Saturday, June 30, 2007

New comics, and ponderings about my buying habits

I think I'm getting to the point where I wonder if many of the comics I buy are worth the money I spend on them. Sure, there are some that are totally worth every penny, but there are plenty that leave me wondering why I bothered. I think I've reached the point where I'm going to attempt to dial back my weekly spending and focus on trades, collections, graphic novels, manga, etc. So I think I'll look at each book this week and decide if I want to keep buying the series, or if I want to wait for the trade (or drop it altogether). Off we go:

The Boys #8
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Darick Robertson

This series seems to be plugging along regularly, making fun of superheroes and throwing in lots of gross-out humor and profanities. This story arc seems to be slightly different than the previous one (at least so far), as Hughie and Butcher investigate the death of a young gay man with links to the superhero Swingwing, a parallel to Nightwing. Meanwhile, Tek Knight, the Batman analogue, is having more sexual problems. Maybe this will lead to another big brawl, but for right now the story is focusing on exploring the sexual issues of this world and developing the characters. There's an amusing bit where Hughie objects to Butcher using terms like "poof", but then he is afraid to go into a gay bar and interact with actual homosexuals. It's enjoyable enough, and I'm sure hilarity will ensue in the future. (EDIT: After reading Alan David Doane's comment on this review, I realize that my wording makes it sound like the little character bit between Butcher and Hughie is amusing and a setup for future hilarity. I actually was referring to the issue as a whole with the last sentence there, and I agree with Alan that it was a good character moment that brought some unexpected depth to the characters in a book that seems to be mostly focused on superhero satire. That's what I get for rushing through this without thinking it over or proofreading).

Should I keep buying it? Certainly.
Monthly issues or trades? I'll have to decide after this arc is over.

Criminal #7
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

The arc continues to plug along, with exciting developments for Tracy Lawless as he infiltrates his brother's former gang in an attempt to find his killer while they perform a heist. Brubaker writes some great crime fiction, and this chapter is excellent, as the gang performs the first part of the job, which involves breaking a guy out of prison who has the plans for the second part of the job. Very exciting. Plus, we learn how this story is connected to the first story arc when Tracy visits Leo in prison in order to get a reference on his criminal resume. I can't wait to see where this goes.

As for Phillips' art, I've said before that I wish he would stick to this sort of thing and stay away from the superhero/zombie stuff that he sometimes does. His style suits this sort of story perfectly, with lots of moody shadows and atmospheric details (although he hates drawing buildings and cars, according to Brubaker's afterword; that was amusing, because this issue contains a lot of those). One thing I noticed in this issue was how well he draws women's faces, differentiating them from his men's faces, which usually have sharp corners and rough lines:

Instead, the women's faces have smooth curves and sharp lines:

Nicely done.

Should I keep buying it? Definitely.
Monthly issues or trades? I like the "backmatter" text pieces that various authors contribute about noir films, and I don't think those are included in the trades, so I'll stay with the monthly issues.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #3 (of 6)
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Duncan Fegredo

This series is tons of fun, even if I'm still having trouble following the plot. Not that it's too convoluted or anything, but I'm just not familiar enough with Hellboy's history. This issue, he fights an army of corpses mustered by his old enemy (I think) Baba Yaga:

He even gets to do the old gag where a bunch of bad guys pile on top of him and he crawls out from under the pile and runs away. That's a classic. He also gets some help from giant wolves:

Man, Fegredo is really knocking the art out of the park here, cramming an insane level of detail into the panels while still keeping close to Mignola's signature style. Wow. In future issues, it looks like Hellboy will have to face a creepy guy named Koshchei the Deathless, along with Baba Yaga herself, I assume. Lots of crazy stuff is going on here, and I can't wait to see what's coming next. Here's my pull quote:

"Hellboy: it's the book to read if you want corpse-kicking action!"

Should I keep buying it? Yes!
Monthly issues or trades? I'll finish out this miniseries in monthly format, but I figure I'll buy trades for any future (or past) stories.

The Immortal Iron Fist #6
Written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker
Art by David Aja and Russ Heath

Holy crap, this is an awesome book. We get the big showdown between Iron Fist(s) and Steel Serpent, along with Hydra's armies and the Heroes for Hire gang (that is, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing). Sweet! Tons of cool stuff, like Luke celebrating the team-up:

Colleen cracking wise while diving down an elevator shaft:

Misty yelling "Aww, yeah!" while blowing away Hydra agents (no picture for that one, but just imagine it), and some kick-ass kung-fu poses:

And lots more! Next storyline, Danny travels to some mystic dimension to represent K'un L'un in the tournament of the Seven Cities of Heaven. Sweet. It's an awesome, awesome book, and I can't get enough of it.

