Review of Trillium by Jeff Lemire

TrilliumTitle: Trillium

Author: Jeff Lemire

Illustrator: Jeff Lemire

Publisher: Vertigo

Format: Electronic

Where I got it: Netgalley

Review:

 

I have long been a fan of Jeff Lemire’s work, particularly his creator-owned stories like The Underwater Welder and Sweet Tooth. His art — while perhaps not as visually stunning as some of the exciting illustrators in the field such as Fiona Staples, Sean Murphy, or Greg Capullo — provides a sense of unity to his comics. He is a true master at understanding the sequential nature of comics and his images evoke the right emotions and pacing that are hard to nail down.

Catching on the science fiction bandwagon with contemporary hits like Saga, Preacher, and Sex Criminals, Lemire pens a love story with the plot devices of time travel, alien cultures, and a sentient disease. One of the featured characters is a botanist named Nika Temsmith, who lives in the year 3797 when a disease has killed off all but four thousand people. Their only hope is the trillium flower, which grows wild on a planet where some mysterious aliens await Nika’s arrival. They stand guard around an Incan temple, which Nika comes to realize is more than just a pyramid of stone.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 1.45.19 PMIn the year 1921, WWI vet and English explorer, William Pike, also makes an expedition in search of the lost temple of the Incas. When natives attack his group, he finds himself face-to-face with Nika, completely unable to understand her language. Their encounter does not seem accidental and both experience a sense of deja vu, feeling as if they should know the other.

With the help of Trillium, William and Nika learn to communicate and find themselves sharing a bond with one another, leading to an adventure where their biggest adversaries are the very teams they were working with.

Trillium was released by Vertigo as an eight-issue story arc and binge-reading it in one collected volume (my preferred method of reading comics) made the story feel as connected and whole as Lemire’s recent work, The Underwater Welder. The illustrations are typical of Lemire’s style, with a sort of rough-sketched appearance. The panels are fully colored, blending a colored-pencilled and water-color appearance. There is an artistic quality to the drawings, but Lemire’s true art is in how he uses images to tell a story. Few writers understand how to use layout as well as he does and there is some good variation, ranging from templated-panel layouts to full page images with inset pictures to pages that need to be turned sideways to orient one’s self properly.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 1.47.37 PMThe main characters were rich. Nika, the altruistic and fearless scientist, was willing to disobey orders if necessary to achieve the proper ends. Yet her willingness of self-sacrifice should not be confused with a suicide mission. She is thoughtful and contemplative — empathetic to other cultures and open to love. William, suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome from the war, questions his own mind, but is willing to follow what he believes is right, even if his closest friends question his sanity.

Jeff Lemire’s venture into science fiction was a welcome one. He remains true to his style, while appealing to fans of  Arthur C. Clarke or Philip K. Dick. The plot was reminiscent of other science fiction stories and the use of an ancient pyramid for traveling through space and time bore resemblance to Stargate. Nonetheless, the story felt new and original and was executed beautifully.

For fans of science fiction — and particularly those who want a shorter story arc — Trillium is a good choice. Lemire is one of the great writers in the industry today and I found this to be an exciting read that can be enjoyed in one complete and satisfying sitting.

 

 

Review of American Vampire, Vol. 4

13532244Title: American Vampire, Vol. 4

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Jordi Bernet

Rating: 3 star

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The American Vampire comics are probably the best ongoing exploration of the Vampire mythos in any form of media. The premise is that there are many species of vampires spread across the earth, each with different abilities and Achilles’ heels. The American-born species, for example, have long and viscous claws and are immune to sunlight. Each novelization of the comic book series takes place in a subsequent decade — the fourth installment features a story taking place in the 1950’s.

screen-captureThree story arcs are collected in this novel. The first story arc, “Beast in the Cave,” features Skinner Sweet prior to becoming a vampire, fighting in the Indian Wars with Jim Book. The natives solicit the help of an ancient vampire trapped in a cave, which has deadly consequences.

The second and feature story arc is “Death Race,” taking place in the 1950’s. We are introduced to Travis Kidd, a teenage vampire killer. Travis ably fits the persona of a rebellious teenager from the era, with leather jacked, shades, and a cocky attitude to boot. Whether using gold, silver, or wooden fangs that he developed, the fearless hunter works on his own to rid the world of vampires.

