Fables by Bill Willingham: A Series Overview

It’s difficult saying goodbye to a series you’ve been off and on reading for years at a time. It’s going on a journey with a cast of characters you’ve loved and then being told you’ve got to go back to work in the real world, thankyouverymuch (which, to be honest, is my general outlook in life, hah!). Fables was pretty much that journey, and it was sad to see the series actually, truly “end.”

To preface: this isn’t a typical review. I’ve finished 150 issues in 22 volumes, spanning thousands of dialogue and illustrations, panels and pages, and I’m finding it impossible to judge a series by its final volume. Farewell does a good job tying some loose ends, but leaves many things to the imagination, and encompassed several problematic elements that deterred it from being the penultimate volume of Fables volumes. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

There’s an actual key within the foldout that tells you who each Fable is on this cover. It’s magnificent in scope.

Those who haven’t read Fables and are interested in delving into fractured fairy tales and modern retellings should really give this Willingham series a try. I must have pushed this series to a number of my reader friends (and my not-so-reader sister and best friend) because at the time I was:

  • A) in a Vertigo Comics reading spree (owing to my love of Sandman by Neil Gaiman) and
  • B) always on the lookout for fairy tale comics.

Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales piqued my interest in artwork, but it was Willingham’s Fables that had the staying power when it came to its characters and story.

The Fables series follows the story of the Fable community, a group of fairy tale, folktale, legendary, and mythological characters and their struggles to live in the Mundy (mundane, magic-less) world. After their defeat against the infamous Adversary, most of the Fable worlds have been subsumed into the Adversary’s empire, and many are forced to retreat to the mundane world of Manhattan and its surrounding areas. The first volume title, Legends in Exile–as well as the first cover, an illustration of Fables characters running and cramming themselves into Manhattan’s subway train–pretty much gives an accurate portrayal of how they’ve been living for hundreds of years.

In Legends in Exile, we encounter the prominent figures of Fabletown, and interestingly enough, the story begins with Snow White and Rose Red. I point this out because Willingham returns to the rivalry between the two sisters one final time in Farewell, and it becomes a rivalry of epic proportions. To be honest, this wasn’t the bit that endeared me to the series.

It was this particular panel that did.

I adore Bigby Wolf, and the fact that much of the first half of the series pits Bigby as a prominent character–and important member of Fabletown–is most definitely why I kept reading. Ever since my entry into urban fantasy and the were-creatures that litter the genre’s pages, I’ve always kept a fondness for werewolves, and Bigby is not only THE Big Bad Wolf of stories, but he’s a REFORMED Big Bad Wolf. By this point in the Fables series, he’d even been appointed as the Fables’ town sheriff, a character you would not have typically visualized as someone who would uphold the law.

But Bigby does in his own way, and it is easy to see later on why.

Um. I totally ship it.

The first volume did its job introducing a colorful cast, but it was Vol. 2, Animal Farm, and Vol. 3, Storybook Love, that cemented my love for the series. By the end of Vol. 11, War and Pieces, I thought this series was the bees’ knees. And it continued to be, though to be honest, once the Adversary Arc came to a resolution, nothing came quite close to the magic that the first 11 volumes held in their pages.

The series comprises of a few major storylines:

The Adversary (Vols. 1-11) – Wherein the Fables community try to find a life within the Mundy world, at the same time that many of them attempt to retake their Homeworlds from their enemies. Pretty epic stuff, especially considering who the Adversary is revealed to be, and how each of the Fables characters played a part in taking the evil kneevil down.

Mister Dark (Vols. 12-17) – After the fall of the Adversary, a new villain comes into town in the hopes of wreaking destruction to a newly-recovering Fable community. This arc was difficult to get through because the antagonists were arbitrary and highly annoying, but the arc also gave us Ghost, the North Wind, and Frau Totenkinder, and they are worth the waste of space that is Mister Dark.

The Werewolf Cubs (Vol. 18) – A prophecy comes to light upon the birth of Bigby’s seven children, and each are tied to their fates. This includes the spinoff volume Werewolves of the Heartland, which I considered as part of Vol. 18, to be honest.

