“The Sandman: Overture” by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by JH Williams (Vertigo, 2015)

Sandman Overture

Twenty-five years ago the world was introduced to one of the most important comic series ever created and it launched Neil Gaiman’s career. Gaiman put the series to bed some years ago, but now on the quarter-century anniversary he returns to tell a tale he’s had in his imagination since he began the series, as he says in his introduction. It is a story he has wanted to tell for a long time and now readers finally get the chance to enjoy it.

Fans who’ve read Sandman know of the Endless: Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Death . . . Dream. They know the events – eventual catastrophic ones – of the comic book series. But in The Sandman: Overture, readers get a prequel of sorts. At the beginning of the first Sandman volume, Preludes & Nocturnes, Morpheus is exhausted and has apparently been through a great ordeal and this is that story.

Dream travels to a place and time where he encounters the many manifestations of the sandman across the entire universe. Here a meeting will be conducted and decisions will be made. And then Dream will go on a journey with some unusual companions and meet some family members he didn’t expect to see anytime soon. Again, decisions and choices will need to be made that will affect the entire universe.

One might be hesitant about what to expect when a writer returns to the opus that made him so well known after a quarter century. Will it be a captivating original story or a quick thrown-together thing to milk an already successful series? Fortunately it is the former, and Gaiman shows he had a least one more important story to tell in the Sandman universe that has earned itself a spot next to the other volumes of this popular series.

Originally written on January 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Sandman: Overture from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 22: Farewell” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2015)

Fables 22 Farewell
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It’s been 13 long years, 22 trades, and 150 issues, but the end for the award-winning Fables is finally here. Usually, a final book or volume in a series needs to impress you and make you feel nostalgic for the whole story and make you want to start reading it all over again. Fables Vol. 22: Farewell does exactly this, and in fact would also serve as good “hooking” volume for new readers, as this trade gives a little insight into all the main characters and a large number of secondary and minor characters that makes you want to read the series from the beginning and get the complete story.

Fables began with some core characters, most notably Snow White, Bigby and Rose Red, and Willingham has skillfully steered the last couple of trades to come to a climax between Snow White and Rose Red, tied in with their family and history, which is how it should be. But because this is the last trade and the writer and artist know they have a lot to get through to wrap everything up, they take care of the main story fairly quickly and decently.

And then it is on to a succession “The last story of . . .” for many different characters readers and fans have come to know and love and hate and sometimes forget about over the 13 years of this great comic series. The main characters get all their endings of sorts, but because they are fables while it may not be an “and they lived happily ever after” situation, you know they’re at least satisfied with how things turned out for them and their own, at least for most of them, but so do all the small and seemingly insignificant fables readers have come to know, as well as having some interesting questions finally answered. Readers, whether they be new or veteran, will be delighted with this final chapter on Fables.

Originally written on August 28th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 22 Farewell from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 21: Happily Ever After” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2015)

Fables 21 Happily Ever After
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Things are coming to a head in this penultimate collected volume before the final showdown that will conclude the long-running, award-winning series. It is a case of good versus evil, as all great battles are, but the lines are severely blurred between who is good and who is evil.

Rose Red has been reborn as King Arthur, having formed the Knights of the Round Table at the Farm, though her prisoner is not as captive as she thinks. And now she must face her Morgan Le Fay, her villain, who turns out to be none other than Snow White, her sister, naturally. Readers get to see some important back story here with the sisters’ mother, who had her own large number of siblings and according to the way things were, these sisters had to kill each other to gain all the magic, and it is the story of Snow White’s and Rose Red’s mother who changed this.

Meanwhile, Bigby is sort of back. Having been turned to glass and then shattered, he was reassembled with a crucial piece still missing. A woman of immense power now possesses that glass shard and is able to control the big bad wolf, as he rampages around New York City, killing and eating like his fabled legend and being very unlike the kind, loving father we know him to be.

