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Review Date: Saturday, 10 Jan 2009

George at That's Entertainment reminded me this week that Marvel just released issue #1 of the new Wizard Of Oz mini-series, so I immediately declared it Fable Week here in the good land of Bongo Congo.  Let's see how the new comic line stacks-up against the latest issue of the long-running Fables comic series:

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The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Eric Shanower: Writer
Skottie Young: Artist
Jean-Francois Beaulieu: Colorist

     This new Marvel mini-series is an adaptation of the classic L. Frank Baum Wizard of Oz novel.  Eric Shanower is the writer adapting the novel, originally published in 1900, to comic mini-series format, with Scottie Young providing the art and Jean-Francois Beaulieu adding the coloring.

We all know the famous story from the 1939 classic movie starring Judy Garland, so I don't have to recount the basic plot, here.  Issue #1 covers the first part of the tale, from the initial tornado carrying Dorothy and her little dog Toto away from the plains of Kansas to the Land of Oz, through her initial encounter with the brainless Scarecrow, the first of her three well-known traveling companions along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz.

This is a beautiful adaptation of a well-known and oft-told tale.  What makes it really enjoyable is the creative team's basing of their version on the story elements from the original novel, as opposed to the movie version that's overshadowed the novel and completely imprinted itself on our collective popular culture.  It's almost as if one is reading in this comic an alternate-reality version of the well-known story.  Here, Dorothy isn't the Judy Garland-based teenager, but just a little kid, adorably crafted by artist Skottie Young. 

Following the novel's plotline excludes major details of Dorothy's famous initial encounter with the Munchkins, instead taking us into a few days of Dorothy spending a leisurely time with a Munchkin family and learning from them the ways of the Land of Oz, the mysterious Wizard and the Yellow Brick Road.  No ruby slippers here, but a pair of silver shoes that literally "Ting-Ting" in song as Dorothy begins her fabled long walk along the storied route.  Even the Emerald City feels different here, as many folk refer to it as "the City of Emeralds."

I very much enjoyed the L. Frank Baum flavor and atmosphere that Shanower and Young bring to their interpretation of this classic American tale.  It's ironic that more than a century after its famous initial entrance into American popular culture, the once well-known details of the original story are completely lost behind the 1939 movie version.  However, that just makes it more fun and fresh to rediscover the story's origins  in this new version.  So an enthusiastic thumbs-up to issue #1 and high expectations for the remaining issues of this mini-series tribute to our most quintessential of American fables.


1

Fables #79
Publisher:  DC Vertigo
Bill Willingham: Writer/Creator
Mark Buckingham: Penciller
Andrew Pepoy: Inker
Lee Loughridge: Colors

DC Vertigo's popular Fables comic line began in 2002 and is currently up to issue #79.  The series was created by writer Bill Willingham, and deals with the wide cast of traditional European folk tale and fairy tales characters that we all grew-up with. 

Willington's premise from the start has been that the characters, calling themselves "Fables," have all fled death at the hands of invaders known as "Adversarys" to the "Homelands."  They've all escaped to New York City and have set-up a clandestine society-in-exile known as "Fabletown," nestled in New York with its own Fabletown  secret town government.  Those Fables in human form live in the City, while the non-human ones, (i.e., the Three Little Pigs), live in a secret farm in Upstate New York known as "the Farm."

I enjoyed reading my brother David's first 20 issues of this series back when they were published.  Willingham very cleverly wove-into his characters modern social issues, such as Deputy Fabletown Mayor Snow White being divorced from Prince Charming.  The series was very fresh and provided an energetic reinterpretation of traditional folklore characters in the DC Vertigo comic line.

Issue #79 is Chapter Three in an ongoing storyline entitled "The Dark Ages."  The issue opens with an elaborate funeral for the supposedly deceased Prince Charming (I doubt that he is permanently dead), then flits back and forth for the remainder of the issue between brief scenes of various key Fables characters evacuating Fabletown buildings due to an evil enchantment threat.  The entire episode is similar to our real-world bomb/terrorist threats to city buildings, and is clearly intended to address the issue of real-world terrorism.

