This Week’s Haul

Fables #75 Fables #75 is reportedly the story with which Bill Willingham planned to end the series; instead he’s decided to wrap up the war against the Adversary and take the series in a new, post-war direction. So here we see the conclusion of Fabletown’s plan to defeat the Empire’s forces, Bigby Wolf battling the Emperor directly, and the denouement of the Adversary’s defeat. As usual there are some twists along the way.

One of the problem with series based on war is that the series can never be satisfying unless the war comes to a conclusion, yet writers often seem torn between taking the series in one of two unsatisfying directions: Either they drag the war out forever until the series is cancelled (and then it either never wraps up, or wraps up too abruptly), or they decide they really just want to write the end of the war (and they get there too quickly and the war wraps up too abruptly). One of the great things about Fables has been that the story has developed naturally and at a reasonable pace, with the fight against the Adversary making steady progress while still considering the premise from many different angles. It’s been a terrific ride.

Despite that, well, the war still feels like it wraps up too abruptly in this issue, despite its extra length. I think it’s that the story has too many brief snapshots of the multifaceted battle that’s going on, and then much of the denouement gets jammed in at the end. I think the story would have benefitted from just one more issue to work through the events depicted here, and to work through more of the character bits.

Nonetheless, I think Wllingham deserves a lot of credit for executing this story so well, and despite my kvetch above, he avoids the worst problems of wrapping up war stories: The resolution feels natural, like the execution of plans and the reasonable implications thereof that it is. And it’s got the terrific artwork by Buckingham and Leialoha that has served the series so well all along. Arguably I’m just a little too picky in what I was hoping for from the story’s climax, and I imagine most fans will feel I’m splitting hairs. To which I say: Fair enough.

No matter how you slice it, Fables has been one of the great success stories in mainstream comics today, and I’m delighted that this isn’t the end of it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. I have faith that Willingham has lots of good stuff up his sleeve.

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story vol 1 TPB A lot of people love the writing of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, and I’ve read little of the former’s work and none of the latter’s. And The Immortal Iron Fist has generally been getting good reviews, too. On top of that, I was a big fan of earlier incarnations of the character, especially Chris Claremont & John Byrne’s from the 70s, and Jim Owsley and Mark Bright’s from the 80s. So with volume 2 of this current series having hit the stands this week, I decided to pick up volume 1 and see what I thought.

And the answer is: It’s pretty darned good. Daniel Rand, our hero, has inherited his father’s multinational company, but he’s more interested in superheroing. Consequently a Chinese company initiates a hostile takeover of the company. But of course the aggressors are largely a front for an old enemy of Iron Fist’s to get back at his enemy. The twist is that Danny isn’t the first Iron Fist – not by a longshot – and he’s not the only one active today, either. There’s a lot about his history he doesn’t know, and now he gets to find out about it.

Expanding the scope of Iron Fist’s background is certainly welcome, and a great wrinkle to the character. Less welcome is treating Danny like he’s an ignorant kid, which happens frequently in the story. While Danny’s always had trouble maintaining the inner calm he should have – that’s at the heart of the character – he’s been portrayed as a mature character in the past, and being patronized and acting immature as he often does here just feels out of character. But he does have some fine moments, especially at the end when he’s confronted with a typical Fistian dilemma of having to make a sacrifice to live up to his responsibilities as the living weapon of K’un Lun.

David Aja’s art is pretty good, although I find it to be a little muddy in its use of shadows, not unlike Jae Lee’s art. He does better with the establishing shots (especially of the terrific abandoned underground train station Danny visits, a setting I thought was greatly underutilized in the story) and character dialogue scenes than he does in the action sequences. I wonder if a more traditional style of inking would bring out the best in Aja’s pencils at both ends of the spectrum.

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot, and I’m going to pick up the second volume next week. I’m hoping Danny will come off a little better as the story goes on, but I’m more interested to see where Danny fits in to the history of the Iron Fist, as there’s a lot of potential in that angle.

Rex Libris: I, Librarian vol 1 TPB Every so often I buy a comic which is, by my lights, pretty far out there: It’s highly stylized, or it’s got a weird narrative structure, or it has a backdrop which doesn’t make sense and isn’t supposed to make sense. For instance, the series Strange Attractors which ran for a while back in the 90s featuring an adventuress who finds that her favorite fictional heroes aren’t so fictional. Sometimes these series work for me, sometimes they don’t; that’s the thing about experimental comics: You never know what you’re going to get. In my experience such comics are rarely great, and otherwise range from pretty good to poor.

Rex Libris is one of these comics: The titular hero is a librarian at a library on Earth, but one who has to deal with supernatural and science fictional characters bedeviling him, and he works for the Egyptian god Thoth. Deeply devoted to the needs of library patrons, he also travels far afield to deal with unreturned books. And he’s a black-suited, tough-talking, square-jawed hero type surrounded by various weird characters, such as a megalomaniacal telekinetic talking bird.

Drawn on a computer by James Turner, Rex Libris is goofy and action-packed, but I found it to be total fluff: The narrative is silly and nothing but, and the story doesn’t really go anywhere. And I guess that’s the point, just a bunch of fun, but I thought it was too lightweight, without anything to grab onto to really care about. It was a cute gag for one chapter, but it quickly felt repetitive as this collection (of the first 5 issues of the series) went on, and the overall level of humor was pretty middling: A chuckle here and there, but nothing that made me laugh out loud. The art is highly stylized and had a very stiff feel, which again I think is part of the point, a few steps beyond the modernist looks of Dean Motter‘s comics or Chassis, but it’s not at all the sort of style I’m into.

So, not really my cup of tea, though I know that others like it (such as Greg Burgas over at Comics Should Be Good). But if you enjoy unorthodox comic series, this might be for you.

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