Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland (2012)

“… dead gods are another thing altogether. They can be infinitely more useful.”

This long delayed original graphic novel is a spin off from the long running Vertigo series, Fables. As with the main series, it was written by Bill Willingham. The book has a number of artists – Jim Fern who did layouts, pencils and inks, Craig Hamilton who did pencils and inks; Ray Snyder and Mark Farmer who did inks.

While on a quest looking for a suitable location for a new home for Fabletown, Bigby Wolf drops in on Story City, a town secretly funded by Bluebeard. King Cole has charged Bigby to find out what is there and what Bluebeard’s interest in the town could have been. Bigby finds the town populated solely by werewolves whose origin lies in some of Bigby’s activities in the Second World War. But the arrival of Bigby acts as a catalyst for change in elements of the citizens of Story City not happy with the way things are being run.

I usually love all things Fables but this book didn’t do much for me. Although it is a standalone story it has some ties back to events in the Mean Seasons collection. However, the events in The Mean Seasons are recounted here so it would be possible for someone not familiar with the 120 odd issues of Fables to pick it up and read it. But I would not recommend it as a starting place for new readers as the story is one of the weakest that I have read in the Fables universe. It has been left open for some consequences of Bigby’s actions perhaps coming back to haunt him in the main series but unless that happens and is spectacular then this book is a big disappointment.

The book is not even rescued by the art which is pretty sketchy. The large number of contributers seem to be used at random and the art style can change from one page to the next within the same scene leaving the reader confused. The colour palette is very muted with browns and pastel colours tending to dominate helping to make it feel all very mundane. All in all, I’m afraid, I found the book to be a major let down.

JLA: Earth 2 (2000)

“There is justice after all. A whole new world stretched out and screaming.”

This recent reprint is of a graphic novel from 2000. The book was by the Scottish creative team of writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely. The pair have worked on a number of projects together including Flex Mentallo and We3 for Vertigo, All-Star Superman and the launch of Batman and Robin for DC and New X-Men for Marvel.

Alexander Luthor uses stolen technology to cross the barrier between an anti-matter and matter dimension. He arrives on what he calls Earth 2 looking to call on the Justice League to help him bring justice to his cruel dimension. In Luthor’s dimension good is evil and the Justice League has it’s own dark reflection in the Crime Syndicate of Amerika who use their powers to subjugate the populace and profit from its misery. How much good can the JLA do in a world of evil and what about the the CSA when they get the chance to terrorize a new world?

There are two sides to Grant Morrison – the straight ahead, traditional comic book writer and the more surreal writing usually reserved for his own creations but which sometimes is seen in the superhero books that he writes, such as his run on Doom Patrol. I tend to love his more out there work more but this is a fine example of his conventional comic book writing. As he does with a lot of his work on established characters, he has taken a team from the history of the JLA and updated it for a new audience. The CSA is new to me so I am not sure how much is in the archives and how much comes from Morrison but the mirror dimension is nicely imagined and brought to life. Being a Batman fan I was most interested in the different ways life had turned out for Batman/Owlman and their families and friends. I am also a big Frank Quitely fan so the book is worth the money for his wonderful art alone.

Alabaster: Wolves #1-5 (2012)

“First thing you learn about birds, they ain’t got no manners.”

Alabaster: Wolves #1 cover

The series was written by horror/fantasy author Caitlin R. Kiernan and is set in the world of some of her novels. Caitlin’s work is familiar to me not through her prose work but the various Sandman spin-offs she has written for Vertigo including The Sandman Presents: Bast; The Girl Who Would be Death; and The Dreaming. The art was by Steve Lieber who was artist on Whiteout on Oni Press, Underground on Image and Shooters on Vertigo.

 

Dancy Flammarion is a teenage albino girl who is God’s instrument of justice on the Earth. Accompanied by a seraph she wanders across America ridding the world of supernatural creatures in God’s name. In this series, she comes across a seemingly deserted town in the American south but which is home to werewolves and other beings. Having killed a female werewolf and lost the protection and guidance of her angelic guide, Dancy finds herself questioning her life after being rescued from a burning church by the ghost of the werewolf she killed.

 

Dancy Flammarion first appeared in the novel Threshold and features in a book of short stories called Alabaster. This book had the look and feel of a series that could have been published on Vertigo and so should have been perfect for be but was ultimately disappointing. While this series can be read on its own merit without any previous knowledge of the character, I felt that there seemed to be a lot assumed in the background of the character of of Dancy that would have meant more if I had read the prose stories. Also the story in this series does not feel like a complete tale. It feels like the middle passage of a bigger story and so suffers from the same limitations that a lot of middle books in trilogies can suffer from. While the book was not for me it might well appeal to a fan of Kiernan’s writing who is familiar with the character and I would encourage anyone in that position to give this series a try.

It’s oh so quiet

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately – sorry about that. Extended holidays and a touch of flu have meant that I have not been reading much in the way of comics recently – currently I am enjoying the the excellent Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks.

Anyway the New Year starts tomorrow – or at least gets back to normal – with a return to work. So hopefully I will get back on track working on the backlog of titles I have accumulated from various Comixology and Dark Horse sales.

And because I love her so, here is another burst of old school Björk.