BooksOfTheMoon

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Four

By Bill Willingham

Rating: 4 stars

The fourth deluxe volume of Fables starts with a story arc involving Bigby Wolf during the Second World War, which is a nice war story, and reinforces what we already know about Bigby, that he’s loyal, a bit soft and hard as nails. Next we have a four issue arc about Snow White and Bigby’s babies, with one of them being very different to the others. This sees Snow have to leave Fabletown for the Farm (since most of the babies can’t pass for human) but Bigby is banned from the Farm, so chooses to go into exile. We also see Prince Charming have to face the realities of power, and Beauty and the Beast also deal with the roles they’ve taken over from Snow and Bigby respectively. I’m slightly confused when the North Wind shows up and nobody seems to be particularly surprised or confused as to how he got into the mundane world, given that all the gates to the Homelands are supposed to be shut.

The second half of the volume is taken up with 1001 Nights of Snowfall, a prequel story where Snow ventures to the Arabian fables to try and build an alliance, but ends up having to tell stories to the sultan every night for her life. There are a number of guest artists here, including Charles Vess (who illustrates the prose framing story) and although they each have differing art styles, most of them have a soft edge to it, appropriate to stories within stories. The stories that Snow tells are all of the Homelands, generally during the invasion by the Adversary, and we learn more about King Cole, Bigby, Snow herself and others in the process.

I’m still loving this series. We’re drip-fed details about the past and the Adversary, but it’s the characters who make it. The tragic history of Flycatcher, the ongoing tension between Snow and Bigby, the smarm and machinations of Prince Charming. These are all characters that have become fleshed out over the last four volumes, and I look forward to spending more time with them all.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401233907
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2012

Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition, Vol. 3

By Shannon Watters

Rating: 4 stars

The third of the hardcover ‘To the Max’ editions of the still-excellent Lumberjanes sees co-creator Noelle Stevenson leave the series after a ‘prequel’ issue to open the volume. This shows how the occupants of Roanoke cabin arrived at the Lumberjanes camp at the start of the summer. This is a nice little flashback to characters we already know and like (and a nice way to remind the reader who they after, after year or so since the last volume!).

After this, we have a story about merfolk, and April’s attempts to help two former friends repair their friendship through the medium of song. As you may expect, things don’t entirely go according to plan. I must confess that I wasn’t as taken with this story, although I don’t know how much of that was to do with the artwork, which has a different artist to before and with whom I didn’t really gel. The characters didn’t quite look right. It wasn’t that it’s a more cartoony style to before (the story that comes next also takes quite a cartoony style — with another new artist — but I liked it better) but YMMV as always.

The final story in the collection concerns selkies and the bear woman and it’s quite a strong one, and ties back to the previous volume and the ongoing strange goings on at and around the Lumberjanes camp. Again, the art is quite cartoony here, but I liked it better than the previous story. Maybe because I thought the story was a bit stronger too.

So definitely still much to enjoy here. The characters are all loveable in their own different ways, and show very different ways of being girls, all of which are equally valid. It’s definitely something that I’m excited to introduce to my niece (and nephew) when they’re a bit older

Book details

ISBN: 9781684150038
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2017

Gunnerkrigg Court Vol. 6: Dissolve

By Thomas Siddell

Rating: 5 stars

Volume six of Gunnerkrigg Court collects chapters 50 to 59 of the eponymous webcomic. This starts with Coyote showing Annie more of what she needs to do as the forest medium, taking the soul of one of the animals into the Court to be decanted into a new body. After that, we get into something more serious, as Annie’s dad returns to the Court. When I read this first time round, in the comic, it made me really angry, the way that Tony behaved and the control he exerted over his daughter. That anger returned as I re-read it, but having it condensed, especially with the following few chapters, as Tony unburdens himself to Donny Donlan, makes it flow better and it’s easier to follow the story. This arc is followed by more with Robot as he gains his first biological component, and he continues to gather a cult of Kat around himself (although his burgeoning romance with Shadow is oh so adorable) and then we have more between Annie and Reynard and the guilt that Annie still feels over letting him go without putting up a fight. The relationship between Reynard and Annie is one of the most interesting and complex in the whole story (and that’s saying something). They obviously care about each other very much but there is still tension between them, despite Reynard’s forgiveness of Annie. We end the book with Annie and the gang finally starting on the plan to free Jeanne and what feels like the conclusion of something that’s been with us from the earliest days of the story.