While issue #79 is well-presented regarding art quality and plotting, it is difficult to follow as a stand-alone issue.  It's a much slower, plodding story compared to those early issues of Fables that I read.  While I give it a thumbs-up, given the current format and story approach, my advice is to read Fables only if you're planning to commit to a regular read of the ongoing issues, and as such enjoy the story and action in this lengthier, multi-issue approach that the creative team is currently taking in this series.


Contest Winners Announcement!

We're happy to report that we received a last-minute, higher-than-normal number of submittals to our current contest, in which we asked for your favorite single comic issue of the decade of the 1980's along with a stated reason why this comic is so near and dear to your fanboy or fangirl heart.

Many contestants persuasively pitched  comics of the 1980's that serve as very well-known comic icons of the decade, such as various issues of Watchmen, Batman's The Killing Joke, etc.  Ted Van Liew also reminded us of the groundbreaking impact of Howard Chaykin's issue #1
           
Doug White also co-wins for his submittal of Thor #337.  Doug feels that no other single issue of any comic packed the punch this one did, leaving him dazed and amazed.  In this first issue of his run, Walt Simonson blew-apart everything we knew about Thor.  Thor boards a spaceship heading toward Earth, awakening an onboard alien named Beta Ray Bill.  Incredibly, Bill defeats Thor and grabs Thor's mystic mallet, becoming God-like.  Suddenly, Odin, thinking he is summoning Thor, whisks Bill away to Asgard, leaving poor Don Blake, and us readers, looking for answers.  A classic, says Doug.

Ah, comic book memories!  Congratulations to our Bongo Congo contest co-winners, and stay-tuned for a new contest announcement soon!  See you next week!

Here is a submission from our own David Leblanc:

When I think of the Eighties in comics I often think of the Black & White explosion and subsequent implosion. SO many interesting things came out in that decade. Not only the ones you mentioned, Watchmen, Concrete and Dark Knight, but also Dark Horse Presents which spawned many successful comics, Frank Miller's Daredevil, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, The Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Killing Joke, Nexus, Zot, Tales of the Beanworld, Sandman, Animal Man, Akira, and even The 'Nam. But the question is one issue out of it all. I kept coming back to two series that impressed me a lot. One was MIRACLEMAN, the Eclipse reprint of Alan Moore's UK series. You get right from the start that it is a fresh look at the Captain Marvel Family style heroes - at least in how their powers works. But a balding fat guy? That threw me for a loop. And the issue I recall is Miracle Dog coming at him with no seeming way out. The Moore issues are still in my collection. It is a shame the rights have been tied up for so long denying another generation a fresh printing and us old farts a hard bound copy. But I decided that was not the one that got me the most.

It was the first issue of MAGE: THE HERO DISCOVERED, by Matt Wagner. The first issue grabbed me right away. Here we have an ordinary guy, Kevin Matchstick, who. perhaps by chance, interrupts a mugging and gets drawn into a struggle of good versus evil when all he really wants to do is have a simple life. He learns the mugger was a supernatural being in disguise - one of five being lead by their father to find and capture the Fisher King - the force light in the Universe. Kevin is guided by Mirth, a magical being and soon is partnered with a female warrior wielding a glowing green bat and the ghost of a dead prosecutor. Together they hunt for the five Grackleflints and ultimately their father to thwart their mission. While the story tends to bog a little in the middle (so did Lord of the Rings for that matter) taken as a whole it is a classic tale of the reluctant hero with a strong tie to the Arthurian legend. It so impressed me that years later when my younger brother expressed a desire to get back into reading comics but did not know where to start I gave him a copy of MAGE: THE HERO DISCOVERED. My reasoning was if  anything could show a new or returning reader the kind of stories comics were capable of, that went beyond the media stereotypes, this was it. He loved it. But if it were not for that first issue - the tease to something much bigger and the promise that magic was green - in such an elegant art style I would not have stayed with it and found one of the most treasured comic series in my collection. Anyone who hasn't read it should try and find the collected trades. It is well worth it.
 
David
 
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