Should I keep buying it? Of course!
Monthly issues or trades? I'm thinking I'll switch to trades, although I'm going to have to figure out if next month's issue spotlighting the story of a past Iron Fist, the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay, is going to be included in the first trade or the second. Okay, I looked it up on Marvel's site, and it says volume 1 contains issues #1-6, so I think I'll be dropping this one to wait for future collections.

Jack of Fables #12
Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Art by Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy

As somebody who is intimately acquainted with the creators of this book, I think my opinion has a lot of weight when I say it is awesome. The current storyline is called "The Bad Prince", which is a good counterpoint to the storyline running in the sister book Fables, called "The Good Prince". I'm not sure what poor nobility has to do with the story so far though, other than Jack stating that he was once a prince for two days. The rest of the issue deals with his recapture by Priscilla Page and the circumstances of his (probable) escape. I won't spoil them, but I will say that there is a hilarious running gag in which Jack alternates between telling us via caption the good news and the bad news of his circumstances. We also get some hints about the larger running storyline, such as Jack's connection to Wicked John and what's going on back at Golden Boughs. And one crazy-ass final page. I don't know what's going to happen next, but I'll be reading it.

Should I keep buying it? Yes. This is getting monotonous, isn't it?
Monthly issues or trades? Hmmmm. I'll have to decide as I read this storyline. I'm enjoying it monthly, but there's really no reason not to wait and read stories all in one chunk.

Marvel Adventures: Avengers #14
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Leonard Kirk

Well, this book is pretty fun, but I'm starting to wonder if it's worth my money. This issue, the team gets pulled back in time (or to an alternate universe, maybe) to help some villagers that are regularly robbed by bandits. If the story seems familiar, you might have watched The Seven Samurai at some point. Or The Magnificent Seven. Or some other variation on the tale.
It's still a pretty fun take on it though, with the team changing their uniforms to fit the period, training the villagers in ways to fight (Hulk's training is the best):

And appointing Wolverine as leader for the mission:

It's very enjoyable, but it's just so lightweight, I don't think I can justify spending three dollars a month on it. Especially since I'm getting more and more sick of superheroes lately; I'm figuring I'll drop pretty much anything that I don't really like.

Should I keep buying it? Unfortunately, no.
Monthly issues or trades? Since it is a fun book, and I do like Jeff Parker, I suppose I could pick up one or more of the digest collections sometime.

The Nightly News #6 (of 6)
By Jonathan Hickman

Well, the series wraps up in explosive fashion, with some change apparently being effected. Was all the violence worth it? Surprisingly, Hickman seems to be saying it was, but I'm not sure. It's been a subversive series all along, with readers seemingly encouraged to cheer as the evil media spokesmen were being murdered, but there were also some hints that the group behind the murders were an unthinking cult just following orders, and that's not any better than listening to a profit-obsessed media. But with the revelation of the cult's mastermind, Hickman seems to be celebrating the murder spree they went on, even hinting at a sequel aimed at another evil group of people. I'm not sure what to make of it, but I did find the story quite enjoyable.

And the art was also pretty damn cool, revealing an incredible design sense and an intention to push the limits of what comics can look like. Great stuff, and I think Hickman will be a major talent. At the end of the book, he announces two upcoming miniseries that will be appearing soon: Pax Romana (written and illustrated by Hickman) and Red Mass For Mars (written by Hickman, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim). Plus, two more coming in 2008: Transhuman (written by Hickman, art by J.M. Ringuet) and The Return (written and illustrated by Hickman). Unless Hickman does something to really turn me off, I'm sure I'll be reading all of those.

Should I keep buying it? Um, the series is over.
Monthly issues or trades? Well, for future miniseries, I might consider waiting for the trades, but I might want to buy the monthly issues to support Hickman. We'll see.

White Picket Fences #2 (of 3)
Written by Matt Anderson and Eric Hutchins
Art by Micah Farritor

I kind of liked the first issue of this miniseries, but this one doesn't really do anything interesting. We get some more scenes of the kids and their antics, more scenes of neighborly competition, and some backstory that was probably already obvious. There's a decent scene in which the general negotiates with a Martian ambassador, but it's nothing amazing. And it seems the whole thing can be resolved if Charlie (the kid) returns the laser trigger to the army, and even though he knows this, he can't figure out what to do. I'm sure there will be some exciting stuff of some sort in the final issue, but I'm not really stoked about it.