I don’t think that I’ve got a lot to add to this other than I still adore this series and love the way that both the art and the storytelling have developed over the years. It’s the comic I look forward to most in my RSS feeds every week and it’s the one that I most consistently buy the hardcopy volumes as they’re released.

This is a another great step in Annie’s story and that of Gunnerkrigg Court itself and I look forward to much more of it!

Book details

ISBN: 9781608868308
Publisher: Archaia
Year of publication: 2016

Saga, Vol. 8

By Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Rating: 5 stars

After the constant grimdark of volume 7, I was very pleased to see that this eighth volume of the Saga story lightens things up a little. It’s still messed up as all hell, but in a great way. And damn, but Vaughan knows how to tug at your heartstrings, the song that Hazel sings to her sort-of-imaginary baby brother that she learned from Izabel is just wonderful. We also get to see some of The Will’s past, quite literally, as things he’s done catch up with him, incidentally storing up trouble for our family in future volumes.

Petrichor and Sir Robot are both still around, and some of the interplay between Petrichor and Hazel are hilarious, as the older woman tries to deal with this child. Sir Robot is still rather a broken character, but sympathetic and interesting.

So a lot to enjoy, some mad twists but a much needed counterpoint to the previous volume. Roll on the next one!

Book details

Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2017

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Three

By Bill Willingham

Rating: 4 stars

This third volume starts with a short story, Cinderella Libertine, which shows us what Prince Charming’s third wife gets up to when she’s not running a shoe shop. This story had guest a artist, rather than the more usual Mark Buckingham and it’s a nice little story involving the usual trifecta of sex, money and power.

After this, Buckingham returns and we get on to the main body of the volume: a seven-issue story called March of the Wooden Soldiers, in which a fable thought long lost comes as a refugee to Fabletown, but maybe not everything is as it appears. This is a strong story, giving us a little more knowledge of the Adversary and his methods. The Pinocchio soldiers that represent him are great fun as well, with their attempts to pass for human and their disdain of food. Despite this, they’re still very creepy and the fact that they’re practically unstoppable makes them terrifying foes in their own right.

I’m starting to very much appreciate and enjoy Buckingham’s art – you know ‘proper’ Fables is back when it’s his art again, and Willingham’s story continues to enthral. I look forward to reading more of this in future.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401230975
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2011

Superman: Red Son

By Mark Millar

Rating: 4 stars

I rather enjoyed this “what if” story, asking the question of what would happen if the infant Superman had crashed in the Soviet Union rather than the US. It starts in the 1950s when Superman has come into his powers and is working for the Soviet authorities, under Stalin, and charts his rise and eventual fall, alongside Lex Luthor. Other superheroes also turn up, both Wonder Woman and Batman, both reimagined in some sort of Russian context (I don’t care what anyone says, Batman’s furry hat is adorable, and very practical) as well as Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen.

I like how Miller has played on the tension between the sort of world that Superman is born into and his fundamental good nature, a nature that just wants to help people. The idea of what help means is drawn out, as Superman comes to believe that in order to help people, he has to take the very Soviet view of creating order, sort of the antithesis of American individualism.

The battle of wits that goes on between Superman in Russian and Luther in America is well played too, lasting decades, as Luther goes from a well-balanced scientist into full scheming megalomaniac mode, in his attempts to bring down Superman.

So all in, a nice alt-hist with a very neat twist at the end of the story.

Book details

ISBN: 9781840238013
Publisher: Titan Books (UK)
Year of publication: 2003

Rivers of London, Volume 4: Detective Stories

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

This volume of the ‘Rivers of London’ graphic novel series takes a slightly different format to the previous ones. Rather than being a single story, it’s a set of short stories, with the overarching narrative of Peter taking his detective exam and these being episodes from his history being told to his examiner (something which works well for comics – as each story is an issue long). This format does let us move around in time, and some of the stories are being told when Lesley May was still Peter’s partner, not his enemy.

The focus of these stories is very much on Peter, with the supporting cast taking a background role (poor Molly is relegated to a single walk-on part – even Toby gets more screen time than she does!). This is understandable given the framing narrative but I did miss Nightingale, Guleed and the rest. One thing I did very much like about this one is more time inside Peter’s head. It can’t be as much as the books, but again the format of this story comes to our aid, as these are being told in retrospective, so Peter knows the outcome and is relating the story.