Snow White and Rose Red (Vols. 19-22) – The finale pits us back to the rivalry between the two sisters and a curse revealed that explains it all. Or, well, tries to explain it all. It failed in my book, but Vol. 19, Snow White was well worth the read because it pretty much delves into Snow’s past and shines a light to how truly badass she is (although, if I’m going to be honest, I totally skipped everything about the damn flying monkey). Vol. 20, Camelot, follows in Snow’s wake by highlighting her sister Rose Red, and it is still one of my favorite covers in the series, even though Rose Red is quite possibly my least favorite lead.

I mean…taking on a fantastic swordsman one-handed? How is that NOT badass?!

But as far as it ended? I’m of two minds on that. In some ways, I appreciated Willingham trying to tie in loose ends in Farewell. It was a better volume than what came before, but it was also a bit of an anticlimactic disappointment. It also begged the question of “Who can truly come back to life?” Early on, it was established that the more famous Fables are able to return from death because hell, they are legendary in the mundy world. But then by the end of the series, even the popular fables don’t come back, and yet…some of the not-so-famous do. It bothered me to no end, almost as much as Rose Red’s lack of character development did.

In fact, if it weren’t for this magnificent four-panel foldout, I wouldn’t have rated Farewell as high as I did.

That all said, I’d still highly recommend this series. Heck, I’d highly recommend its spinoffs, too, especially Fairest and Telltale Games’ A Wolf Among Us (which also has a graphic novelization out). I wouldn’t so far as recommend the Jack of Fables spinoff, mostly because I effing HATED Jack and his Literal friends (and gods, AVOID Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover if you can, it really doesn’t add shmat to the story), but hey, who knows, it is probably enjoyable to others.

Alright, there. I’m done tooting the Fables horn.

Have you read the series? What did you think?

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Pirates, Mermaids, Monsters, Oh My! || Monstress, Vol. 2 Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Can this get any more EPIC? The answer is YES. There are pirates and animalistic Arcanics (THERE’S A SHARK GIRL WHAT) and old gods that eerily remind me of Alucard’s crazy demon form in Hellsing. And lawd, when’s the next set coming out because MORE PLS.


MONSTRESS, VOL. 2: THE BLOOD

by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2017
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

The Eisner-nominated MONSTRESS is back! Maika, Kippa, and Ren journey to Thyria in search of answers to her past… and discover a new, terrible, threat. Collects MONSTRESS #7-12.

I don’t think I’ve fallen so hard and so fast over a comics series than I had with Monstress, and honestly, it’s largely to do with the two amazing women who’ve brought this story to life on the illustrated medium. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are mistresses of their craft, and together they managed to convey a wonderful story of a powerful girl in a world still reeling from the previous war and yet gearing for a new one.

The story follows after Volume 1 (Issues 1-6) and picks up the pace, sending Maika, Kippa, and Ren south to Thyria, Maika’s hometown. There, Maika regroups and enlists the help of pirates to ferry her further south, to the Cape of Bones, a place where Moriko Halfwolf had once traveled. To gain more information of the monster inside her, Maika follows her mother’s footsteps–and obsession with the legendary Shaman Princess–south, encountering dangers along the way, as well as a deeper understanding of how to control the Monstrum within.

As can normally be found in most first volumes, the first six issues of Monstress dealt with throwing as much information our way as possible. While Liu and Takeda managed to convey the information in creative ways (including a little professor-student talking panel every issue for the heavier worldbuilding aspects), most of the first volume was truly introductory. Yes, the second volume also deals with the addition of new characters, but by this point, we are familiar with a bit of the world and there’s less explaining to do. So for the most part, we can sit back and enjoy the story.

Well, sort of.

Then Liu comes around and throws us for a loop and we start to devour the next bits of fantastical element thrown our way. In this case, the sea Arcanics.

Yes, we saw the awesomeness of the Fox Queen and the Monkey King and by that point we are unsurprised by the group of “nekomancers” littering the pages (I mean, Ren is one of them…). But a motherfrelling Arcanic shark? Mermaids and sirens and bone-chilling sea creatures of doom? Hell yes!

Not to mention dapper ex-pirate lions and tigers, who, by the way, are friggin’ AWESOME.

I don’t know how they’re not super-hot in those outfits, I would be if I was sporting that much fur in my body. That said, CAN I GET THEIR CLOTHES? I’d so wear the shmat out of them.

And, because we needed more badass females, throw in a female captain in the mix.