The third story arc, “The Nocturnes,” features Calvin Poole, an African American agent working for the secret Vassal organization. After traveling south as part of an investigation, he predictably encounters some racist thugs who have no idea what they are in for.

To be honest, the fourth American Vampire volume was a bit of a disappointment. Largely omitted from the stories was Pearl, who only makes a brief appearance in a pretty major shift to the plot. The first story arc, while featuring some decent artwork from Jordi Bernet, really didn’t bring anything new to any of the characters. The feature story, “Death Race,” was my favorite and I am hoping Travis Kidd makes some future appearances. His battle with Skinner Sweet brought two capable foes against one another in a great car scene. The biggest fault in this story arc was in the format — the very jarring time shifts made a simple story difficult to follow at times.

The next collection should take place in the 1960’s, which I hold high hopes for as Skinner Sweet likely will be dealing with some hippies. I also hope Pearl returns to the pages with a more prominent role. In all likelihood this will happen given what took place in this volume.

Review of Fables, Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers

Title: Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Vol. 4)

Author: Bill Willingham

Illustrators: Mark Buckingham (penciller, inker), Craig Hamilton (penciller), P. Craig Russel (penciller, inker), and Steve Leialoha (inker),

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The fourth volume of the Fables series tells two related story arcs. The first takes place during the French Revolution, where Little Boy Blue and several other fables are under attack by the Adversary. We are introduced to Red Riding Hood, who arrives to the Fable stronghold, barely hanging onto her life. Red Riding Hood has a fling with Little Boy Blue as the Adversary’s army advances and through the course of the battle, the relationship between the two ends up being a tragic love story.

The major story arc takes place in modern times and there are three men who begin to stir up trouble, particularly with the fables. Pinocchio surmises that these men are wooden soldiers created by none other than an enslaved Ghepetto. Meanwhile, Red Riding Hood suddenly shows up on the scene, who is immediately under the suspicion of Bigby Wolf. She claims that she has escaped the enslavement of the Adversary, but Bigby isn’t buying her story. Little Boy Blue is a little more willing to believe her and after a little spat, they rekindle their passion.

March of the Wooden Soldiers is an all out, bloody battle of an army of wooden soldiers attacking Fabletown. Willingham is so skilled at blending so many fabled elements into the story that it is difficult to take it all in the first time reading it. I really don’t have any criticisms and for having such a simple premise, the latest volume brings out a rich and imaginative world. I enjoyed reading about the wooden soldiers and their humorous, yet sociopathic attempts to annihilate the fables. The battle at the end was filled with strategy and tension as the fables find that bullets and even fire are not effective ammunition against the hard-wooded enemies.

Once again, Fables continues to raise the bar for quality in the comic world. This volume is highly recommended.

Review: American Vampire, Vol. 3 by Scott Snyder

Title: American Vampire, Vol. 3

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Sean Murphy, Danijel Zezelj

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The third volume of American Vampire collects three story arcs: “Strange Frontier,” “Ghost War,” and “Survival of the Fittest.”

I won’t mention much about “Strange Frontier.” It is a single-issue filler piece, taking place in 1919 Idaho. It tells of an outdoor skit, bringing Wild West vampire stories to life in a way that the show’s producers never expected. The story is bland and the artwork was really not my style.

So let’s move onto the meat of the collection. Both “Ghost War” and “Survival of the Fittest” take place during World War II. In “Ghost War,” Pearl’s human boyfriend, Henry Preston, is enlisted for a covert assignment on an island near Japan. His mission — to protect American troops from an infestation of vampires. Pearl is unaware of the true nature of this assignment, but when Skinner leaves her a note saying that Henry is lying to her, she travels to the island to save her boyfriend from none other than Skinner Sweet.

“Ghost War” had an interesting story line and we are further exposed to the diverse populations of vampires. Each region of the world has different creatures with different strengths and weaknesses. This is one of the greatest attributes of the American Vampire series. Rafael Albuquerque illustrated this story arc and the images were up to their usual standards. The secondary characters were also interesting. In particular, I liked Vicar Row, the covert team’s leader. The bearded, one-armed man plays a prominent role in the story and we are given some back story to his gritty, but heroic character.

