Wasteland Book 3: Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos – Antony Johnston

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Things are getting more epic as the stage switches to city-scale conflict. A mighty battle dominates this issue but never eclipses the politics or vivid characterisation. Our starting characters are absent for virtually the whole book but we don’t mind as there is so much more going on. The plot progresses rapidly and we are intrigued by new developments.

There is a lengthy opening told in Sand-Eater dialect. Whilst this is not too hard to follow it does outstay its welcome and would benefit from being shorter.

The art is excellent. There are no flashbacks here but interior and exterior are cleverly delineated using line thickness and greater shading. A great example of a strong but simple technique.

Definitely plenty to have you clamouring for more.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 2: Shades of God – Antony Johnston

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The story continues with each plot or character receiving enough page-time to keep you intrigued. We learn more about the past and how this new world relates to our own. This might be a case of too much too soon depending on how new you want your new world to be.

We also learn more about our characters and Abi’s early life in particular through flashbacks. This constant flow of answers and new information means you aren’t getting lost or frustrated. Naturally it paves the way for bigger mysteries.

The flashbacks are told through digitally faded pages, a technique which is subtle but works much better than you think. The art is doing a lot of work with a few staple tools. In this case the less is definitely more.

If the series continues like this, and there is no reason it shouldn’t, this will be a must buy for every volume.

Thumbs Up!

Wasteland Book 1: Cities in Dust – Antony Johnston

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This a strong opening to a post-apocalyptic saga that runs for more than ten volumes.

The theme of a human culture re-emerging and adapting to the fall of technology and civilisation may seem familiar but it is executed here distinctively and elegantly. The world is revealed in discrete and logical steps and the characters and their emotions are always the driving force.

The world is similar enough to our own not to need a glossary or a wordy prologue and pretty soon it is clear humanity and its shortcomings are common to any epoch. Set more than a hundred years into the future the language is subtly different but you can see where it had grown from and it is never a barrier to the story.

The art is excellent, black and grey with a similar feel to The Walking Dead but with less detail and more tonal range. It is a digital style with almost every frame being artificially blurred to bring depth and interest to the background. This is very well executed and a real asset to adding motion and life to the page.

The whole thing may be an allegory for America of the past, present or future and some of the names help convince you of this. The themes however are universal and the woes and prejudices of any culture, civilisation or time-period never change and always make great literature.

A superb beginning.

Thumbs Up!

Uber: Volume 5 – Kieron Gillen

Uber Volume Five

Uber works best when it surprises you rather than slavishly detailing the minutia of history. A bold step in an unexpected direction captures your interest as seen with Hitler and Churchill. This is another excellent volume for that very reason.

Plot that has been building comes to fruition and the excellent characterisation continues, albeit in small chunks. We also return to the Pacific front, possibly because Gillen doesn’t want to be accused of ignoring it rather than it adding anything at all to the story.

The art is superb as always and a black page with a single caption strikes terror, or at least trepidation, into the heart of every Uber fan.

Thumbs Up!

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

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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

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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

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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!