Sergeantstein and his Mauraudin’ Monsters – Pete Von Sholly

Sergeant SteinWell that was weird. It’s a collection of short stories about a military unit composed of Universal Monsters such as Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, etc.

Despite being a modern printing it feels more like a 70’s comic with narration describing what is going on in the panel. The humour, and it is supposed to be funny, is largely weak slapstick and puns galore. The kind of thing you would expect in the Dandy or Beano. While reading it you keep thinking you hear the canned laughter from an early Scooby Doo cartoon.

The art is probably digital and insanely garish. It is all colour and there are no outlines or inking visible which is quite a striking style.

Sadly no thumbs today.

Fables (22): Farewell – Bill Willingham

Fables 22Well it’s finally over. After 13 years, 6,000 pages, and more than 26,000 panels the story ends. In some unusual ways.

The titanic battle is finished half way through the book and has a twist you don’t see coming. The rest is individual tales about singular Fables. Most of these are just one or two pages long and not everything is resolved. These feel kind of twee and self-indulgent, yet for the avid Fables reader makes for a gentle come-down after the trauma of learning there will be no more. Apart from all those spin offs obviously.

Each tale has a different artist including names such as Neal Adams and Bryan Talbot. There is also a fold out cover that has 177 different characters on it. There is a handy key at the back. Just as spectacularly the last ever page is also a double gatefold creating a splash panel four pages wide.

After that we have the obligatory thankyous, a biography of all the artists who worked on the book, some sketches and a script excerpt. As final bows go this goes out in style.

Thumbs Up!

Jack of Fables 9: The End – Bill Willingham

Jack 09
The subtitle of this volume should give you a clue. Jack, despite giving us some entertaining stories was beginning to wear a little thin. This is his chance to go out with a bang. And he does.

The art is great with the last issue practically being one panel per page. The sense of scope and drama visually matches the dramatic nature of the action.

Thumbs Up!

Jack of Fables 8: The Fulminate Blade – Bill Willingham

Jack 08Here is one more tale of Jack’s dully heroic son Jack. It’s an ok piece built around a single reveal at the end. From any other author or in any other series this would be acceptable but the humour and eloquence Willingham is capable of delivering leaves this tale coming up short. There are some funnies along the way and the world is suitably quirky but this isn’t all Fables can be.

Ironically the art is some of the most structurally free and innovative. There are few if any traditional panel grids and we see our first landscape panel forcing you to turn the book the other way.

A Thumbs Up but still a poor relation.

Jack of Fables 7: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack – Bill Willingham

Jack 07
This is another excellent tale that goes to show not all stories are predictable. Most of the book features Jack’s son who is shaping up to be an interesting fellow. Jack himself is preoccupied with another imaginative problem. The book is subtle and straightforward with a very limited cast which makes a big change from The Great Crossover Event and a nice way to wind down from such epic adventure.

The art is great and the new artists do a superb job. The layout is imaginative and dynamic when it needs to be but not afraid to be traditional. Willingham also finds a way to include the artist change in the story as he did previously. It’s these unusual touches that really set Fables apart from other narratives which is what you want in a story about stories.

Thumbs Up!

Jack of Fables 6: The Big Book of War – Bill Willingham

Jack 06
This is another great volume as Willingham is really good at writing battle scenes. This book sees the confrontation between Revise and the Book-burner and just like the battle with the Adversary this is not a straightforward fight. There are also some revelations about Jack’s ancestry which seem less successful.

The art is good with Tony Akins doing pencils throughout. There seem to be a lot more square panels and straight edges than you are used to which is unusual for a frenzied battle-scene.

This is the book that precedes The Great Fables Crossover.

Thumbs Up!

Jack of Fables 5: Turning Pages – Bill Willingham

Jack 05This is a superb return to form after the doldrums of the last volume. We have two three issue stories, both of which are excellent.

The first concerns Jack’s history in the Wild West and his confrontation with Bigby that started their feud. Unusually this volume is played as a straight western and works surprisingly well. The artificially injected humour with the blue ox really falls flat and feels out of place.

Then we have three issues concerning the Page sisters (one each) in which we learn more about them. This volume also moves the present day timeline forward and we build up for a giant and exciting battle next time.

The art is great. Each story has a separate artist who sticks with it for all parts. The Wild West setting provides strong landscapes and interesting period/ flashback techniques. The Page trilogy is more straightforward but with no less detail and energy.

Double Thumbs Up!

Jack of Fables 4: Americana – Bill Willingham

Jack 04
This is actually quite a weak volume. It is just a parade of characters who did and didn’t make it into the Great American Novel. Very few of whom have anything to say. There is some good interplay between Jack and Hillary Page and we do find out what the superglue is for.

The art and in particular the colours are superb. There are few to no blank backgrounds and the characters are wonderfully expressive. It is only this visual consistency that saves the series dipping below the excellence of the main Fables line.

Thumbs Up, but it was close.

Jack of Fables 3: The Bad Prince – Bill Willingham

Jack 03The thinking reader’s Deadpool returns for more tricks and japes. You wouldn’t consider Willingham could find so many Jacks in literature but he does and makes them all entertaining. The main story continues with Jack and PF on the run. We also get a standalone issue for Halloween revealing his Jack ’o Lantern days.

The art is superb and despite having at least three pencillers the continuity of style is faultless. The Bolland covers are also magnificent.

Thumbs Up!

Jack of Fables 2: Jack of Hearts – Bill Willingham

Jack 02The excellent writing continues and we have a two issue and a four issue story that shows off just how interesting a shallow and slightly dim character like Jack, and his faithful sidekick, can be.

The art is great and despite having seven different people on the art team, in addition to the letterer and two writers, things remain remarkably coherent.

Thumbs Up!