“Survival of the Fittest” also takes place during World War II. Felicia Book and Cash McCogan are sent to Romania, seeking a supposed cure for vampirism. When they arrive, they discover that the Nazi regime has assembled an army of vampires to assist in their war efforts. Despite being imprisoned in a Romanian castle, Book and Cash continue to seek a cure and hope to foil the army’s plot at world domination.

Even though “Ghost War” was the feature story, I found “Survival of the Fittest” to be the best in the collection. Snyder continues to add greater complexity and depth to the vampire mythos and his storytelling throughout American history is a unique take on the legendary creature. I was surprised at the twist “Survival of the Fittest” took, proving that anything can happen in Snyder’s world. Snyder creates a likable character in Felicia Book and Sean Murphy’s illustrations, while different from Albuquerque’s pen, are rich with detail and emotion.

The third volume of American Vampire is my favorite thus far. It has great character depth, stories that are well-integrated into history, and increasing diversity in the legendary vampires. I hope Snyder continues to explore the series in the context of history and further develops the different relationships between the various vampires.  If you have enjoyed the series so far, you will not be disappointed with this volume.

Review: American Vampire, Vol. 2

Title: American Vampire, Vol. 2

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

Sometimes it’s just not a good idea to do business with vampires. At least that’s what Chief Cash McCogan and the FBI begin to realize when two of the consortium partners of the Boulder Dam end up suffering violent deaths.

Volume 2 of the American Vampire series contains two story arcs. The first is “Devil in the Sand,” a detective story that turns into a mafia-style gun fight. Cash doesn’t like that the FBI is treading on his territory, but he deals with it in a no-holds-barred, smart-ass sort of way. After all, the city is now rife with prostitution, gambling, and lawlessness. Together, Cash and the FBI pursue the recent Boulder Dam killings to discover that vampires are involved in the venture. And of course, no bad business deal can go down without the meddling of Skinner Sweet, the superpowered American Vampire.

The second story arc is “The Way Out,” which features Pearl and her human boyfriend, Henry. Pearl was featured in the first volume as an aspiring actress who was later turned by Sweet (rather than suffering death at the hand of another). She and Henry are seeking a private life together, one that doesn’t involve Vampire politics. But her old life will not leave her alone. The European vampires are on her trail and after a decade have finally caught up with her. Pearl must let herself go and unleash her violent powers to keep her and Henry alive. In the background of the story, we also learn that Hattie Hargrove, Pearl’s former friend, has broken free from captivity and is bent on seeking revenge. Hattie begins a killing spree with an ultimate goal to find and murder Pearl.

The second volume of American Vampire is darker than the first, but it is superior in its storytelling. We really are beginning to understand the complexity of Pearl — who remains morally good at heart, but is conflicted with the tainted blood that gives her destructive urges. Hattie has turned a bit one-dimensional. Once a selfish, aspiring actress of her own, it seems the vampire blood has filled her with even greater jealousy and self-serving motivation. Skinner Sweet remains a bit of an enigma, not wanting to consort with the European vampires, but I am still uncertain what his overall mission is.

I am curious to see where the subsequent issues of American Vampire take us. Pearl still has her past coming after her like a freight train, perhaps one that will eventually catch up with her. Cash McCogan, on the other hand, fearlessly fights the threatening vampires head-on to restore Las Vegas to prosperity. Then there is Sweet — wreaking havoc in his own struggle for power against the vampires of old.

Review: We3 by Grant Morrison

Title: We3

Author: Grant Morrison

Illustrator: Frank Quitely

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are a pair that few can match in comics. Each is brilliant in their art and their collaboration on We3 renders a beautifully crafted story. As one can gather from the cover, We3 is about a trio of animals who have been technologically altered by the military to be covert killing machines. When a fourth generation weaponized dog becomes available, the We3 project is shut down and the animals are ordered to be terminated. Conscious of their demise, a dog (formerly called Bandit and now referred to as #1), cat (Tinker/#2), and rabbit (Pirate/#3) escape in a desperate attempt for their lives.

Morrison is effective in instilling an emotional response in the reader — even when the protagonists are pets in armored mech suits. Through technological advancements, the animals are able to speak in a rudimentary, computerized English that gives them a human quality that gives them greater value than the average family pet. Like Orwell’s Animal Farm, the animals in Morrison’s tale convey a much deeper meaning — the corruption of politics and the effect of war on the individual.

