Fairest Vol. 1: Wide Awake is the first collection of the latest Fables spin-off. It’s off to a strong start with Bill Willingham doing the writing and Phil Jimenez on pencils (with Andy Lanning inking). It’s great to see Jimenez doing something non-superhero again: his work here is gorgeous. The motormouth little blue bottle imp in this arc is so much like Babe the Blue Ox from Jack of Fables that it’s eerie. Does Willingham have some kind of thing about diminutive blue characters? The setup of this series is quite different, though. It will be a series of stories featuring different female Fables, each illustrated by a different art team, making it more like a series of miniseries than a traditional ongoing title. Our heroine for the six-issue title arc is Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty. She is awoken from her latest sleep (deliberately used as a weapon in her mission against the Adversary) by Ali Baba, Prince of Thieves. The Snow Queen is awoken at the same time, and she is not happy. The fates of the two women become further entwined when the powerful witch Hadeon the Destroyer shows up. Hadeon is the one who cursed Briar Rose with the sleeping sickness; she takes on the Snow Queen just because she’s spoiling for a fight. In the end Rose and the bottle imp hit the road together, so we’ll probably see them again. The final issue in the collection is the one-shot “Lamia,” which fills in a significant bit of the history of Beauty and the Beast (written by Matthew Sturges, with art by Shawn McManus). It’s cast in the form of a noir detective story, which gives an indication of how varied the stories in the series may be.
iZOMBIE Vol.4: Repossession collects the last ten issues of the series. If the title had continued this probably would have been two trade paperbacks, but I guess a single fat volume was a more cost-efficient way to do it (it actually doesn’t feel especially fat, due to the thin glossy paper stock). Nice that Vertigo finished collecting the series, anyway, especially considering how acrimonious the split with Chris Roberson became. As the collection opens the town is still recovering from the zombie apocalypse. The National Guard is still on the street, and the Dead Presidents and the Fossers are there in force as well. The first half comes right up to the point of the arrival of the world-eating demon Xitalu. One of the issues (“Mix It Up”) was illustrated by guest artist J. Bone. His cartoony style would have made an interesting one-shot, but it’s jarring to have a regular issue look so different from the rest. Jim Rugg’s guest shot illustrating “Monsters of Rock” fares much better. It probably also helps that his issue leads directly into the final four-issue arc, appropriately titled “The End.” This is where we find out if Roberson and Allred can stick the landing: ending an ongoing series well is at least as difficult as beginning it well. Amon spends the entire arc trying to get Gwen to take all of the souls in town, so she can sacrifice herself to Xitalu and save the world. Meanwhile Galatea is attempting to harness Xitalu’s power for herself. The tension builds–and the stakes grow higher for Gwen with the arrival of her entire family–until she is left to find her own solution. Her resolution is the closest thing possible to a happy ending, but without resorting to anything that the previous story could not explain. We even get a short epilogue describing the fates of all of Gwen’s friends (which includes starting a nonprofit support network for the undead named “iZombie.”) The series may have been cut short, but it doesn’t show in the concluding issues.
American Vampire Volume Four opens with “The Beast in the Cave,” a three-part story illustrated by Jordi Bernet. It begins in Missouri in 1863, showing the early history of Jim Book and Skinner Sweet as Sweet becomes Book’s foster brother. It quickly switches to 1871 with the brothers serving in the infantry, fighting the Apache in the New Mexico Territory. Here Snyder creates an alternate explanation for the legend of Mimiteh, a goddess of death: she’s actually a vampire (of course). Book and Skinner only see the aftermath of her reappearance, so they don’t realize that they’ve met up with an early–perhaps the first–American vampire. “Death Race” jumps forward to 1954 California, where a stereotypical teenage delinquent turns out to be a vampire hunter. There are several surprises, but the one with the most potential future impact is the new relationship between Skinner Sweet and and the Vassals, which is apparently a result of the incident on Taipan. “Agent Sweet” has an interesting ring to it. The Epilogue gives Pearl a new shock to deal with. “The Nocturnes” shifts the focus to Calvin, another character we last saw on Taipan. He finds himself dealing with a small town controlled by a group of werewolves. The first issue of the arc was illustrated by new guest artist Roger Cruz, the second by Riccardo Burchielli: they both blend well with regular artist Rafael Albuquerque. With Volume Five just out, I’ve fallen behind on this title, but it’s great to catch up.