And the art started really bugging me, with characters' heads often seeming too large for their bodies, the kids looking like adults in some panels, and a freaky shot of Charlie's mom in which she seems to be related to Plastic Man:

So, I don't think I'll bother getting the final issue of this. Too bad; it had potential.

Should I keep buying it? Nope!

X-Men: First Class #1
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Roger Cruz

I figured I would give this a shot after enjoying the recent special, and it's really pretty good. I've never really liked Roger Cruz's art since I first encountered him as a fill-in artist for Chris Bachalo on Generation X, but he's really improved; his art is actually quite good and suits the style of this book excellently. This issue is about Jean Grey spending some time with the Invisible Woman in order to see a fellow female superhero at work and get some motherly advice and stuff. It's a lot of fun, with lots of hugs and hero worship, amid fights with the likes of the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android. But then the rest of the X-Men freak out and think she's leaving the team to join the Fantastic Four, so they go to beg her to come back, just in time to join her for the fight. It's a really fun book, with lots of good details, like Jean using hairbrushes telekinetically while putting on makeup, or Johnny Storm putting the moves on Jean, much to Scott's chagrin. This is the kind of book that Jeff Parker is great at writing, filling the issue with character details while still throwing in lots of action. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be following it. It's a good book, probably one of the best things Marvel is publishing right now, but like MA: Avengers, it's just kind of lightweight, and I don't think I want to spend three dollars a month to read it. I'll still recommend it to anybody looking for a good superhero comic though.

Should I keep buying it? Unfortunately, no. Sorry, Parker!

So that's it for this week. I'll have to continue this examination of what to continue buying and what to drop or wait for the trade. Just for fun, I'll try to list off the top of my head what I should keep reading in single issues and what to switch to trades for.

Read monthly:
All-Star Superman
Batman (if I keep reading it)
Y: The Last Man (It's almost finished)

Madman Atomic Comics

Runaways (for now)
Astonishing X-Men (it's almost over)
Fell (for the backmatter)
The Goon
Wait for the trade:


100 Bullets

Jack of Fables
The Boys (maybe)
Immortal Iron Fist

Desolation Jones
(after the current arc, if it ever continues to come out)
Not sure:

Ex Machina


The Spirit
Okay, that's enough for now. I might update this list if I think of other series.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lotsa manga

Okay, it's time to get caught up on manga volumes that I've read recently:

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, volume 2 Written by Eiji Otsuka
Art by Housui Yamazaki

This is a pretty crazy series, following the exploits of a group of "Buddhist university students" with varied supernatural abilities who use said abilities to locate dead bodies and carry out their last wishes (and get paid for it somehow). For those who aren't familiar with the series, those abilities are: talking to the dead, being able to locate bodies with a dowsing pendulum, speaking with a sock puppet that may or may not be an alien, embalming, and organizational skills (those last two aren't especially supernatural). While the first volume of the series was a collection of short stories, this volume is one big story, involving the horrible past of the team's leader, Japan's justice/capital punishment system, and a rival company that seems to be up to no good. There's also a young girl who has the ability to bring dead things back to life, although the apparent side effect is that they tend to go murderously insane; there's this freaky zombified cat, for example:

We also get plenty of nudity, of both male and female varieties, but as is par for the course for this series, the flesh on display is that of corpses. Yuck. There are some interesting moral questions raised, especially the nature of vengeance. It reminded me of the climax of the movie Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. And there appears to be some criticism of Japan's legal system, with one character saying that murderers are taken care of better than the families of the victims. Of course, this all leads to a gory showdown:

So it's fun for all, no matter your politics. I'm enjoying the series, so I'll pick up the next volume sometime (I almost bought it the other day, until I realized I was spending way too much already). I would prefer several shorter stories rather than one long story, but I'll take what I can get.