The art is still lovely and Sullivan and Guerrero have become more assured as the series has progressed. The only major complaint is just the usual one – can we have more written word Peter Grant, please? I like the graphic novels and all, but I’d like to see the main plot being progressed some too.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785861710
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2017

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening

By Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Rating: 4 stars

I had never heard of this series before it won the Hugo Award for best graphic story in 2017. I’m quite glad that I did pick it up though, as it’s got an intriguing story and is lushly drawn. It’s got a very striking first page, with a full page image of a naked woman, and it’s only on second glance that you see the missing arm from the elbow down, the collar and the anger in her eyes. The woman is Maika Halfwolf and the story takes a flying start from there, as we’re thrown into this rather horrific steampunk world, with Maika trying to find out about herself, her mother and her history while trying to stay alive and out of the hands of the many factions who want to either kill or use her.

The world that the story is set in is fascinating. There are dead gods, immortals mating with humans to create a race of magic-using Arcanics and a war that could destroy everything. There’s a monster inside Maika that she struggles to understand, much less control, but as the fox-child Kippa says, monsters are people too.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and although I’ve reread segments, I think it’s probably worth rereading the whole thing. I certainly look forward to the next volume to see what Maika, Kippa, the cat Ren and Maika’s monster get up to next.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632157096
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2016

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Two

By Bill Willingham

Rating: 4 stars

The second deluxe edition of the Fables series collects a few short stories in the series as well as a longer story dealing with Bluebeard and his attempts to get rid of Snow and Wolf. We start with Bag o’Bones, a story about Jack, set during the American civil war. It’s a fun piece showing off Jack in full trickster and shyster mode as he deserts from the Confederate army. From there, we return to the series ‘present’ as a journalist attempts to blackmail the Fables and the caper they get up to to deal with it. Storybook Love is the longest piece in the book, with Bluebeard hatching a plot to get rid of both Snow White and Bigby Wolf, involving the somewhat mental Goldilocks, while Prince Charming starts working his way back into Fabletown life, and who has an agenda of his own. Barleycorn Brides is a lighter story in which Bigby tells Flycatcher the story of Smalltown up at the farm and the coming of age ritual of many of the young men from there. The last graphic story in the collection is The Last Castle, in which Boy Blue tells Snow about the last stand against the Adversary and the battle that he witnessed, that gave the last ship out its final chance to escape. The collection ends with a prose story, A Wolf in the Fold, in which we learn a bit more about the Wolf.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. I liked getting to know some of the characters better, and the slowly developing relationship between Snow and Bigby, with the various twists and turns it takes. The Last Castle was a moving piece, shedding more light on the character of Boy Blue and making really curious about the Adversary. I hope we’ll see more of that in future volumes (and possibly even an attempt to fight back at some point?).

I don’t think it was quite as strong as the first volume, but there’s still more than enough of interest to make it worthwhile as part of the Fables series. I look forward to continuing my journey with these fabulous (in all senses of the word) characters.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401228798
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2010

Grandville Noël (Grandville, #4)

By Bryan Talbot

Rating: 4 stars

The fourth instalment of DI Archie LeBrock’s adventures takes place around Christmas, and has his pal DS Ratzi off to see the in-laws, while his landlady asks him to find her missing niece. Shorn of his usual sidekick, LeBrock takes the case that, as all roads do, leads him to Grandville, and a charismatic cult leader, as well as an agent of the Pinkerton detective agency.

This book delves a bit into the mythology of the Grandville series, including the persecution of humans and their growing calls for equal rights and the history of Christianity, with a search for some “lost Gospels” also in the mix. Billie gets more to do this time round as well and throws a bombshell at the end that looks like it will affect events to come. Although Roderick Ratzi is mostly absent from this volume, LeBrock does find an alternative sidekick in the form of American Pinkerton detective Chance Lucas who is also after the leader of the cult that LeBrock is investigating. It’s the first time that we’ve had a lead character who is a doughface human but alas, he does mostly just take the Ratzi role and doesn’t get to do an awful lot in his own right.

The theme this time round is religion and cults, including how charismatic leaders can rise and lead people into saying and doing horrific things. Something which is all too relevant today. But amongst this grimness, Talbot throws in a reasonable amount of humour as well, both visual and textual. It makes for a very entertaining read.

The art is still gorgeous but previous warnings still apply: despite the cartoony style, this is adult, and often violent, stuff.

Book details

ISBN: 9780224098069
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year of publication: 2014

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