BooksOfTheMoon

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Six

By Bill Willingham

Rating: 4 stars

The sixth hardback collection of Fables collects three story arcs (maybe four, but the middle two are linked). The first takes us into the occupied Homelands, and tells the story of two of Geppetto’s wooden people who fall in love and petition him to make them flesh, and the price that is extracted from them. This is interesting as it’s the first time we’ve had a story from the point of view of the occupying forces of the Homelands. It’s nominally tangential to everything else that’s going on, but the end suggests that plans are being laid.

The second story sees Mowgli’s search for Bigby through Asia and North America, and his eventual return to Fabletown, where Prince Charming makes him an offer he can’t refuse. The third story starts out with Bigby’s mission (and the trip to the cloud kingdoms is really fun) and ends with him and Snow White finally getting their Happily Ever After.

The final story is a really fun adventure with Cinderella as she tries to sign a treaty with the cloud kingdoms to get their cooperation against the Adversary. It shows her in full badass mode, chewing gum and prodding buttock. I don’t think we’ve got to see much of Cinderella thus far, and showing her spy skills and getting to do cool action stuff is really good fun.

I enjoyed this volume a lot. With the Bigby/Snow White plot winding down, it feels like a good place to pause the series. Regular artist Mark Buckingham shares duties with guest artists for the first and last arcs. All the artists are excellent at their work and make reading the book a pleasure. Now, I just need a bit more of Flycatcher and Red Riding Hood…

Book details

ISBN: 9781401237240
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2013

Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Alongside the excellent pun in the title, this is probably one of the better recent Peter Grant graphic novels, as the Folly is called to investigate a drowned boy racer with a boot full of very unusual cargo. Once again, Peter finds himself entangled with the fey, reliant only on his wits to help him through.

Moreso than even usual, this graphic novel was Grant-heavy, with minimal appearances from Nightingale and Guleed (and none whatsoever from Molly, boo). There was an incident with Guleed that I think would have been interesting to expand upon, although with space restrictions, they made do with what they could, and the visual medium does help here, with facial expressions and body language.

The artist has changed again for this story. They’re good, and handle the fast action of the car racing well, but I still miss Lee Sullivan.

The story is very plot-heavy, with little character development, and possibly the most interesting snippet in that area comes right at the end, with some internal captions from Beverley musing on her relationship with Peter which is both sweet and kind of ominous.

Like the last volume, there’s some articles at the end discussing the historical background to some of the story elements, including street racing and fairy myth. These are interesting, but I’d have preferred it if the text were in straight columns rather than at an angle. It might look cool, but it does make it a bit harder to read.

All in all, a fun, standalone story. Not essential, but a good read for fans of Peter Grant and his world.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785865862

The Wicked + the Divine Deluxe Edition: Year Four

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 5 stars

The final volume of the excellent The Wicked + The Divine brings the series to a close with a bang. This collects the final two volumes of the main story, as well as a set of historical specials that help contextualise it. We learn Baal’s big secret, find out about the Great Darkness and have several fist-pumping moments of pure comic book joy, as well as reveals that break the heart and a surprisingly tender coda that left me in tears.

Jamie McKelvie continues to draw the main story, with guest artists for the specials, which fit just before the last chunk of main story and look back at previous Pantheons including the Roman era, the middle ages and the 1923 one we saw right at the start of the story. That one is a mixed comic/prose story that works really well.

Can I take a moment to talk about the edition itself? All the Deluxe Editions are absolutely gorgeous, but this final year of the story was so big that they needed an extra volume to fit it in. The core of the story fits into one volume (which is, itself, bigger than the previous Deluxe WicDivs), and the supplementary material that normally goes at the end — the alt covers, the makings of and, of course, the writer’s notes, as well as a couple of additional specials that aren’t essential to the story — is in a whole separate volume.

The two remaining specials are the “Christmas annual”, which tells some side stories that were hinted at previously but are now made explicit (and include a lot of the cast getting it on with each other), and the “funnies”, little stories written and drawn by people that the creators invite, often poking fun at Gillen and McKelvie themselves. My favourite of these was The Wicked + The Canine, which imagines all the gods as dogs, and my goodness are they adorable (the alt cover with dog-Amaterasu is the best thing ever).

We finally get Ananke’s story here, as her history and that of the gods finally spills out. We see some of that history (in fact, we see something out of each recurrence), and because the internet is sometimes amazing, someone out there has written a set of blog posts that give you the real world history of the time and place of each recurrence (warning, there are spoilers here if you’ve not read the book yet).

Gillen also gets to heavily troll the readers in one issue with 90 panels, across 10 pages that are just black. This made me laugh out loud at his audacity, but it definitely fits with some of the playfulness of WicDiv, in amongst the grief and pain.

