Fairest #7 (2012)

 

Quote:
‘You’re going to slay me with a walking stick? I know I’m just a girl and all, but it’s a bit far-fetched.’

 

I don’t tend to make many posts about single issues of comics but I thought I would about this one for completeness as, together with the previous issues in the series that I have already talked about, this will be part of the upcoming first collected volume of Fairest. It is a standalone story and was written by Matthew Sturges (Jack of Fables, House of Mystery) and with art by Shawn McManus.

The story has Beast on the trail of a monstrous killer in 1940s Los Angeles. However if he wants to capture the monster alive he must beat the dapper Englishman and monster slayer Saint-George to the punch. But why is Beast so insistent on catching the killer alive and why is Fabletown’s sheriff Bigby Wolf not on the case?

This is a nice standalone story some great art by McManus who colours the 1940s segment in sepia tones to match the mood of the era of fictional private detectives that is used as the setting of the tale. But the most significant development for Fables fans is that this issue shows that this is a series that needs to be followed as it looks like the stories told will relate more closely to the main series than I thought they would. I thought that the series of stories, like Legends of the Dark Knight for Batman, would be set in the universe of Fables but standing outside of the continuity of the main series. However issues 1-6 spun out of an incident in Fables #107 and this story provides some background on the relationship between Beauty and Beast that goes some way to explaining Frau Totenknder’s present for their daughter, Bliss. Now this may just be because the first two writers, series creator Bill Willingham and Jack of Fables co-writer Matthew Sturges, are well acquainted with the main series and its characters. So it will be interesting to see how it develops with the next story arc and a writer new to the world, Lauren Beukes.

Fairest #1-6 (2012)

 

Quote:
“I smell a rat! No, I smell whatever sort of vermin a rat smells when he smells a rat!”

 

The recent publication of issue 6 of Fairest marks the end of the first story. Fairest is the latest spinoff from Fables and will focus on the female characters in the original series. This first story was written by the main man himself, Fables creator Bill Willingham. The truly fabulous interior art was pencilled by Phil Jimenez and inked mainly by Andy Lanning with some help along the way from Mark Farmer and Andrew Pepoy. The fantastic covers were by Adam Hughes. The wraparound cover to issue 1 shown above features mainly easily recognisable characters to regular readers of Fables but there were a few I did not recognise.

The story follows on from the abduction of the Snow Queen and Briar Rose by a goblin army from the Empire’s capital city in Fables #107. Ali Baba is looting the city when he comes across a minor bottle imp in a bottle. Although not able to grant him three wishes, the bottle imp promises to use his skills to guide him to vast wealth. He is led to the goblin camp where he frees Briar Rose with a kiss and both find that true love is hard to find and hold on to – even with seven fairy godmothers on your side.

This is an excellent start to the new series. Willingham has produced yet another fabulous tale from his winning formula of retelling classic fairy tales and updating the characters involved. This story focuses on true love and loss but is also a tale of revenge and redemption and is bound to be an instant hit with fans of the main series. It is also the perfect introduction for those who have missed out on Fables and don’t want to play catch-up or commit to the longer story arcs.

With the conclusion of the first arc, the series is being opened out to other creators for their take on these characters. The proposed format reminds me of the Legends of the Dark Knight comic that also featured standalone tales from different creative teams. Issue 7 is to be a single issue story by Matthew Sturges and Shawn McManus which is to be followed by another six issue story featuring Rapunzel by Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda. While I am excited about some of the new writers and artists involved – I am looking forward to seeing more of Inaki Miranda’s work after Fables #99 – I am slightly worried that the quality may vary with the introduction of writers new to the characters.

Having said that, this first arc has left me excited for the future of the series and it is worth picking up when it is collected – sometime after the publication of issue 7 which will also be included in the TPB.

Jack of Fables: The End (2011)

 

Quote:
What kinds of heroes would we be if we retired having never slain an actual dragon?

 

And so we come to the final collection of the Jack of Fables comics. This is volume 9 and it collects issues 46 – 50. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The art was mainly by Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy but also with contributions by Dan Green, Russ Braun and Bill Reinhold.

Set an unspecified number of years in the future, this book sees Jack Frost about to retire after years of adventuring and heroic deeds. But just as he is about to call it a day he is hired to slay a fearsome dragon and agrees as it is something he has never done before. However, he finds that he is not the only one to have an interest in this particular dragon.

First of all the best thing about this book is the return of those hot librarians the Page sisters – Priscilla, Robin and Hillary – who are on their own quest to reassemble the Great Library and restore their Literal powers. It is good to see those characters again – possibly for the last time(?). However the book spends too much time reuniting us with characters from Jack’s past for no great reason other than to be cannon fodder in the climax of the book. A disappointing end to what was a good series with no sign of the wicked humour upon which it made its name.

Bill and Matt have more or less stated that they had run of ideas and there was very little room for pushing the boundaries of the character once it had been revealed that he had slept with his sisters. But to take 15 issues to wrap it up in such a way as they have seems like extreme overindulgence to me. I would have much rather his story had come to an end in the crossover storyline. Sadly, this book will not be missed by me – and I never thought I would have said that when it was at its height.

Jack of Fables: The Fulminate Blade (2011)

 

Quote:
I fully intend to kill that giant and ensure that no more virgins are sacrificed!

 

This is volume 8 of the Jack of Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 41 – 45. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The art was by various combinations of Tony Akins, Jim Fern, Andrew Pepoy and Joe Rubinstein.