Of course, the issues don’t just deal with Maika’s story, though hers takes center stage for the most part. Characters introduced in the previous issues–such as the Cumaea and the Dawn and Dusk Courts–recur in the next several issues, and while Maika’s journey is largely one of self-discovery, we have several other characters mobilized to find her. Chief among them is the Sword of the East, who is revealed to be Maika’s sole living relative, an aunt who had been unaware of her presence. The Cumaea is still after Maika’s Monstrum, while others seek to destroy her.

It’s no wonder Maika broods all the time. Shes’ got a shitton of people coming after her, and to add cherry to her fantastic life, the ravenous monster inside her is getting stronger and stronger, almost to the brink of being out of control.

And yet, she still has that sass that made me love her in the beginning issues.

The second volume is chock-full of action, and more of the story is revealed to the reader, including a back story of the old gods that used to live in the known world. If you thought the first volume was epic, the second one blows it out of the water. Hem hem.

And honestly, those issue cover illustrations.

I cannot gush enough about this volume of Monstress. I highly recommend it, for story, for female badassery, for a world that’s a mix of everything I love about fantasy/scifi worldbuilding. Now I feel like the Monstrum, because this series is making me insatiable. I want more please!

5 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #11 of the Graphic Novels/Manga Reading Challenge and #4 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.


Have you read this series? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: Sisters, The Jane Austen Handbook

Playing more catch-up games in terms of reviews! The first book is a graphic novel I assigned to my English Language Arts class for the summer. I figure, if I’m assigning something, I better have read it or will read it by the time school begins again. So I purchased myself a copy and read it in an hour. The second was something I’d gotten in London just to remind me that there IS a Jane Austen Centre and by the stars, I’m totally going back there at some point.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

TTT: Graphic Novels

ttt

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

I realize I’ve read quite a number of comics throughout the years, most of which had been volumes of manga. So I decided to split this list and do a top six for manga and a top six for graphic novels. Yes, I decided on six each because it was already difficult to choose, considering how much I love many graphic novels.

Top Six Graphic Novel Series

Fables by Bill Willingham – It was definitely my love for fairy tales that brought me to this graphic novel, though it did take me two volumes to finally warm up to the series. Even then, I’ve yet to finish the series itself, because bad things happen to my favorite characters, and there’s only so much pain and agony I can take, and the best bits have always been during the Adversary arc anyway. Would highly recommend in any case.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman – Not gonna lie, I only picked up the series after I’d read the volume on the Endless. Each of them were so fascinating that I wanted to know more about them, and when I realized there was an entire series about Dream, well, I couldn’t resist. Gaiman works with several artists each volume, so the artwork was hit or miss for me, though the strength in this series has always been the writing, which Gaiman always manages to knock out of the ballpark.

Avatar: The Last Airbender by Gene Luen Yang – I thank Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko for letting such a talent like Gene Luen Yang take over in penning the sequel spinoffs of Avatar: The Last Airbender. So far, each storyline is made up of three volumes that continue the adventures of Aangvatar in the years after the Hundred Years War. I could never say no to more stories about any of the original Team Avatar, and my interest gets even more piqued when a number of these stories feature Zuko quite a bit (because omg I love him, yes.).

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples – I’ve probably said this so many times in my reviews by now, but I love this series. So. Much. It’s a fantasy and space opera saga taken to the max, with all the humor and adult content to boot. It’s about star-crossed lovers, both of whom are not broody, lust-driven teenagers (in fact, they’re only sometimes lust-driven adults). It’s about escaping from a war nobody really remembers the reasons for existing. And the artwork is just fantastic.

Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda – Who run the world? GIRLS. Queen Bey’s song should be the tagline for Monstress, because women are clearly the ultimate power in the series universe. I’ve only read the first volume so far, but I am certainly intrigued, and I definitely want to know what happens next!

Sin City by Frank Miller – I was torn between this and another series, but Miller’s Sin City won out because it’s just classic noir in its most fantastical. “A Dame to Kill For” is definitely one of my favorite shorts, though honestly, any issue that showcased the women of Sin City pretty much rocked.

Top Six Manga Series

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda – Honestly, this is the only unfinished series I’ve been willing to read manga-wise. It’s also the only shounen that made the list, but then again, I suppose I’ve only recently started reading shounen manga anyway. All the same, One Piece is terrific. It’s got pirates, magic, a crew I’ve come to love as one of my fictional families, and enough humor to make me chortle out loud for minutes at a time.

