End of another year

Well it is the end of another year and I haven’t managed to spend any time maintaining this blog. So, in what is rapidly becoming an annual tradition, I am posting an image from Goodreads of all the comic books that I have read this year.

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Highlights this year were The Walking Dead, The Unwritten, Batgirl Year One and Saga.

I have been reading the first two volumes of Saga over the last few days and will continue till I have finished the currently available issues (24). This book is really good and if you are a fan of Y: The Last Man then you should also love this book from BKV. A highlight of this year will be the publication of the last issue of BKV’s self published comic The Private Eye so that I can finally read the story in one go.

Until the next time – whenever it might be – have a great 2015 if you can.

Fairest #8-13 (2012-13)

“I wish they’d let me join them in death. I would have been a great ghost. Maybe I didn’t have the right hat.”

Fairest #8 cover

This spin-off series from Fables enters its second major story line, and its first without creator Bill Willingham who remains as a consultant, with South African author Lauren Beukes taking on the writing duties. The art is handled by Inaki Miranda who has previously had some one issue credits on the main Fables title. The covers were all by Adam Hughes.

The focus of this story is Rapunzel and it is set back in 2002 before the start of the escalation of the war with the Adversary and Mister Dark – so we see them in their original residence, have Snow White in power, in all but name, and some old characters that have since passed on such as Boy Blue and Jack  who has a fairly prominent role in the story. The story itself sees Rapunzel travel to Japan on the hunt for the children that she believes where stolen from her but instead she runs into an old lover from the Hidden Kingdom, a feudal Japanese Fables homeland where Rapunzel lived for a while after the loss of her children. The actions of the past  catch up with her as her lover, now a Yakuza style gang lord, seeks revenge for the role she believes that Rapunzel played in the destruction of the Hidden Kingdom.

I read the first novel from Lauren Beukes, Moxyland, a while ago and I wasn’t terribly impressed. For me there were no sympathetic characters for me to have an emotional connection with and so in the end I didn’t really care what happened to anyone in the book. And the same problem affects this story line to a certain degree. In the end the story itself was fine and the broadening of the back story of Rapunzel was good – with enough left unresolved so that it could be revisited in the future – but the emotional connection was not there for me. Part of the problem may have been setting it in the past and so it doesn’t connect with much that has happened in the main series but mainly there was no threat as we know the fate of a lot of the main Fables that appeared and so the drama was lessened. The artby Inaki Miranda was clean and cute for the most part but horrific and brutal when it needed to be. It remains to be seen if there is to be any impact of this story on the main series or upcoming story lines in Fairest but at the moment it feels like a throw away, standalone tale with no real weight as it was not written by the series creator.

Fables: Cubs in Toyland (2013)

“Only silly Dorothys arrive in a magical land and want to go home.”

The latest trade collection of the Vertigo series, Fables, takes us to volume 18 collecting issues 114 to 123 – marking 10 years of the series. The usual contributors are present again with writer Bill Willingham and artists Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha. There are two stories in this collection the eight issue title story and a two issue story, The Destiny Game, featuring art from guest artist Gene Ha.

The main story, Cubs in Toyland, follows on from Therese receiving the odd Christmas present of a toy boat in the last volume. The present becomes even odder when it starts to talk to her and whisks her away to a land of toys looking for a queen. But this toyland is a dark place with broken down toys who all hide a dark secret of their own and will do anything and sacrifice anyone to be restored to their former glory.

The second story, The Destiny Game, features a grown up Ambrose, one of Snow and Bigby’s cubs, relating a tale of his father and how his fate was decided by an encounter with a woman who can pass the fate of others onto different people.

Another solid entry in the Fables canon. The only problem that I have with the recent collections is that, since the defeat of Mister Dark, the wider story of the general population of Fables has been marginalised to just a handful of pages – both in this book and the previous one. The focus has instead been on Snow, Bigby and their family and while the stories are interesting and entertaining, I miss the wider canvas available when a more diverse mix of Fables are brought into the story. But like I say a minor quibble in an otherwise great series as it heads into its second decade.

The Bufkin tale that had been running through the main story is missing from this volume. Looking at the Vertigo web site pages for the single issues, it looks like #114 was the start of a back up feature that starred Bufkin and his adventures in Oz. These are not reprinted in this volume but I hope that they will be collected together along with the standalone issue #124, which was the end of that storyline, in the next trade collection.

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.

The New Deadwardians #1-8 (2012)

“One day I recall, I had to re-kill my entire platoon.”

The New Deadwardians #1 cover

This recently finished 8 part mini-series from Vertigo was created by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard. Abnett has had a long career as a writer of prose books, most notably a large number of Warhammer 40K novels, and comics books mainly for Marvel and 2000AD. Ian Culbard has illustrated a number of adaptions of literary works including  Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, H.P. Lovecraft stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.

Set in an alternate history London of 1910, a curse has spread across England since zombies (known as the Restless) first mysteriously appeared in 1861. Attracted by the living, the only cure is to become a vampire (known as the Young) an option taken up mainly by the wealthy and privileged members of society. The rest of the human race (known as the Bright) live in barricaded zones surrounded by hundreds of the Restless pressing in attracted by the living. In this setting, Chief Inspector George Suttle is called on to investigate the murder of a Young aristocrat who death is made more mysterious by not being due to one of the three ways to kill the Young. During his investigation, Suttle has to cross into a Bright zone and deal with the reawakening of long dormant desires as well as secret societies and pressure to close the case quickly without any scandal.

