Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #24 and #25: FABLES Volumes 1 & 2

It seems only right, as it’s been announced that FABLES will be ending at issue #150, that I should finally start my review of the series. Nothing like waiting til the last minute, yes? I’ve been meaning to review FABLES since my last go round of Cannonball and, in fact, did manage to at least review one collection last year, a Bigby-centric collection called Werewolves of the Heartland.

I wish I’d loved that collection more. I’m surprised I didn’t because, as I mentioned, it was Bigby-centric, but I suppose they can’t all be winners. Luckily, the first two FABLES collections, Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, are absolutely:

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Can’t stop thinking about DOCTOR WHO: blame the 50th Anniversary.

I came to comics late in life, thinking (wrongly, like so many people) that they were all superheroes and big-boobed-spandex-clad ladies. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started reading comics and FABLES was one of the first.

FABLES hits all the marks for me. There’s an ongoing mystery, a smart-as-a-whip-takes-no-nonsense heroine, a tortured hero, still haunted by things he’s done in the past, an unlikely romance that sparks in the first collection and heats up throughout the rest. And, best of all, fairy tale characters, just, ALL OVER THE PLACE.

When ABC announced that Once Upon a Time was going to be a thing, I was of two minds. Part of me thought, “awesome, I love stuff about fairy tales, how cool!” but the other part of me, the larger, angrier part, just think-shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK WHY ISN’T IT FABLES?”

I did try Once Upon a Time for about half a season but it just didn’t hold the appeal for me that FABLES did. Probably because, the entire time I was watching it, I was just wishing it was FABLES. Oh well. Moving on, I guess.

Slight spoilers, ahoy.

Fables vol 1Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Our story takes place in a part of New York called Fabletown, where a bunch of fairy tale characters took refuge when their Homelands were invaded by the Adversary and his forces. The Fables have disguised themselves as normal New Yorkers, so the Mundys of the world can’t detect that there are immortal beings in their midst.

We’re introduced to some important Fables, namely Snow White, Fabletown’s deputy mayor, and Bigby (formerly the Big Bad Wolf), the town’s sheriff, when Rose Red (Snow White’s sister) is allegedly murdered. Bigby and Snow team up to find Rose Red’s killer. Prime suspects include Jack (of beanstalk fame), Rose Red’s longtime boyfriend, and Bluebeard, her secret fiance.

We also learn that Bigby has been nursing some hardcore unrequited love for the beautiful Snow White so, you know, YAY SHIPPING.

Fables vol 2

Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm

So last issue, we met the human Fables but you just know there are non-human ones, right? RIGHT? Well. There are. FYI. The three little pigs. The three bears. Three blind mice. Chicken Little. Yada yada. While the human Fables get to enjoy the conveniences of big city life, the non-human Fables have to live on The Farm, so as not to arouse suspicion in the Mundy world when someone sees a talking pig wandering around. The Farm seems nice enough, really, but some of the non-human Fables bristle at being told they HAVE to stay there.

Enter the revolution, which Snow White and Rose Red stumble right into. Shit gets real, you guys. Shit gets SUPER TOTALLY REAL.

Anyway, it’s hard to review these without giving too much away. You should probably just read them, OK? OK. Good talk.

pyrajane’s review #21: The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 (The Walking Dead #1-48) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, Tony Moore

Walking Dead CompendiumI hate horror.

I hate horror movies.  I can’t stand the trailers for new ones.  Horror music?  Knock it the fuck off.

I hate scary TV shows.  Don’t want anything to do with them.

I can’t stand haunted houses and the few times I let myself be talked into going into one, I’d either bail after a few steps in and walk back out the front door or I’d grab the shirt of the person in front of me, close my eyes, press my face into their back and let them lead me.   Fuck haunted houses.

Zombies?  No.  One of the worst horror creations because they eat you alive and it could be someone you know.  The smell… I can’t even.  It might be a brand new zombie or one that’s been wandering around for who knows how long.  Fuck everything about that.