Each animal in We3 has a distinct personality. #1 (dog) always wants to be good, #2 (cat) is distrusting of the others, and #3 (rabbit) is a more finicky creature who often scampers away from the pack. These personalities are not by chance and show that even with the military’s tampering, the true sense of who they are remains intact.

After an escape from the military facility, the animals seek to go home. Each animal was once a stolen pet, but as the story reveals, home for them is not just a physical return to their owner’s house. Going home is as much a quest to biologically restore their former selves. The secret of these animal killing machines will ruin political careers and there is no limit to what the government will do to ensure that their project does not become public.

I absolutely love Frank Quitely’s artwork — he has a great sense of perspective and he makes excellent use of focus in several of his pictures. There is a very subtle sense of emotion that is conveyed even in the eyes of the characters without forcing the pictures to be drawn with realism.

I expect We3 is a comic I will read many times over. There are so many little gems that I remain curious over. I wonder if the reference to Updike’s Rabbit, Run had a deeper meaning than just a clever homage. Rabbit Angstrom and #3 bear similarities in fleeing the life society carved out for them and the heart-wrenching death that surrounds it.

I really don’t have a lot more to say other than Grant and Frank — wonderful work.

Review of Fables: Storybook Love (Vol. 3)

Title: Fables: Storybook Love (Vol. 3)

Author: Bill Willingham

Illustrators: Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Linda Medley (artist)

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The third trade paperback volume of Fables collects issues 11-18 of the comic book series. Within are four separate story arcs: Bag O’ Bones, A two-part caper, Storybook Love (the feature story), and Barleycorn Brides.

Bag O’ Bones tells a Civil War era story of Jack Horner. who lies to be granted an early muster from the war when it was evident the South would lose. On his journey through the bayou, he comes across a rugged-looking man who wants to play poker with him. After Jack loses his shirt (literally) against who he believes to be the devil, they play one final hand for Jack’s soul. Jack cheats his way to win and obtains a magic bag. Knowing Jack, this just leads to more trouble.

This one-issue story was a delight to read. Jack is not my favorite character, but this tale is pure escapist fun. It is cleverly written and Jack’s encounter with the Grim Reaper was morbidly humorous.

The two-part caper (“A Sharp Operation” and “Dirty Business”) concerns the story of a mundy (a mundane human) reporter who is about to unveil a massive story about the fables living in New York. Worse yet, he has pictures to prove their immortality. Bluebeard wants to kill the guy, while Bigby has a more civil and tactful approach to handling the reporter. An elaborate caper is developed where Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) puts the reporter’s apartment building to sleep and the rest of the Fables move in to carry on their plot.

This story features most of the main players, including Flycatcher (the Frog Prince), a scruffy, fly-breathed prince who must come to the rescue when Prince Charming cannot. This particular story arc was interesting, but is more of a setup for the feature story, Storybook Love.

Storybook Love tells of the romantic connection between Bluebeard and Goldilocks, which is discovered by a toy soldier and his trusted mouse. News of their shacking up together reaches the rest of Fabletown and Bluebeard attempts to head the investigation off by applying a magic potion that makes Snow and Bigby abruptly decide to take a vacation together in the middle of the woods. Here, the guerrilla leader, Goldilocks is waiting to finish them off. Can Prince Charming, who has begun to amend his womanizing ways, help save Fabletown in their stead?

This story was very enjoyable and it has many consequences that change the lives of the fables in the end. Snow and Bigby develop a romantic relationship, which has a curious twist in the end. We also learn that popular fables die hard and defeating Goldilocks is not an easy task, even with the strength of Bigby Wolf (in his beastly form). It was really cool to watch Snow mount her trusted lupine friend and run for shelter.

The final story, Barleycorn Brides, was the weakest of the bunch. Bigby Wolf tells Flycatcher a story of the Lilliputians and their quest to find brides in a male-only town. The story itself is a diversion from the overall story arc and the artwork, while similar in style to Buckingham and Leialoha, is as inspiring as a coloring book. That’s not to say that the characters were badly drawn, but their faces are simple with canned expressions. I think this volume would have been much better leaving this story out. Or perhaps it would have been better served as a story in 1001 Nights of Snowfall.