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori – Hands down one of my favorite series ever. EVER. I marathoned the anime over a weekend in college, and I had no regrets. The manga was much better, because it allowed more development in the various characters within the pages. Plus, there was definitely more of Kyouya in the manga. Much more.

Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino – Before Twilight, I was hooked on this series. Yes, it has emo vampires (oh Zero, you are so emo). Yes, it’s got some weird vampire love triangle I really don’t want to get into. Yes, I was definitely going through a vampire phase at the time, which is why I enjoyed this series so much.

Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP – Cardcaptor Sakura is actually not my favorite of CLAMP’s (my favorite happens to be Magic Knight Rayearth), but it is where my fangirling of CLAMP definitely started. My sister and I used to collect graphic novels when we were kids (those saved-up allowances took us places, I swear!), and at least half of our manga collection is made up of CLAMP works. I’m pretty sure the only ones we hadn’t purchased were anything past XXXHolic.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi – The story that launched a thousand ships! Oh yes. I grew up on Sailor Moon. I had Sailor Moon jammies that I didn’t even know was a thing until I stumbled upon the dubbed cartoon one random Saturday morning. Heck, they’ve even rebooted the anime recently!

Kodocha by Miho Obana – This was just such a feel-good series by the end of it that I was definitely one very satisfied reader. Not that I was hard to please as a kid. There’s apparently a sequel to the series, with a grown-up Sana and a grown-up Hayama, which is the only thing in this list–aside from Oda’s list of One Piece characters.

How about you? Do you have any other graphic novel recommendations?

Reading Challenges 2017

So I thought I did pretty well in 2016 as far as the two reading challenges went. Last year, I took part in Flights of Fantasy and the Fairy Tale Retelling reading challenges. I’d challenged myself to do 30 books in fantasy and 10 books in fairy tales, and I surpassed both, so yay for me! My Goodreads goal of 60 was also surpassed by the fact that I went ahead and read 90ish books in total (which is a big deal for me, considering I am usually a slow reader). Aaand as far as my 25 Reads Project went…erm…I at least got through 11 of them? Maybe I should have also signed up to do an ARC reading challenge, because my NetGalley ARC reading and reviewing has been behind, too.

In any case, fun stats:

bookstats-2016

For a more comprehensive list, check out my year in Goodreads.

That all said, it’s time to up the ante and join up on the 2017 reading challenges! I did two relatively well last year, so I decided this year I’m going to do a few more. I’m also excited about hosting my first ever Food and Fiction Reading Challenge, and I hope you’ll join me on this one!

So here are the challenges I’m participating in for the year:

foodandfiction-2017-1

hosted by Mari @ Story and Somnomancy

I’m going to try and do 12 food and fiction posts, which which will be added to my Food and Fandom page on top of the other random geeky foods I tend to do.

flightsoffantasy-2017

Hosted by Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books and Rachel @ Hello, Chelly.

I participated in this one last year and it was a lovely challenge. Again, I’m pushing myself to doing 30 fantasy book reviews, maybe surpass this number again. As a fantasy reader on a regular basis, this should not be a problem. I did rather poorly on the FOF Book Club discussions, so I might also try that again (and at least this time, there’s a bigger time allotted per book!).

mangareading2017

Hosted by Nicola @ Graphic Novels Challenge.

So I decided 2017 is the year of me branching out and reading even MORE graphic novels. Not that this is out of my comfort zone. I actually read graphic novels when I can get to them, but I always find that I never read enough. So this year, I decided I’d do a graphic novel/manga challenge. I hope to read at least 12 graphic novels by the end of the year, though if I actually read a series (like, oh, finish Fables once and for all), this number will definitely go up.

Then I also wanted to do more steampunk reading. Occasionally I’ve picked a few up last year, but I admit, last year, I was severely lacking in good steampunk books. I want to change this in 2017 and actually take the effort in reading at least 10 steampunk books. Time to get steampunkin’!

I’m also going to be doing my 25 Reads Project again, though this time around, I’ve only put in books that carried over the last two years. Once I’ve finished that list, that’s when I’ll start picking books out of my book jar again. Hah, good luck to me. (Though in defense, I’m about halfway done with An Ember in the Ashes and have Snow Like Ashes on my high priority list.)

I’ve created a page that will help me keep track of the challenges I’ve signed up for here. Wish me luck!

Are you signed up for any reading challenges this year?