Walking Dead Season 4

I love The Walking Dead.

My husband had read the comics and when he heard AMC was creating the show, he was wicked excited.  Me?  Nope.  More than nope.  More like “Why?  Why would anyone DO that?”

He’d be watching in the other room while I was on the computer trying really hard not to listen to any sounds.

But then it got interesting.  The characters seemed cool and every single scene wasn’t a zombie biting off someone’s face.  I started wandering into the room, standing in the doorway, watching for a few minutes.  By episode four, I was very curious, but still not convinced.  Then season two started, Sophia disappeared, and I was in.

I didn’t want to read the comic because I liked being surprised and getting to know the characters through the show.  I knew the show had gone in a very different direction with the characters and the story, but I didn’t care.  I liked these people and didn’t want to know what could happen next.  My husband would point out from time to time if the book had a plot line that was more violent than what they did on the show and also that they changed the characters a lot and he liked what they did.

I got so into the show that I would watch in real time, complete with commercials because I didn’t want to wait for the DVR.  When season two ended, I was tempted to read the comic, but still didn’t want to.  Then season three ended and I waited a few months and here we are.

People might hate me for this, but I do not care: I like the show more than the comic.

Read more of my thoughts over on my blog.  

Spoilers.  Spoilers from the show.  Spoilers from the comic.

I’m not even going to try to make this anything but a huge pile of spoilers.

TheGreatUnstainer #CBR5 Review #02 The Adventures of Dr McNinja Vol 2: Timefist

 Two years ago, I bought my younger brother a box set of Gumby DVDs.  When we were kids, we would watch it with that gawpish look in our faces.  It would mesmerise us, hold us transfixed and enthralled.  For half an hour each day, it was the best thing ever.

Watching the set again as an adult, the magic had faded.  The sunset clause in the contract the creators had with the Devil had come into effect long ago, and now we could all see Gumby for the preachy, screechy, painful mess that it is.

It was the first sign of a coming wave of realisation: so many things I love have an expiry date.  The giddy joy of watching only lasts once.  Now that I know Bruce Willis is dead, The Sixth Sense is mostly unwatchable.  Now that I know that Marion Cotillard is playing Talia al Ghul, there isn’t much point left in The Dark Knight Rises.  Now that I know Snape kills Dumblesnore, there’s even less reason to read Harry Potter and the Something of That Thing. 

So when the Internet’s best webcomic is released in trade paperback (TPB) form by Dark Horse there is a hesitation tinged with morbid curiousity: will the adventure be as thrilling the second time around?

Dr McNinja is a frequently-regularly produced webcomic by Chris Hastings about a doctor who is from a family of Irish-American ninjas.  Despite being called ‘volume 2’, it’s more accurately a third volume.  The first volume was the original series of black and white comics, but it wasn’t published by Dark Horse.  Instead, it will be published in June 2013 by Dark Horse as part of an omnibus edition.  The first volume published by Dark Horse, Dr McNinja: Night Powers, collected all the stories beginning with the first colour episode, ‘Monster Mart’.

If you coped with that baffling paragraph, you will be fine with Timefist, which is something of an unrelenting tidal wave of confusing narrative and surrealist parody.  Why does that boy have a giant moustache?  Why is Benjamin Franklin a university lecturer in the ’90s?  Aztec tennis players?  Dinosau….?

Selling a person on the merits of Dr McNinja is not difficult.  It is clever, witty, and fun.  Given the webcomic format, each page is punchy and beautifully crafted.  Indeed, it’s so easy to sell the concept of Dr McNinja to people that it’s something of a gateway drug to the genre of surrealist parody comedy.  It’s a short bounce from here to, say, The Venture Bros. or Danger 5.

The difficulty is selling a person on the merits of buying the TPB when it’s available for free online.  Even more difficult when they have already read the series, laughed at the twists and turns, and are now faced with what I am now calling The Gumby Problem: will it be as much fun the second time around?