Overall, the stories in this collection were good, but fell a little short of the previous two volumes. Prince Charming’s abrupt change in character was not believable and makes him much less interesting than in the first volume. Perhaps there’s a nihilistic tendency I have as a reader to wish for him to be a destructive antihero, but alas, he saves the day by foiling (no pun intended) Bluebeard in a sword fight. Or maybe I am being a little harsh on the volume, for the Fables series is truly one of the most enjoyable comic series out there today.

Review of Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Title: Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Author: Bill Willingham

Illustrators: Esao Andrews, John Bolton, Mark Buckingham, James Jean, Derek Kirk Kim, Jill Thompson, Charles Vess, Michael W. Kaluta, Tara McPherson

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

Bill Willingham has a unique talent in taking the fables of old and weaving them together with a theme to form a unique story. In his second collection, Animal Farm, he adapted George Orwell’s satirical classic. In 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Willingham borrows from the One Thousand and One Nights compilation from the Islamic Golden Age.

Like the Arabic collection, 1001 Nights of Snowfall uses a framing sequence to unfold several tales. Snow White, on behalf of the exiled fable characters, travels to the Middle East to seek an alliance with the Sultan against the Adversary who drove them from their homeland. She is deceived by one of the Sultan’s officials and finds herself selected to be the Sultan’s next wife. To many women this would be an honor; however, the Sultan marries a new woman every night, only to have her executed in the morning.

Snow White employs the same strategy as Queen Scheherazade (of the Arabic collection) and begins to tell the Sultan stories in hopes that it will deter him from killing her. The brilliance of the Arabic collection is that Scheherazade fails to finish her story, giving the Persian King a reason to postpone her execution so that he can hear the conclusion the following night. Willingham keeps his stories intact, which makes the Sultan’s motivations less believable, but the format is more convenient for the graphic novel medium.

But really, the frame story is mostly a clever way to tell a collection of stories that take place many years before the time period of Fables comic series. For readers of the series, 1001 Nights of Snowfall contains many origin stories. We learn how Bigby Wolf came to be, why Snow has a problem with dwarves, Flycatcher’s escape from the Adversary, and a closer look at the benevolent King Cole.

The artwork makes this collection a keeper. Having a different artist for each sequence helped differentiate the various tales. Just as the Sultan eagerly came to Snow each night for a new bedtime story, we as readers turn to each story with a fresh set of illustrations. The beauty of the artwork lies in its diversity, from John Bolton’s realism in “The Fencing Lessons” to Jill Thompson’s children’s book art in “Fair Division.” The highlight of the artwork is Vess and Kaluta’s old-fashioned artwork of the frame story.

While I enjoyed the collection and found Willingham’s approach to be creative, it is not without fault. For the most part, the artwork is good, but there are some illustrations that fall a little flat. Bolton paints some absolutely stunning panels, but then a few panels later we see a flat, rigid portrait floating on a white background. Wheatley’s artwork on “The Runt” has its aesthetic moments, but in several panels comes across as messy. Even the writing is hit or miss. “The Fencing Lessons” story was particularly tragic, essentially blaming Snow for her divorce from Prince Charming, who was brilliantly crafted as a fabled player, using his charm to gain favors from naive women. “A Mother’s Love” also seemed to be an afterthought tossed into the collection without thoughts of continuity. Parts of me suspect that the Sultan would have killed Snow a few times over again.

The merits of 1001 Nights of Snowfall far outweigh its shortcomings. There is an added depth that can only be grasped by reading the comic series, but I think this collection stands alone quite well. I really enjoyed the concept of this novel and found the execution to be satisfying. For Fables fans, this is a must read. For others new to the series, feel free to give it a shot, but I would start with the original series first.

Review of Fables #2: Animal Farm

Title: Fables #2: Animal Farm

Author: Bill Willingham

Illustrators: Lan Medina (penciller), Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton (inkers)

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The Fables series began with fabled humans living in New York, exiled from their own lands. “Animal Farm” collects Willingham’s second Fables story arc, depicting the rest of the fabled creatures. Without a human shell, the non-human creatures are forced to take refuge on a farm. This is all well and good for most of them, however Goldilocks, assisted  by the three little pigs, has a different plan in mind. She seeks to arm a militia who will bring about a revolution. Snow White and Ruby Red return to the farm and quickly find themselves entangled in the political struggle. Can they restore order to the farm and make it out alive?