With Jack Hornet’s transformation complete at the end of the last book, the stage is set for his altruistic and naive son Jack Frost to take centre stage. In this book, Jack sets out to slay the giant that is demanding an annual tribute from the world of Landfall. He soon finds that all is not what it seems and almost everyone he meets has been using him for their own ends.

Although the book consists of a perfectly good story set in the Fables homelands, the adventures of Jack Frost are not nearly as exciting, or funny, as those of his father – or at least they are in a more conventional sense. So reading this book I found myself missing the antics of the Jack of old – despite the extreme depths that he sunk to in The Great Fables Crossover. With the next book collecting the last of the series, I am not sure if this is an attempt at a reboot that failed or if this is part of the planned route to the end of the series – to be honest it feels like the latter when taken with volume 7.

Jack of Fables: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (2010)

 

Quote:
“Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

“There’s no need to be rude. It isn’t as if hot baths are easy to come by in the jungle.”

 

This is volume 7 of the Jack of Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 36-40. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges with a one-off story written by Chris Roberson. The art was by various combinations of Tony Akins, Russ Braun, Andrew Pepoy and Jose Marzan, Jr.

The first story is a filler from Chris Roberson called Jack ‘n’ Apes which is a tale from Jack’s past when he was on the run (again) and pitched up in the jungle of West Africa and ran into a colony of Fable apes. The remaining four installments by the regular writing team pick up the story from the end of The Great Fables Crossover. In it Jack (along with sidekick Gary) head off on the road again without a care in the world looking for the next opportunity to make money but along the way they discover that the choices that Jack has made in the past have consequences that only now make themselves apparent. This volume has two plot lines and the second follows Jack’s son, with the Snow Queen, Jack Frost as he sets out on the road to adventure and being a hero across the Fables Homelands. However he doesn’t find it easy as first real quest – to save a town from rampaging monsters – is further complicated when he has to complete a quest for the monsters in exchange for the release of the townsfolk.

Although only a filler story after the major crossover event, Roberson’s story was everything I love about a Jack of Fables story. It was funny and had Jack furiously trying to work an angle at every opportunity – switching allegiances every couple of pages. The riff on the Tarzan legend was great especially his relationship with Jane.

The main story looks like a change of direction, for now at least, with Jack’s son taking a more prominent role and showing his father how a true hero acts – although Jack, of course, already believes he is the first and greatest hero of them all. Jack is sidelined as, Dorian Gray style, his past actions literally transform him. I will need to see how this change of direction plays out but it could be interesting with Jack Frost travelling between the worlds of the Homelands looking for adventure opens up the book to perhaps more varied and interesting story ideas. My only worry is that it may become too like the main book if they persist with the formula for too long.

Fables: The Great Fables Crossover (2010)

This is volume 13 of the Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 83 – 85 of Fables, issues 33-35 of Jack of Fables and issues 1-3 of The Literals. It was written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges and the art was by the usual collection of artists involved with the ongoing comics.

The story continues on from volume 6 of Jack of Fables with Jack bringing word of the Literals and the threat of Kevin Thorn to the rest of the Fables at a time when they are regrouping after the destruction of their home in New York. Kevin Thorn has the ability to rewrite the story of this world and intends to do so as he does not like how his characters have turned out just as soon as he can get over his writers’ block.

Fables is normally a very strong book but this has to be my least favourite volume so far. The story is developed from a minor plot strand in the Fables comic and resolves a major plot line in the Jack of Fables comic. And so Jack gatecrashes the book he was thrown out of and it feels like a Jack of Fables book rather than a Fables book. Normally this would be fine as the Jack stories are funny but in this book his treatment of the distraught Rose Red shows the extreme nature of Jack’s egotism and power of self-delusion. He is turned from a loveable rogue into a fairly despicable character to such an extent that it is difficult to see how he can ever win over the audience again. There has to repercussions to this storyline in Jack’s own book or I can’t see how I will be able to continue to read it.

As far as the regular cast of Fables is concerned, their problems regarding the attack and destruction of their New York home have to be put on hold as they deal with the more immediate threat to their whole world. The use of the Literals allow the writers to make some amusing remarks on the act of writing and its tropes and genres but, like a lot of crossover stories, the story felt a little too long and drawn out and could have been tighter and pacier if it had been confined to the ongoing books without the introduction of The Literals mini-series. I am looking forward very much to a return to business as usual with the next volume.

Jack of Fables: The Big Book of War (2009)

This is volume 6 of the spin-off series from Fables collecting issues 28 – 32. It was written by Fables writer Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges writer of the excellent House of Mystery – also for Vertigo. Art duties were shared amongst Tony Akins, Ross Braun, Jose Marzan Jr. and Dan Green.

For those that don’t know Jack of the Tales is a self-centred character whose massive ego meant that he was forced out of the main Fables comic into his own title where he could pursue his main interests of making lots of money and sleeping with hot women. This book continues a long running story line with the librarians and residents of the Golden Boughs Retirement Community. Jack has led the Bookburner to the Golden Boughs where he lays siege and attacks it with the aim of wiping out all fables within it.

As the book is a continuation of a long story line, that continues into the next volume of Fables, it is not really a suitable jumping on point for new readers – but you really, really should be reading both Fables and Jack of Fables anyway. It is fairly standard fare as Jack, more by luck and the efforts of his companions, takes control of the resistance effort and fights off the Bookburner’s forces – not really a spoiler since this is Jack of the Tales and he always comes out on top in most situations. This book is packed with the usual Jack of Fables humour as an increasingly delusional Jack, both in his own abilities and his perception as himself of being irresistible to any available women, stumbles from one taco to another as chaos reigns around him. Excellent stuff and I really can’t get enough of it.