Bill Willingham gives us another installment of his nigh-legendary series in Fables, Vol. 19. Before this trade paperback continues the story of the exiled “Fables” in Fabletown, NY, the first third of this edition features the collected back-up stories of Bufkin, the flying monkey with no wings and Lily, his miniature-sized girlfriend.
The collected back-up stories are illustrated by Shawn McManus. His slightly-cartoonish style works well for Bufkin’s revolution in Oz. Couple that with Willingham’s writing, and this self-contained story masterfully transitions from a revolutionary war against a tyrant, into an adventurous love story that follows the odd-couple of Bufkin and Lily until their beautiful end.
Initially, I was astounded that this character was being produced by Vertigo Comics, renowned for it’s darker and more edgy comics. I was curious if the title character was going to be drastically changed from the earlier incarnations. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that most everything inÂ Tom Strong And The Planet Of Peril #1 was the same as it was before. I was even more excited to see that this series picked up shortly after the last one ended.
I’ve not read everything Tom Strong has been in but I’m quite familiar with the hero. I’ve always felt he was akin to one of my favorite pulp heroes, Doc Savage. Much like the Man of Bronze, Tom has a certain aura about him that immediately commands respect and compliance. Both possess genius level intellects and are formidable physical specimens, as well. But unlike Savage, Tom Strong is a bit more than the perfect human, he’s a lot closer to a superhuman. First and foremost, he’s over a hundred years old and barely looks middle-aged. Other abilities include strength beyond that of a mortal and a constitution that rivals that of a demigod.All in all, he’s the epitome of a pulp action hero, even though he was created in 1999.
Some time far off in the future, mankind has conquered the stars and utilized technology to ensure their unchallenged and unchecked dominance over everything they survey. Many planets in our solar system capable of sustaining life house decadent civilizations where the wealthy elite force those they consider genetic mistakes – known as “the reordered” – to work as slave labor and battle each other to the death for the amusement of their masters until they die.
A mysterious stranger wearing a hooded robe travels to several of these distant planets and moons to recruit six of these exploited beings for an enigmatic mission: Mourna, a beautiful, seven-foot-tall Amazon with metallic claws for hands; Hoorn, a cunning and dexterous thief who wears a cold grey mask where his face never existed; Lady Ayleen Valiante, a noblewoman from Venus and furthermore a Phoenix, a dying race of beings whose ability to control fire and deploy it as a weapon can also do greater damage to themselves and others with just a touch of their hand; Tantalus, an individual who resembles a praying mantis and possesses great physical agility and speed; Urr, a robot designed to be subservient to humans but who has rebelled against its programming and come to understand for itself that not all members of the human race are worthy of his protection; and Kenrus, a brilliant but obsessed scientist who has lived in seclusion for years at the center of a moon after being ostracized by humanity for his ideas, ideas which those who sent him into exile were more than happy to take full advantage of to suit their own materialistic ends.
Monstermen and Other Scary Stories Written and Illustrated by Gary Gianni
Additional Stories by William Hope Hodgeson, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and Perceval Landon
Letters by Sean Konot, Todd Klein, and Clem Robins
Introduction by Michael Chabon Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Cover Price: $24.99
At one point early on in Gary Gianni’s Monstermen and Other Scary Stories a main character gets a curse that leaves a disturbing mark on his head. It has to be seen to be fully understood because I can only describe it as a Stegosaurus Mohawk… and it’s maybe one of the single coolest things I’ve ever seen in a comic. A few pages later it’s gone, like a ghastly sight in a haunted house, never to be seen again.
Monstermen and Other Scary Stories was originally published as back ups in Hellboy beginning in the mid-90s, though Giannis’ work seems to be about as much Edward Gorey as Mike Mignola. Many avid comic book readers will be familiar with his work, which began first on Classics Illustrated adaptations, most famously on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He then won an Eisner for Best Short Story for the Heroes contribution in Batman: Black and White before settling into his current gig doing Prince Valiant. Monstermen stands out in his body of work as being his most original and innovative title.
Joe the Barbarian #5 (of 8) Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Todd Klein
Release date: May 19, 2010
Grant Morrison delivers yet again in Joe the Barbarian #5. In this issue, Joe and company are still diligent on their quest to find the light, but along the way they run into terrible monsters and an ever-growing darkness that seems to be consuming the entire world. This story is a fantastic look at the mind of a young boy, who is literally walking the edge of fantasy and reality.
I absolutely love every panel of this book, and have been more than pleased with the entire mini-series. Morrison is doing a fantastic job of telling an incredibly, albeit complex, story of a lonely young boy who is very apparently crossing realms of imagination and reality and is having a harder and harder time distinguishing between the two. The story itself is powerful and intriguing, but the sheer genius of Grant Morrison is shown through his ties between fantasy and reality. For example, in the fantasy world we see a powerful river that is running down a mountain, but in reality we see that this river is an overflowing sink that is going down a flight of stairs. This is just one example, but Morrison also likens a demonic appearing monster to a dog, and the ever-growing darkness is mirrored as a house with a blown fuse, or simply that the power has gone out. Morrison also does a wonderful job with his characters by writing Joe and his gang in a manner that makes you truly feel compassion for them.