As one can guess from the story’s title, “Animal Farm” is inspired by the Orwellian classic. The political motives and characters in Fables are unique, but both stories tell of a political revolution led by animals on a farm. While I didn’t find the story flawless, I did find the connection to the novel to be brilliant. There is nothing forced to draw this connection and the story arc sets up a nice introduction to the non-human creatures.

Like in the real world, suppressed peoples sometimes have a surrogate leader — one who isn’t one of their own — to lead a revolution. For the animals, this character is Goldilocks. She is sympathetic to the animal’s cause, but is ruthless in her methods. Even the animals that will stand against her are murdered without second thought and made a public spectacle for all to see.

The fabled human and non-human creatures share a common enemy of the adversary, but Fables does not take the easy route of making a story focused solely on this struggle. Living in exile is not easy. The humans have become, in a sense, upper class — free to roam New York because of their ability to remain inconspicuous. It is only natural that internal strife develops between the humans and the farm.

What I am really starting to like about this series is the richness of the characters. Snow White is obstinate in applying her sense of morality to the extent that it becomes a flaw. She doesn’t trust others and is slow in seeing things from another perspective. Her sister, Ruby Red, on the other hand is much more open-minded, secretive, and cunning and we never really know whose side she is on.

Once again, the artwork was skillfully done. Medina has a good sense of perspective and I enjoyed seeing his military inventions such as the gun developed for the hare and tortoise (one can only imagine the hare mounted upon his slow-paced companion’s shell, spraying bullets across the landscape).

I don’t have any major criticisms of the second Fables collection. I suppose I wasn’t a huge fan of the three giants and the dragon as fabled creatures, but my quibbles seem to have resolved themselves for future installments. Fables is fun to read and provides a nice level of suspense and humor to keep me wanting more. I look forward to the next comics in the series.

Review of Fables #1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Title: Fables #1: Legends in Exile

Author: Bill Willingham

Illustrators: Lan Medina (penciller), Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton (inkers)

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The theme of Fables parallels is really nothing new. It is a basic mishmash of modern fairy tales, which has now been done in novels (Gregory Maguire), Broadway (Wicked), film (Shrek), and television (Grimm). But it is with great enthusiasm that I say that the graphic novel has something new and wonderful to offer.

The stories takes place in New York, where fairy tale characters, driven from their homes by an evil adversary, are forced to take refuge. The characters are different from the fabled stories you’ve read. Snow White, the workaholic deputy mayor of Fabletown, learns that her sister, Rose Red, has been murdered, but her body has gone missing. Bigby (big bad) Wolf, the town’s reformed sheriff, has two prime suspects: her live-in boyfriend, Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk) and her murderous ex, Bluebeard.

Published by Vertigo, the fables are not the youthful endeavors of the original fairy tales. Prince Charming, now broke and desperate, uses his charm to coerce a waitress to pay for his meal and give him a place to shack up. Beauty and the Beast’s marriage is on the rocks and depending on her feelings, he alternates his form from an ordinary human to a barely-understandable fang-toothed creature.

The story reads like a murder mystery, following primarily through the eyes of Bigby and Snow White. Given the unique take on the fabled characters, the comic does not feel gimmicky like I feared it could have been. The characters’ history remains the same (one dare not mention the word dwarf around Snow White or they will face her wrath), but they have all experienced significant change to make them new individuals.

The artwork is solid and adds to the story well. Bigby’s shadow is depicted as a wolf, a sign that his old nature has never truly left him and expresses itself in his bouts of anger. Like the stories of old, the illustrations have a sense of age to them. The colors and lettering are conventional, but crisp. I understand the deluxe edition has glossy pages, which could add to the depth of the images.

What really makes this a great comic is the characters. Each has a very unique personality and I longed to know more about them and their back stories. My biggest qualm with the first novel was that the story was predictable. I think that is okay in many instances, but when the theme is a murder mystery, it is not as forgivable.

Without hesitation, I plan on continuing this series. The first novel did an excellent job of establishing the characters and milieu without burdening the reader with a dump of background information. This is one of the most popular comic series of the decade and it is easy to see why. It is smart, has interesting characters, and good stories to boot.