Format changes the way we read things.  When you wait a few days between pages, you expect each page to be a complete package in its own right.  Books of greater length can afford to have a bit of flab.  Pages where, for example, the protagonist does nothing but sulk in a forest, having a bit of a sook, and thinking fruitlessly about horcruxes.

What is surprising — and it’s more noticeable in Timefist than in Night Powers — is that this discipline translates particularly well to the TPB format.  The pacing is quick, the key parts of the story are highlighted on each page, and nothing feels lost.  In surrealist parody, it is easy for the story to get out of control.  Dr McNinja has a plethora of supporting characters, and the temptation to let things go off leash must drive Hastings wild.  Despite that, things are kept under expert control.

But it’s not all beer and skittles.  In TPB, the weaknesses of the series are a little bit harder to ignore.  Hastings really loves Chekhov’s Gun.  Really loves it.  When the same technique is repeated a few times in a row, it starts to get in the way of enjoying the story because the reader is expecting the weirdly emphasised detail to make a return in the resolution.  The TPB format also distorts the tone: ‘relentless’ is a double-edged adjective.  After smashing through a dozen pages, I felt the desperate need for a break.

All of that said, it is still extremely fun the second time through and it comes highly recommended for people who are already fans of the webcomic.


Shucks Mahoney’s #CBR5 Review #7: Marbles: Mania,Depression, Michelangelo & Me by Ellen Forney

A lively, matter-of-fact memoir about an artist coming to terms with her bipolar disorder, Marbles is a great read. I laughed, I cried, I got the urge to doodle, do yoga, and have a drag queen dress-up party, and wanted to hand it on to everyone I know who has had to struggle with compromising their ideals in search of living a better life (i.e. everyone, ever).

Forney was diagnosed when she was almost thirty, and the word ‘bipolar’ hit her hard. She didn’t see the problem, being in a manic stage, wildly creative and adventurous and sexy, wasn’t that what her life was all about, after all? And at the suggestion of medication – lithium, in particular – she was terrified. But a hideous depressive episode spurred her into more action, and over the years she learns how to manage her illness and her life, and come to terms with what it means for her sense of self.

Weirdly enough, this book came along and I found myself hearing about bipolar disorder everywhere for a few days – it showed up in a story I read in a magazine, then a documentary, then another book. It drove home just how hideous it is to deal with, and what a draining experience it is. Forney doesn’t hide from the ugliness of her condition, but also bravely works with it and demonstrates that for her, it was a long road but she’s admirably coping with it. The best graphic memoir I’ve read since Fun Home or Persepolis, although her storytelling style is very different from Bechdel or Satrapi. Funny and warm and life-affirming, and featuring some very cool outfits and music recommendations as a bonus.

kocomoko’s #CBR5 Review #02: Dirt Candy: A Cookbook by Amanda Cohen

dirt-candy-cookbook-coverMy significant other heard about this on NPR and got this book. It’s a comic book cookbook! The full title of the book is “Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward From an Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant”. There are two primary themes to the book: how Dirt Candy came to be and how to be (and not to be) a chef at a restaurant. Dirt Candy is a vegetable restaurant located in NYC, where the focus is to serve, of course, amazing veggie dishes. The book is divided like a menu – appetizers, salads, soups, pasta, etc. and each section has its own story and chock full of recipes in between. The recipes are for the nouvea riche with acquired off-the-beaten-path taste (pea soup with spring pea flan with pickled potatoes??) – New York style. The cooking knowledge they show is great, and while I have never worked in a restaurant before, they also explain the “ballet” of a kitchen and chef really well. She answers questions such as “why does a salad cost $14?” or “why it is hard to open a restaurant?” or “how does one lose at Iron Chef?” She even explains all the different ways to bring out the flavors of vegetables. For example, to maximize the flavors of onions in onion soup, you first caramelize the onions, then roast them, then blender/pulverize them, and then rehydrate into a soup! Who does that!? Amanda Cohen. Overall, informative, innovative recipes and good art style!