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Friday, December 01, 2006

Jack of Fables #2/22 pgs. & $2.99 from Vertigo


Horrors!

The original Aesop, Mother Goose and Grimm fairy tales we grew up reading have been redacted! Ad-mittedly, they were pretty nasty.

The new comic book, Jack of Fables, starts out mildly nasty and stays that way; its villain is quietly working behind the scenes in Fable-town. His name is Revise, and he wants to redact the home of all fairy tales, Fabletown, where Snow White, Paul Bunyon, and Jack Horner [aka Jack B. Nimble, Jack Frost, Jack the Giant-Killer] live with lots of fairy tale characters.

It's a lousy place.

Here's what's happening in Fabletown by the second issue: Jack Horner has been kidnapped, beaten, and taken to a prison camp, the Golden Boughs Retirement Village. A promotional blurb says he meets "the enigmatic author of his current dilemma: the mysterious Mr. Revise!"

Here's the look of Jack: its art is closer to reality than 'bigfoot' comics, and the visual storytelling is competent, crisp, and interesting.

Here's the flavor of Jack: "Sun shining brightly through the bedroom curtains [thinks Jack]. Birds merrily chirping, and all that other happy morning crap. Give me a break." This as Jack lies in bed next to a naked Goldilocks whom he doesn't even like.

Horrors!

Yep, sex, violence, selfishness, profanity, and the 'everything is crap' mentality once again equates adult literature (i.e. the real world).

Here's real reality: life is full of joy and crap, not just crap.

Jack of Fables is a well-written, well-drawn, and interesting comic book; it can be a great one with some balance. Let's hope the creators learn the balancing act in future issues. There is much potential for great storytelling in Fabletown.

Writers: Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham; penciller: Tony Akins /available at on-line & storefront comics and book shops, or at www.vertigocomics.com.

Michael Vance

Grunts, published by Arcana Studio, 32 pages, $3.95


They say war is hell. You'd have to be crazy not to believe it. But, if you had to depend on the depiction of war in a comic book to prove that statement, you could look to the very first issue of Grunts from Arcana Studio to do so.

In said issue, writers Shannon Eric Denton and Keith Giffen give us a battle-hardened band of somewhat ethnically diverse U.S. Army recruits (perhaps draftees; who knows?), as they blast their way through German soldiers, get mistaken for the enemy and shot at by their own fighter planes, and encounter a battalion of seemingly-unstoppable German super-soldiers. In short, Grunts #1 is a war comic hopped up on super-charged adrenaline.

Not only that, but in the midst of all the chaos, the reader is actually treated to interesting characters. No small trick, considering the wall-to-wall in-your-face action. All of that aside, I do find myself hoping for a lot more background on the characters in future issues.

Artists Matt Jacobs and Eric Spikes present readers with a stunning display of talent, as they depict said military madness in a style reminiscent of classic Joe Kubert war books. The flair for visual characterization demonstrated in the renderings of Sarge, Tommy, Demartino, Fatty, Tug and McCann is as astonishing as the individual characters are distinctive. Additionally, the emotionally-evocative tone they set, using a generous amount of black and red, is chilling, and a perfect canvas on which to create the impressive work that is Grunts. I don't know who these artists are, but I'd swear they have many years of art gigs under their belts.

I should also point out that this team pulled off a great war book without the language that some readers and creators believe is such a must for the genre.

Grunts is highly recommended, but only for older readers, due to graphic war-related violence.Find it at comics shops, online retailer and auctions, and at www.arcanastudio.com.

Review by Mark Allen