Sunday, February 15, 2009

Like a Virgin: FABLES VOL. 2

As I said over in the first installment of this column, I fancy myself a well-read comics fan, but there's tons of highly praised stuff I just haven't made it to, yet.

So, I've decided to tackle Fables from Vertigo Comics and I'm posting my reactions to each collection here. Watch out for spoiler if you haven't read the books!

This time it's Vol. 2: Animal Farm.

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham
Inked by Steve Leialoha
Covers by James Jean
Collects Fables #6-#10

What I knew going in (remember: there will be spoilers!):
  • Snow White and Bigby Wolf are going to have babies.
  • Gapetto is the Adversary/series creator Bill Willingham intended for the Adversary to be Peter Pan before it was discovered that copyright laws in certain places didn't have Pan in the public domain, which is a criteria Willingham uses in his recruiting for the characters in the series.
  • James Jean is a dope-ass artist.
  • I originally bought and read issues #1-15 of the series as they came out and just stopped one day because I was spending too much money and it landed on the chopping block for no good reason.
What I thought as I read:

  • I know Mark Buckingham goes on to become the regular Fables interior artist, so it was good to see his debut stuff here, especially because his rounded art style lends itself well to animals and fantastical creatures and those are exactly the type of characters predominantly seen in this volume. Makes me wonder if Fables was originally going to recruit artists in step with the tone of the stories as the series went on.
  • I love how the tone of the story shifts by the end of the first issue thanks to that unexpected beheading. Guh, that was a punch to the stomach.

  • And remember how Colin was seen in the background of the first volume a ton? Shit, he's on all the covers of the first volume's single issues trying to hide in the picture. Take a look:
He even crashed on Bigby's couch. At the time he seemd to just want to hang in the city, but it's clear here now that he wanted to live in the city because his peers on the farm were going bat-shit crazy.
  • I like that Bigby isn't allowed on the farm upstate because of all the terrible shit he's done to the animal characters there. Amnestry or not, they don't want a serial killer in their midst. :)
  • That troll thing that shows up is clearly an homage to Kirby art, right? I mean, look at those claws and the Kirby face detail lines.
  • How big an asshole is Goldilocks?
  • Yum! Bestiality!
  • You try and eat Snow White and she'll shoot your ass until you fall off a cliff. Fucking brutal.
  • I enjoyed the discussions about freedom in this volume and adding the philosophies on the subject to the idea that the Fables have been in the human realm for centuries never came off forced or ineffective. If anything, it all added a depth to the plight of the characters and illustrated how trapped they ALL are. Sad stuff.
  • And even though I read it in single issues, the final scene of issue #9 still surprised me on this reading!
  • And, of course, the shooting lead to the revelation that a Fable's invulnerability is directly linked to their popularity among humans. Snow White being so popular, she was able to shrug off a bullet to the head (though it did take MONTHS of therapy). Immediately it had me calling bullshit, though, cause of the death of Colin, one of the 3 little pigs, earlier in the arc. The 3 Little Pigs is a hugely popular story. So how was he capable of dying? But whatever, I guess his appearance to Snow in a vision after her death explains it well enough. Fables never really die, they just go to a sort of limbo.
  • The "characters can't die if their stories are popular" rule also touched on the idea of Peter Pan as the Adversary for me. In Peter Pan, if you tell the fairies in the story that you don't believe in them, they die. But if you clap your hands, they come back to life. The ratio of popularity to death in both instances seem to mirror each other for me, though I also think I'm reaching here.
  • Just like in the first arc, there's a nice, tidy resolution of all the loose ends as all the characters involved find themselves somewhere they weren't at when the story began. I liked this arc's resolution better than the first arc's and you can tell how comfortable Willingham was becoming with this world of characters.
  • And the extras in this baby are rad! I loved it back when TPBs had extras like sketch material for fans. It showed a little somethin' somethin' for those who plunked down the cash for these things. Both Willingham and Jean provide sketches including Wuillingham's character concept images, which are great fun to look at thanks to Willingham's strong art style. It's also neat to see how the characters evolved from his ideas to the final product.
  • I loved all the pinks in James Jean's covers this time around, and you can tell he's finding a new creativity in these issues thanks to the cover collection in the back of the trade. My favorite from this collection? Issue #10:

Though the wraparound cover to the trade is STUNNING.

And that's that! On to volume 3...


Ben Morse said...

That's one of many instances where Buckingham pays homage to Kirby in this series, some of which are more overt than others. I'd love to hear the story behind that, as Mark Buckingham and Jack Kirby are two guys I'd place far apart from each other as far as where they came from and what they worked on, but there's clearly a strong influence on Buckingham's work.

Rickey said...

Yeah, there's a panel I didn't mention and didn't scan in that has Prince Charming and his man-gang from the city charging in to help out and it's clearly a Kirby action panel. I'm looking forward to the upcoming homages.

Mike Wilson said...

You've got a great ride ahead of you. The first sixty of so issues are some of the most amazing comics I've ever read; after that, it is the most complete betrayal of the audience I've personally experienced, but those first sixty issues are still pure gold.

Rickey said...

The most complete betrayal of the audience?! Egads! I'm stoked to stumble into whatever minefield you say lies ahead, Mike.

I was actually wondering WHEN I should stop this column for Fables and move on to the next essential series. Like, I can't write about Fables up to the present issues, because I don't know that they're essential. I guess I may stop around the end of the fight with the Adversary (if there is such a thing). But I'd love to hear what people have to say about when I should stop blogging my reading experience...

Sam said...

One of my favorite things about this series is getting to see the characters we grew up with in a completely different light, be it good or bad. So the reveal of who Goldilocks and the three bears are in the Fable world is totally awesome. I can't wait for you to meet Cinderella; she's one of my faves.