Monster, volume 1
By Naoki Urasawa

Naoki Urasawa is a creator (or "manga-ka") that has a really good reputation despite not having much material released in the United States. I've read a little bit of his work in a scanlated format, so I know he's pretty darn good and plan to read any of his works that get published here. So, I've been meaning to pick up this series ever since it started, but never got around to it until now. I'm glad I've started though, because this volume is quite good (although I expect future volumes will be even better). The series follows the virtuous Dr. Tenma, a Japanese expatriate living in Germany. He's an amazing surgeon, but he's gotten embroiled in hospital politics, having been engaged to the director's daughter and regularly ordered to ignore poorer and less important patients in favor of the likes of celebrities or politicians. It's kind of amusing to see the moustache-twirling antics of all the eeevil types who say things like this:

I dunno, maybe that doesn't sound as ridiculous in a country that doesn't have the opposite statement in their core philosophy (not that I'm making any claims of national superiority or anything; it's just that we hear the phrase "All men are created equal" so often that to hear somebody baldly state the opposite seems ridiculous). Anyway, the politics get to Dr. Tenma, and he disobeys orders and chooses to operate on a young boy instead of the mayor, leading to his demotion. Sitting by the unconscious boy's bed, he makes this speech:

Uh oh, I think that'll have some consequences:

Yikes, that's a creepy look. Sure enough, we jump forward nine years, and find that there's a serial killer on the loose. I don't mean to give away any secrets here, but the killer turns out to be (wait for it) the boy Dr. Tenma saved! Bum bum bum!!! (I didn't feel the need for a spoiler warning there because it's kind of the premise of the series, isn't it?) And it appears we're going to spend 17 more volumes watching Tenma try to catch the titular "monster" he inadvertently created! Yay!

I may sound like I'm making fun of the series here, but it's actually quite dramatic, playing out with excellent timing. I have a fondness for the oversized emotions that appear in a lot of manga, and this is no exception. It's a lot of fun to watch Tenma struggle against the avaricious lot he's involved with, trying to retain some of his humanity in the process. I'm not sure where this is all going, but I expect to enjoy it (unfortunately, the word on the street is that it gets tedious after several volumes, but I'll see about that when I get there).

One thing the series has going for it is Urasawa's excellent artwork. He's great at staging dramatic conversations and drawing expressive faces. I love the big-nosed look that he gives his European characters:

I also love the investigator from what seems to be the German equivalent of the FBI who constantly taps his fingers on his thighs when he interviews people; he explains that he's "typing" information into his computer-like brain so he can summon it instantly. I don't know why, but that cracks me up.

So, I'm digging this series, and I'll certainly read the next few volumes at the very least. I don't know if I'll be able to stick with it through all 18 of them, but I'll give it a shot.

King of Thorn, volume 1
By Yuji Iwahara

This is a series I've been hearing about lately, but I actually downloaded some scanlations of it quite a while ago. I never got around to reading them, but I thought it looked interesting then and figured it would be worth checking out now. It's a crazy sci-fi series about a group of people that have been cryogenically frozen until a cure can be found for the disease with which they've been afflicted (called Medusa because it eventually turns people to stone). They wake up to find a deserted world covered with thorny vines and populated with monsters. There's lots of exciting action as they try to escape the beasts and figure out what happened. It's very well done, with a varied cast of types (tough black man, motherly woman, scared kid, etc.) which will hopefully be fleshed out in the future. And we're left with some compelling questions, like how long were they asleep? Is there anyone else left alive? Where did the monsters come from? Will they ever find any clothes besides cheap hospital gear? Does the tough tattooed guy actually have a heart of gold? And so on.

The art is very nicely done, with some nice layouts, and great monster designs:

Yikes! And there are some really cool action bits too:

It's fairly insubstantial, but I found the first volume to be a lot of fun. Who knows, it might start sucking later on, but it's got some great potential right now. I'll keep following it and see what happens.

Whew! Well, got those taken care of. I'll try to get to new pamphlet releases this weekend, along with a possibly long-winded discussion of my changing buying/reading philosophy. Come back then to see what I mean.

Quick links

Only two at the moment, unless I add more later:

Same Hat! Same Hat! has posted an incredible scanlated manga story called "Abstraction", by Shintaro Kago. It envisions the comics page as some sort of three-dimensional, building-like structure, with all sorts of weird shit going on. Check it out.

The Groovy Age of Horror has a two-part retrospective of Richard Sala's comics (followed by an interview with Sala himself), and it really makes me want to check out some of his stuff. Somehow, I've never read anything that he's done, but these excerpts and descriptions sound really appealing to me, so I'm going to have to make an effort to read his books.