Abnett has taken some very old (and possibly tired) supernatural species and managed to weave a fresh story full of intrigue. The zombies are mostly background threat with a couple of incursions in the living zones of London. The most interesting relationship is between the Young and the Bright and the simmering resentment that pervades the whole series. Suttle goes through a transformative experience when made to interact with the Bright that challenges the life (or unlife) he has been leading for nearly 50 years. I liked the art by Ian Culbard and the subtle colour palette used throughout the book. Worth a look for a different take on some classic horror tropes.

Spaceman #1-9 (2011-12)

“So now what?”

“We wait, we web-cast pictures of what appear to be Tara and her kidnappers, from a anom source.”

“Huh? But webee staff on the show …”

‘Jesus, Bob … it’s called drama …”

Spaceman #1 cover

This is a recently finished nine issue mini series from Vertigo. The creative team is no stranger to Vertigo being Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso who have collaborated before on Jonny Double, 100 Bullets and a Batman story in the Wednesday Comics anthology title for DC.

The story is set in a post-climate change world where the water levels have risen to submerge part of an unnamed city. The affluent live in a segregated part of the city known as the Dries while every one else slum it in the Rise. Orson is a genetically modified human, standing 7 to 8 feet tall with monkey-like features, who was created, along with others, to travel to Mars but the programme was shut down due to public outrage when he was still young. He makes a living salvaging stuff from the Rise but his life is turned upside down when he runs into a crew of kidnappers who have kidnapped a young girl from the family of a reality TV show, The Ark.

Interwoven with this story is another concerning four of the genetically altered spacemen on a mission to terraform Mars. Their motivations change when a meteorite veined with gold crashes near their base and disagreements on what to do lead to suspicion and suspected murder.

I have loved the work of Azzarello and Risso in the past – especially the fabulous artwork of Eduardo Risso.(a lot of which you can buy from his web site). And this story was enjoyable too but I was confused as to how the two very different stories connected together. It is suggested in the Earth bound one that the Mars missions never took place and the situation of another of the spacemen, Carter, would suggest that the Mars mission did not take place after the story on Earth. But they are obviously connected in some way – whether the whole of the Earth story is an immersive TV show of some kind or the Mars one a hallucination – some of the sequences are triggered by Orson taking a drug – or something else I just can’t decide. For me the Earth story was more interesting and losing the Mars one to add more detail into that world would have made for a more satisfying book.

Home from Home

This is my first post in the brand new home of the RevolutionSF blogs. It’s great that the blogs have finally caught up with the 21st century and hopefully posts will be easier to produce and maintain.

I am currently re-reading the recently finished Spaceman series from Vertigo by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. So that will be the next comic to reviewed here by the end of the week, hopefully.

In the meantime, I am being dragged slowly into the 21st century myself. Although a still buy a fair amount of CDs, I have mainly been accessing music digitally in the last few years via a couple of subscription and streaming services. Now I think the time has come to think seriously about how I access print material in the future.

I have just about filled, and overfilled, every available space that my understanding wife will allow with comics, graphic novels and books. So I am seriously thinking about moving to a digital platform in the very near future. Comixology always have great offers and this week I was finally tempted to lay down some cash for an omnibus edition of Project Superpowers – 21 issues for $16.99 was too good a deal to resist.

I had a look at the first issue on my Android phone for free and while the experience was not too bad (it was good enough for me to take the plunge in the first place and I have recently upgraded my phone and it has a 4.7″ high resolution display) I think for prolonged reading I will want to buy a tablet so that I can see full pages more comfortably.

There are a lot of circumstances coming together that make now the right time for me. The foremost of these is the imminent release of the Kindle Fire in the UK and the rumoured release of a mini-iPad. One of these may well be my preferred option but if I am not satisfied with either then I will probably go for a full iPad. We’ll see what the future brings.

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.

Jonny Double (2002)

 

Quote:
“You kids’re talkin’ about robbing a bank!”

“No, we’re talkin’ about goin’ to get a dead guy’s money.”

 

This book collects the four issue mini-series that was the first collaboration between writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso. This was the start of a successful partnership that has since produced 100 Bullets, the current Spaceman and some Batman stories.

Jonny Double is an ex-cop turned private investigator whose latest client has just turned up dead. The down on his luck Jonny is then hired by a mysterious Mr. Hart to find out what crowd his daughter, Faith, is running with and to keep her out of trouble. Everything seems fine until he is persuaded to impersonate the son of Al Brown (AKA Al Capone) to close out his daddy’s inactive bank account. However, the account is not as inactive as the Faith’s crew think and instead of scoring $300,000 they lift $7 million. Jonny’s world goes downhill fast as the kids start turning up dead and Jonny has to protect Faith from a legendary hit man.

This is an excellent book from Azzarello and Risso. A modern day noir crime caper with all the elements one might expect including a dumb PI falling for deadly femme fatale. Some of the parts of the story might be a bit too clichéd but the quality of the writing and art is such that you drawn along into the twisted narrative completely. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing throughout the story and the ending neatly wraps up all the threads from Jonny’s past and present. The only thing that slightly jarred for me was Jonny’s speech patterns which were infused with 60s beatnik/hipster figures of speech. But otherwise this fabulous book should appeal to fans of 100 Bullets if they haven’t read it already.