Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Like a Virgin: FABLES

I fancy myself an unusually well-read comics fan.

I own and have read a little of everything. From obscure mini comics by Jeffrey Brown to the entire "Death of Superman" run to Kramers Ergot to all of Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps to the Jim Mahfood Generation X Special to Kamandi to the Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics to Lewis Trondheim to literally thousands of other random things. I've been around.

Even still, there're several books/series/runs referred to as "essentials" that I haven't read before. And it's high time I dove in, don't you think?

So I'm starting this series of articles titled "Like a Virgin" in which I plan on giving my thoughts about my first full readings of these popular books/series/runs and invite you to post your own feelings. Maybe you can read along with me? Or maybe just read what I think and compare it to what you've already thought of the series - I AM coming to the party late, after all, so there's no doubt you're already ahead of me. Also, these will be posted as I make my way through the thick of it, so they WILL feature spoilers. Enter at your own risk.

First up is FABLES vol. 1: Legends in Exile from Vertigo Comics

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Lan Medina
Inked by Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton
Covers by James Jean with a special cover by Alex Maleev

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:
  • When it came out originally, I TOTALLY bought the Alex Maleev cover to issue #1 over the James Jean cover. :)
  • Original series artist Lan Medina reminds me an awful lot of Dale Eaglesham in terms of their backgrounds, facial features and action scenes. It's fun to watch here as the series clearly tries on artistic shoes to see what fits early on.
  • It's interesting how the pace of the first arc in the first trade feels so much like a Vertigo miniseries (if that makes any sense) rather than the start of a long-lasting series. The first arcs of books such as The Sandman, Preacher, and Swamp Thing, for instance, seemed much more comfortable with their places as the starts of series with something special to say. This first arc (and from what I remember of the first arc of future "Like a Virgin" series 100 Bullets) felt more like, say, the first Bite Club miniseries. Very definite. Very tidy. Very clear. This Fables story was even a simplly structured "Locked Room" mystery - though very very creative in its use of characters and dialogue. I'm glad the tonal kitty got to stretch more as the book went on.
  • I kind of have a crush on Beauty...
  • I'm surprised by how...well, dull the first arc's covers by James Jean were considering he's grown into a fierce artist nowadays who's unafraid to juxtapose mediums and images for the best piece possible. But just click here and take a look at what I mean. It was impressive then. But not signature. Which, I guess, speaks volumes for Jean as an artist, that he only got better and better and better...
  • If you get the TPB collection, please don't skip the touching prose piece at the end of the volume! I ended up skipping the last few prose pieces in the single issues of the second volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and never went back. But if those were as integral as this one was to the story, I missed a pretty large section of the plot. Wanna know how Bigby first met Snow? Then go back and read this!
  • The story possibilities set up in this arc are ENDLESS and I forgot how exciting it was to read for the first time. Mashing up all of these fairy tales was a great treat and very promising. And it didn't HIT me til the speech during the Remembrance Day festival later in this collection. As the mayor speaks about the Fables and their fleeing from a bad dude conqueror called The Adversary who stole all their respective kingdoms (thus pushing them to move to the human "Mundy" realm), a flashback reveals scenes featuring characters from a bevy of stories running for their lives alongside each other. Very exciting, indeed.
  • During the very same speech, we get a glimpse of the Adversary and discover he was "From beyond the farthest shores of Never..." This is obviously the first hint at the Adversary as Peter Pan, and it makes me wonder how many people had Pan pegged as such from here on out.
  • A few pages later we get our first appearance of Pinocchio. I haven't gotten far enough yet to know if Pinocchio plays a larger role in Gapetto's being the Adversary, but it's neat to see him and hints at Pan in the same issue. Also, he's horny.
And that does it. All-in-all, I'm excited to get to the next volume as soon as I can...


Jesse T. said...

This was fun, man ... I'd forgotten about all of the Fables hotties. And definitely interesting to watch the progression of James Jean. I'd kill to get a book with ALL of his covers reprinted. Fables and Runaways, side by side!
Regarding revisiting a series, I've been wanting to do something similar with "Starman" in its entirety, since it's coming up on six years since I last read those stories (and I've yet to read the final issues at all).

Rickey said...

I totally tackled Starman last year thanks to David Paggi and his brother, who had every issue by James Robinson including the minis, one-shots and backup stories. That would have been a fun one to do this with, because I actually wasn't a fan of the first few arcs so much, but I did buy the #0 and #1 issues when they came out.
Why do I give up on future-hits so much? I did the same with 100 Bullets way back. Blah.