This has been an epic journey, which ended on a much more hopeful note that I expected, and it’ll definitely be an experience to go back and read the whole story again at some point, with the full knowledge of the characters and events.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534313583

The Wicked + the Divine Deluxe Edition: Year Three

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 stars

I have a tendency to race through graphic novels at breakneck speed (well, that’s true of most novels, but especially so of comics). Hence I really like the writer’s commentary at the end that lets me re-read it, more slowly, a few pages at a time, paying attention to things that I never noticed first time round, and generally decompressing a bit. This was especially helpful here, in issue 27 where I had been reading so quickly that I didn’t even notice that I was reading panels out of order (this is a neat section with multiple stories being told on the same page, in differing layouts, with panel borders linking stories). I got the gist of it, which was all I wanted at the time, but it was good to go back and read it the way it was intended.

But, my goodness, WicDiv repays a close reading and then some. This third year covers the whole of what Gillen calls the Imperial Phase, following Ananke’s death, how the remaining gods turn things up to eleven and how that goes very, very wrong, culminating in two huge twists (or “reveals”, as Gillen prefers) at the end of the book.

WicDiv has always been a story of excess, whether that’s hedonism, sex or love, and all the gods give in to that excess in the Imperial Phase. There are tough themes covered in the story, from the co-dependence of the goth kids to Sekhmet’s nihilism and Persephone’s fatalism. some are shocking and some are just heartbreaking.

While there’s a lot covered here, and we finally get a glimpse of the Great Darkness that Ananke had talked about before, we don’t really get much idea of what it is or what the gods are doing about it (although I suspect that may be coming in the final year). I can’t wait to find out – even if I’m sure it’s going to be mostly heartbreak and misery for the cast.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534308572
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2018

Monstress, Vol. 5: Warchild

By Marjorie M. Liu

Rating: 4 stars

I’m really very fond of this series, but I’m starting to lose track of it. At this point, I think I might pause and wait for the story to complete before I go back to it, although I can’t seem to find how long that might be. In this volume, the long-threatened war between humans and arcanics finally erupts, and Maika pauses her own plans to help defend the city of Ravenna.

This volume highlights the bitterness of war and the choices it forces us to make. We’ve always known that Maika is an angry and hard person, but here we see her kill just to make a point to pull others into line. Zinn, meanwhile, has gone from an unknowable creature of shadow to some sort of rambling, lost child, trapped in his own mind.

The one shining light amongst all the misery is Kippa. She doesn’t get it easy here, not by a long shot. She makes mistakes and poor choices, but her heart is pure and, like Maika, I’d drop everything to save her if she needed it.

As for the rest of it, the politics; trying to remember who’s currently possessed by what; the plots and counter-plots; who is allied with whom and why (or who wants to double-cross whom), I think that needs a clear run to be able to follow it. I’ll keep an eye on the series, I think, because the story it’s telling is one worth being told, and Sana Takeda’s artwork remains magnificent, but given the complexity, it’s hard to keep up with the overall story when we only get a few chapters a year.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534316614
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2020

Giant Days: Not on the Test Edition Vol. 3

By John Allison

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve been enjoying the Giant Days series a lot but there were a few things in this volume that I didn’t like. This one takes us through the end of the coven’s first year at university, their summer and into the start of their second year.

The first thing that I felt was off in this was when the girls were at a music festival and someone spikes Susan’s drink. Here it’s mostly played for laughs (Susan gets really high and Esther looks after her), but it’s a serious topic and the way it was done jarred for me. There’s no real context behind it either, it’s a guy that Susan appears to have known, but he appears a page earlier and then disappears until the end of the chapter, where he makes a very brief reappearance without any understanding of who he was or why he did it. I don’t really see the point of it, and it seems to make light of a serious subject.

The other major thing I didn’t like, which is much more subjective is that I found Daisy’s girlfriend (oh yes, remember the German girl from the end of the last book? They get together) deeply unpleasant. This is much more a personal thing, because I just don’t like Ingrid’s personality. She’s completely lacking in impulse control and draws out the worst in others. And I really don’t think she’s good for Daisy (yes, I’m quite emotionally invested in our little coven by now).

But beyond those, there’s a lot to enjoy here, with various adventures to be had and adulting to be done, as they move into their own flat for second year, including the discovery of Ikea and dinner parties. There’s also an ongoing situation with their elderly next door neighbour, and we get to meet Susan’s dad, who is awesome.

There’s the third (and, I think, last) webcomic at the end of this volume, which sees Susan and Daisy making friends with Erin from the Indie Music Society. I’m not sure if I missed something, but I don’t remember her from the main comic, which is a shame, as she seems like a fun character who I would have liked to get to know more.