Okay, that's all I want to link to right now, but I'm hoping to have one or more reviews up later tonight.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In which I annoy and act fannish toward people that aren't especially famous

So, yesterday was a pretty eventful one for me. I took the day off work and went into downtown Chicago (I live way out in the suburbs, so it's a bit of a trip for me) for a couple events. First, Graham Crackers Comics (a local chain of stores that I frequent) was having a signing by the art team on Jack of Fables, Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy. They were both very friendly and fun to talk to. Hopefully I didn't annoy them too much by hovering over their table and asking inane questions. I did buy a page of original art from the second issue of Jack, which I thought was super-cool, since I've never bought original art before. It's too big to fit on my scanner, so here's a photo:

And a detail scan of my favorite panel:

And, just for sake of comparison, here's a scan of the page as it was published:

Here's a shot of me posing with its creators:

I think they were a little weirded out by my request for a picture. Here's another picture I snapped of Akins doing a sketch of Priscilla Page, a character from Jack:

And here's the final drawing:

Amusingly, his explanation for the character's top-heavy nature is that she's the Page sister who retrieves fables that have escaped from Golden Boughs and returns them "to its bosom", so that's why she's so bosomy, as opposed to the normal cup sizes of her sisters (I don't know if that sentence makes any sense if you're not a regular Jack of Fables reader). Everybody listening thought that was funny, and somebody made the crack that he made the explanation up on the spot, but he seemed sincere. Hey, I'm not going to question the man about his artistic motivations.

Yesterday saw the release of the twelfth and most recent issue of Jack of Fables, and Akins was excited to see Brian Bolland's cover:

He had known that Bolland was the new cover artist, but he had only seen the art for the next two issues after this one, and didn't realize Bolland would be doing the cover of #12 until he entered the shop and saw it on the racks. Needless to say, he was delighted at how nice it looked.

Later that evening, I attended a reading by Austin Grossman, Paul Hornschemeier, and Nick Bertozzi. It was sponsored by Bookslut, and featured each gentleman reading something he had written (that's what normally happens at readings, I believe). Grossman is the author of the recently released novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, which is told from the point of view of a comic book supervillain (along with that of a fledgling heroine, I believe, but any material dealing with her character wasn't included in the reading). I liked the section quite a bit, and I'll have to try to read the book sometime.

But the real draw for me was the comics artists. Hornschemeier read a prose story that he wrote for Life magazine about a trip he took to visit his parents, accompanied by a slide show of photos from said trip. That was interesting, but Bertozzi's reading was even better, as he showed a slide show of panels from his book The Salon, reading the word balloons (and sometimes the sound effects). It was a great performance, with him doing different voices for the different characters, giving Leo Stein a goofy Southern American accent, Guillaume Apollinaire an effeminate lisp, and Pablo Picasso an outrageous persona. It was tons of fun, and it got me excited to read the book (which I purchased yesterday so I could bring it to the reading and get it signed).

After the reading, I was able to approach and speak to both cartoonists; they're both quite friendly and talkative. Hornschemeier signed my copies of his new book The Three Paradoxes as well as his older book Mother, Come Home:

I love the little sketches he did, and I was very impressed at how he tossed them off so easily while standing and chatting with me, holding the book in one hand while he drew. He's good. Here's a photo of me with him, looking like we're old pals:

I also spoke with Bertozzi, and he's a really nice guy. I learned at this event that he's working with Harvey Pekar an a biography of Lenny Bruce; I don't know if that's old news, but it was the first I had heard of it. He said he just got the script of around 170 pages, and he's supposed to be finished by January, so he needs to get to work. He also talked about the current case against Gordon Lee, a Georgia retailer who gave a preview of The Salon to a ten-year-old kid on Free Comic Book Day 2004. The book contains nudity, and Mr. Lee is being sued with distribution of obscene material to a minor. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is defending him, and Bertozzi encouraged everyone to donate to the cause (more information here). He mentioned that the case doesn't really affect him (aside from intense guilt), but it's a First Amendment issue, so it's important that censorship be fought.

Anyway, Nick was nice enough to sign my copy of The Salon:

And take a picture of me in which I look fairly ridiculous:

I told him I'll review it once I read it, so I hope it's good. I'm pretty sure it will be though.

So that was my day. I had a great time with all the creators I met, and I've added their blogs/sites to my sidebar if you want to check them out. I would especially recommend Tony Akins' site, since he has posted some really cool artwork. Thanks for a great day, guys, and I hope to meet any or all of you again in the future!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fables: Sons of Empire: Don't start reading the series here

I mean, really, who would start with volume 9?

