12 November 2005

Fables vol. 1 - "Legends in Exile"

Premise: After being forcibly driven from their homeland, various characters from classic fairy tales adjust to their new lives in modern-day New York.

Fables is an excellent gateway comic because everyone already knows the main characters. Just about everyone has heard of Snow White, Prince Charming, and the Big Bad Wolf. Of course, they may be a little surprised to find that Snow White has become a cynical workaholic, Prince Charming is a philanderer with three failed marriages (to Snow, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella) under his belt, and that the Big Bad Wolf is now the sheriff of Fabletown (the neighborhood where all of the fables secretly live among the normals).

Writer Bill Willingham has put together an imaginative series that speaks to the reader's inner child and jaded, embittered adult simultaneously. Pencillers Lan Medina and Mark Buckingham (among others) render a world that is equally magical and grounded in reality. And the painted covers by James Jean are simply stunning (DC/Vertigo were wise to include them in each volume).

Recommended for: anyone who ever had fairy tales read to them as a child; fans of Into The Woods, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and/or Wicked.
Not recommended for: people who only know these characters from their Disney cartoons.

10 November 2005

Marvel Team-Up #14

Premise: Invincible is accidentally transported into the Marvel Universe and lands in the middle of a fight between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus. Hilarity ensues.

There are numerous reasons for me to recommend this issue:
  1. It is accessible to new readers.
  2. It is literally an all-ages comic (wholesome enough for kids, but witty and engaging enough for adults).
  3. It will hopefully introduce Invincible (the most interesting new hero to come along in a long time) to a wider audience.
  4. It is laugh-out-loud funny.
It came out in comics stores last week (check the sidebar to find one in your area), and should be available in bookstores next week.

Day of Vengeance

Premise: Can a band of second-string mystical heroes prevent two spirits of vengeance from wiping magic from the face of the Earth?

In a previous post, I talked a little bit about Infinite Crisis. To further fuel the spark of interest among comics fans, DC published four miniseries which would help to set the events of Infinite Crisis into motion, but could be appreciated on their own merits. One of the series was called Day of Vengeance.

The story itself is a good one. Writer Bill Willingham does an excellent job of putting the readers inside the heads of some obscure heroes as they embark on what feels like a suicide mission, and he gets bonus points for making a silly character like Detective Chimp relevant to a modern audience. Penciller Justianino is equally adept at rendering both large-scale battles (two giant characters fighting over the city) and small scale scenes (a dingy other-dimensional tavern, a suburban, middle class home). If this book consisted of only the story, I would heartily recommend it.

Much like a special-edition DVD, the extras are where this book really shines. In addition to the story, the book includes the covers from the original comics, some pages from Justianino's sketchbook, text pieces that introduce the backstory and the heroes to new readers, and a bonus story reprinted from the Superman comics. This story (written by Judd Winick and pencilled by Ian Churchill) helps to establish one of the villains of Day of Vengeance and features an extended fistfight between Superman and Captain Marvel (Shazam!), which is always fun.

Recommended for: fans of Buffy, Lord of the Rings, and/or The Seven Samurai; people who always root for the underdog.

Not recommended for: people who absolutely refuse to take any story with a talking chimp seriously.