The guys get some love too. Both Ed and McGraw are present and correct, and both adorable, in their own different ways. McGraw is as handy with a screwdriver as ever, and Ed gets a bit of screen time in an adventure with Esther (maybe some tension there?!).

I’m still enjoying this series, but there don’t seem to be any more of these beautiful hardback editions. I might have to start slumming it in the ebook world.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684152636
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2018

Giant Days: Not On The Test Edition Vol. 2

By John Allison

Rating: 4 stars

This second volume of the Giant Days comic follows the adventures of Daisy, Esther and Susan in their second semester at the University of Sheffield. There are shenanigans in student politics, flat-hunting and film-making, along others. Along the way hearts are broken, the Night World is explored, and questionable decisions are made.

The key relationships between Susan, Esther and Daisy is unshakeable, and they’re all there for each other, whenever it matters. Outwith that “coven”, the friendship between Ed and McGraw is pretty strong, and usually a pleasure to read. There’s a lovely visual gag early on where McGraw builds a fake wall in front of his bedroom door to hide from “Big Lindsay” (who turns out to be not as scary as made out).

I’m looking forward to seeing what they get up to next. In the mean time, night be with you.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684150588
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2018

Giant Days: Not On the Test Edition Vol. 1

By John Allison

Rating: 4 stars

Despite hearing good things about this series, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. Recently though, I was looking for something to read, and this was recommended to me again, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’m quite glad that I did – it follows three flatmates in their first year at university and their various (mis)adventures.

I like the art styles here, which was done by Lissa Treiman for the first three quarters (chapters 1-6) and then Max Sarin for the last two. The styles are quite different and when I was flicking through it after first getting hold of it, I thought that the change would be jarring. But when it came to it, I was so absorbed in the story that it barely registered.

I like the three main characters, they’ve all got a lot of personality and are different enough that they complement each other well. It’s very believable that they would be friends, despite being so different. They have the same problems and concerns as other young adults just starting university: getting to know themselves; finding people to love; trying new experiences; making mistakes. It’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

My one, minor, niggle is that although it’s set in a UK university and written by a British writer, it sometimes feels very American. I’m not sure if this is just me, but it does occasionally draw me out of the story.

Book details

ISBN: 9781608869947
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2017

Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 3

By Kamome Shirahama

Rating: 4 stars

The third volume of this enjoyable manga neatly resolves the cliffhanger from the end of the previous volume, and apart from some ominous grumbling at each other, nothing more is heard of from the Knights Moralis, who I assume will be back in a future volume. But we are introduced to a bunch of new mysteries, and Master Qifrey is revealed to have his own connection of some sort to the Brimmed Caps and isn’t above being devious himself.

Our window on the witching world, Coco, continues to be innocent and delightful, and she starts to make a connection with Tartah, the grandson of the quill and ink seller, who turns out to have his own problems.

There’s nice little world-building touches, like the idea that the ban on magic that affects bodies is so absolute that even healing magic is banned; and how much the idea of witches helping others in their society seems to be taken for granted by those around them, and they almost stop seeing the witches as people, and just as things that make their lives better.

It’s continues to be a fun and engaging series and I look forward to continuing the story in future volumes.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632368058

Battle Angel Alita: Holy Night and Other Stories

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

This book collects four short stories set in the Alita-verse, two of which feature Alita herself. We open with a story featuring Ido, shortly after he was banished from Zalem and his discovery of a girl who needs his help (sound familiar?). It’s quite a melancholy story, but gives us more insight into Alita’s ‘father’.

Second up, we have Sonic Finger, set during what I think of as a golden period of Alita’s time in the Scrapyard. She’s finished with Motorball and being a hunter-warrior, but is beloved by them and trains them. When someone attacks her with what appears to be a gun, her friends all rally round. There’s a lot more action in this one, but no real depth. We don’t get any character development or even any real reason as to why Sonic Finger was doing it.

The third story is a short one with hardly any dialogue, featuring a Deckman who left the scrapyard, and its encounter with Alita. This one manages to pack a lot of punch into a short, almost wordless story. We see the Deckman learning about the world outside the Scrapyard, playing with children and seeing the beauty of a sunset. All the while being trailed by Alita in her A-1 TUNED phase.

The final story is set after the end of the main series, following Koyomi’s attempts to be a journalist photographer, and her desire to find the rumoured still living leader of the Barjack rebellion again, just so that she can have a purpose in life. Again, not a huge amount of action, but some nice character development for Koyomi.

These are an enjoyable set of stories in the Alita-verse that help round out her world, but are by no means essential.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632367105
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Year of publication: 2018

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