Fables: Sons of Empire (volume 9)
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Mike Allred, Laura Allred, Gene Ha, Joshua Middleton, Inaki Miranda, M.K. Perker, Jim Rugg, Joelle Jones, D'Israeli, Jill Thompson, David Lapham, John K. Snyder III, Eric Shanower, and Barry Kitson (whew!)

Heh, I just wanted to type out that long list of contributors, because it amused me. I'm not sure if I have too much to say about this volume, since if you're not reading Fables by now, a review of the ninth volume probably won't persuade you. Although, I don't write these things just to try to get people to read stuff, do I? Huh. I guess the story here is worth a look, but be forewarned, I'm kind of biased about the series in a fannish way, so I might overlook anything bad and overhype anything good.

Anyway, it's an excellent volume, with two story arcs and a couple bonus issues. I love the way the first story is put together, fleshing out the characters and details of the world while setting up grave events to come. The main story is about a war conference in the Homelands, as the Adversary listens to possible plans to invade the mundane world and decides whether to wage war. But we also see various events around Fabletown, including a burgeoning romance between Boy Blue and Rose Red, some significant events surrounding Flycatcher, and the arrival of Hansel as the Adversary's ambassador. Plus, each of the four issues in this arc feature backup stories about various characters, and they are set up beautifully in the main stories. I loved that feature, how we saw something going on in the corners of the panels and then learned what was happening in the backup. Nice. At least one of these stories seems to be setting up future stories, but they mostly seem to be fun one-offs exploring the world that Willingham and company have created. My favorite is probably "Porky Pine Pie", a tale of a hedgehog who convinces a human girl he is a prince in disguise in order to get a kiss. It features some beautiful art by Joshua Middleton:

"The Road to Paradise", a story about the Three Blind Mice, is another fun one, with some really nice looking art by Joelle Jones (who I'm not familiar with, although she apparently did a story in the Sexy Chix anthology):

We've also got a Gene Ha-drawn bit about Rapunzel and her ever-growing hair, and a Mike Allred-illustrated story, but I'll wait to talk about him until later.

After the "Sons of Empire" story, we have a Christmas-themed single issue featuring Bigby, Snow, and their cubs/kids. It's really cute and everything, but the highlight is probably the bit where Santa visits Flycatcher. He was a character who seemed kind of goofy but was given a lot of depth in the 1001 Nights of Snowfall anthology with an incredibly sad origin story. From this issue, it seems he's going to be very important in the series' future; in fact, I think he's the subject of the storyline running in the current issues.

By the way, I've been focusing on the "guest artists", but I should mention that Mark Buckingham does some excellent work as the regular series artist, whether he's portraying the apocalyptic visions of the Adversary's minions' plans to conquer the mundane world:

Or the simple antics of the Wolf cubs:

It's great stuff. He also does this cool thing where each page has vertical borders on the sides, with location-specific details from the current scene. It's a great way of setting the stage for whatever is going on.

Okay, the storyline after the Christmas issue is a two issue arc about the Wolf family's trip to the Homelands to visit Bigby's father, the Great North Wind. It's beautifully illustrated by Mike Allred, and it gives us some interesting character work between Bigby and his father (not to mention the other characters who show up). And Allred gets to draw a pretty fucking awesome battle between Bigby (in wolf form) and some scary monsters:

That's only half of a double-page spread. Wow! Man, I love this book.

Finally, the volume wraps up with the much-maligned (from reviews I perused on various comics blogs) "Burning Questions" issue, in which Willingham scripted a bunch of short stories answering questions that readers sent in. I can see how this might have been annoying if I was reading the series in monthly form, but it works just fine as part of a collection. We get some nice guest art, with my favorites being the stories illustrated by D'Israeli and Jill Thompson. And, since I'm also a fan of Jack of Fables, I liked the Jack story illustrated by Andrew Pepoy. Sure, the stories were all pretty inconsequential, but they were pretty fun.

So, as a fan of Fables, I thought this was another great volume. As always, I can't wait until the next one shows up. From what I hear, it seems like Willingham and DC want to continue this series for as long as they can, and I hope they do. There is a wealth of stories that can come from this world and these characters, so I hope they continue to deliver good ones.

I'll be busy with comics-related events tomorrow (see Monday's post for details), so probably no new content, even though I have a couple books to talk about. Thursday, I guess.