technique to help immerse us.
The majority of the art is simple classic stuff relying on the epic sight of what it depicts rather than flashy techniques to engage you. There are a lot of full height vertical panels though, balancing scale with page count for good effect. Buckingham also uses a different style with the Cinderella story pushing himself in a new direction that fits well with the piece. The first story sees Niko Henrichon use a looser, sketchier style and a unique set of colour tints to stamp his own mark on the world very effectively.
There is an extended thank you from the author, a sketchbook and pinup gallery to boot. A fine Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Fables (12): The Dark Ages – Bill Willingham
This is the biggest volume of the lot and has a nine part story with a small interlude at the half way point.
The Frog Prince has his moment to shine in this epic tale of kingdom building. Despite the grandeur of the saga there is still much heart and more than a touch of whimsy to it. It is also very Arthurian in content and feel. There is a break in the middle with Snow and the Cubs providing some welcome relief from the serious tones.
The art is quality stuff with Buckingham drawing the whole thing apart from the cartoon style of the second tale. No fancy trickery is needed as the story is colourful enough.
Tomorrow: Fables (11): War and Pieces – Bill Willingham