Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Like a Virgin: FABLES VOL. 3

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. 3: Storybook Love.

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, Bryan Talbot and Linda Medley
Inked by Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton, Talbot and Medley
Covers by James Jean and Aron Wiesenfeld
Collects Fables #11-#18

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:
  • Lookit Aron Wiesenfeld doing his cover thang! I dunno why he did the cover for issue #11's standalone story, but he did. He also did the late teens/early 20s covers for Y: The Last Man, too. He's a solid artist I first noticed from his spectacular covers on that anthology book WildStorm!, and you can check out his line art here:

So, when I saw him in Fables, I was tickled and baffled. And both were very welcome feelings. I think this cover may be only one of two for the entire series NOT done by Jean. The first being that Maleev variant for issue #1.
  • Zombie farmyard animals? Rad.
  • I gotta say, as much as I enjoyed Medina's art in the first volume, his art in this volume's two-issue story about a journalist who thinks the Fables are a community of vampires was top-notch. Great layouts and angles and pacing all over. Wow.
  • Did I mention this story is about a journalist who thinks the Fables are a community of VAMPIRES!? Fuck, that's exactly what I meant in my vol. 1 writeup when I said I was excited about the story possibilities this series could present. And seeing a group of the male characters stumbling around in heist fashion to steal any evidence the journalist had is so much fun to watch.
  • Seeing Bigby knock Bluebeard down a peg was pretty cathartic considering Bluebeard is kind of a tool. But I wasn't prepared to see BB cry like that - and even more unprepared for how sorry it made me feel for the formerly murderous pirate.
  • Forget my crush on plain ol' Beauty - I now have a crush on SLEEPING Beauty:
  • Cold, Bluebeard. Yer cold as ICE:
  • Tiny patrolmen on mice?! YES!
  • The sparring match between Bluebeard and Prince Charming that ran across the bottom of the pages in issue #14 was a little distracting at first, but I didn't mind the switch-up in structure by the end.
  • Goldilocks and Bluebeard?! Ew, lah lah!:
  • Heroes:
  • Not sure I dig the way Buckingham draws Bigby's mouth (or lack of a mouth) under his facial hair. Maybe I'll get used to it...
  • Pinocchio made an odd design change between issues #13 and #15 - what's with the square jaw?:
  • I just like this panel:
  • Fucking hero:
  • I like Prince Charming setting up some detective work of his own by hiring the tiny police agents from the farm. Just as I was thinking the guy was a one-note douche character, he pulls some stuff like that.
  • Fucking EPIC hero:

See, it's the side battles and arcs like this that really keep me glued to this book. The Snow White and Bigby stuff is usually front and center and then you get smaller (literally smaller, as is the case here) intrigue from sprinkled bits like this. It usually leads to no fat in the series, which I like.
  • It's cute to hear Bigby's proclamation of love to Snow White. Following up on the text piece from the end of the first volume, Bigby's explanation that Snow White, no matter all his work to make the fact not true, is his one eternal love...and he's known it for some time now. Genuinely touching stuff and surprising emotional responses from characters I thought I had pegged for sure.
  • Here's my favorite splash of the series so far, courtesy of Bigby's huff and puff attack against a sniping Goldilocks. You can feel the power in the art:
  • Speaking of which, finding out the Bigby's dad is the North Wind is a stellar touch! Looking forward to seeing THAT interaction followed up.
  • Oh Snap! Bluebeard vs. Prince Charming? PC comes out on top. Poor Bluebeard.
  • As if Goldilocks unloading a rifle into a full-grown Bigby's wolf mouth weren't brutal enough, in comes Snow White with the thwack:
  • The following chilling panel reminds me of Brad Pitt in Fight Club whispering "What's that smell."
  • And the fight goes on for a few panels. It's really beautiful, frightening survival of the fittest shit going on. The volume is worth a read for those few pages alone.
  • Ah-ha! I did NOT know that was how Snow and Bigby got preggers. The poor couple.
  • Notice in the standalone backup story from issue #18 that as the tiny adventurer and his brave bird fly back into the Homelands for a miracle to save his people, he tells his bird to fly "straight on 'til morning." Those, of course, are the final words of direction used in "Peter Pan" to explain how to get to Neverland. I dunno how long it was before Willingham decided not to go with Peter as the Adversary, but to get back to the Homelands you had to at least go through Pan's realm, so I'd assume it was still in Willingham's head in issue #18.
  • My favorite cover in the collection? Right here:

It's dangerous, soft, stylized, leveled and pink. But here is my choice for second place, which is unfortunate, because I stopped buying the series initially just one issue before it. And you can see this is the collection where James Jean really starts feeling comfortable with his voice on the series' covers. As always, I love his pinks here. And the mood in this cover is just the right mix of noir and elegance for me.

Now on to volume 4...

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