As the crescendo builds, Willingham – as he has done for the whole series – builds the tension and adventure and since this is the end, readers have no clue who is going to make it out alive, if anyone actually is.

Originally written on August 2nd, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 21: Happily Ever After from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Wake” by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (Vertigo, 2014)

The Wake
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Scott Snyder of American Vampire, Batman and Swamp Thing teams up with Sean Murphy of Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian to create a standalone complete story about a doomed future in a cool world. The Wake embodies every possible meaning of the word and with some spectacular artwork and great storytelling, it’s a full graphic novel story that will suck you in and keep you going to the last inked page.

Lee Archer is a marine biologist who is contacted and brought in by the Department of Homeland Security to participate in a top secret project. She is taken to distant Alaska, beneath the waves in a hidden underwater laboratory where she meets an assembled science team, some members she knows, and one in particular she hates. After everything is in place, they are eventually shown the reason for all the secrecy: a new creature has been discovered from the vast ocean depths. The creature is not friendly and is deadly. Then things go horribly wrong when the team realizes this creature is one of a huge army and the rest have now been summoned.

We then cut to a future time where the creatures have overrun the Earth and people are doing their best to survive. We meet a host of new and interesting characters and one in particular who believes there is still hope for humanity, and when she hears a distant radio message from a scientist from the past, she knows she is on to something.

The Wake has a great pacing, setting up the start of the story and guiding you along to the doomed future, but still instilling you with hope and possibility. The artwork is impressive and colorful, though at times can be a little complicated and hard to understand what’s going on. The ending feels a little rushed, but overall the graphic novel is a fun riveting tale that shows you what great things can happen when you put a writer and an artist together to create something new.

Originally written on January 13, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Wake from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 20: Camelot” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2014)

Fables Camelot
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To say that the comic book series penned by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Mark Buckingham has reached its twentieth collected volume is quite the astonishing feat, but when one considers that it has won fourteen Eisner awards, and is working its way through its second major storyline that continues to build and become more exiting with each volume, it’s not really a surprise at all.

After things continue to take a turn for the worse in the previous collected volume, Snow White, Camelot seeks to create a new hero to try to turn things around with Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. She takes on the role that she feels destined for, the Paladin of Hope, and what better way to do this than with a new Camelot and some brave Knights of the Round Table. One might also call them the Knights of Second Chances, as Rose Red is willing to wipe the slate clean if they prove themselves.

They travel from all the lands, creatures great and small, humans mighty and miniature, but only the bravest and true will succeed and be selected. Red even offers an old enemy a second chance, which sets her at odds against her sister. Snow White refuses to see her sister from now on, keeping what’s left of her family away from her also, feeling betrayal will inevitably come.

Meanwhile the witches and wizards of Fabletown are trying their darnedest to reassemble the glass shards of Bigby Wolf so he can be whole and alive once more. Side stories in Camelot include that of Bigby and Boy Blue in a sort of afterlife, as well as what Gepetto and Junebug are currently up to, and finally the Boy Blue Band go on an adventure into the Homelands.

For a special twentieth volume, Camelot is a nice long read, with a great main story that is ratcheting up the suspense with what is going to happen next, along with some great side stories. It shows that Willingham has so many stories to tell that the reader never knows what’s going to happen or who’s going to appear on the next page. Fables Volume 20 is a worthy addition to the collection that will be a delight to fans everywhere.

Originally written on November 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 20: Camelot from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift” by Oliver Simon and Robbi Rodriguez (Vertigo, 2014)

FBP
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Welcome to a world where not everything is as it seems; where the rules of physics sometimes don’t apply and at other times are just completely broken before your very eyes, whether it’s gravity failures or quantum tornadoes. No, it’s not the safest place to live, but it’s at least good to know that when things get really bad and out of whack, one can always call on the Federal Bureau of Physics to come in and lend a hand.

Adam Hardy is your average young, go-getting FBP agent who has some experience under his belt, but when the gravity suddenly fails in a localized area of the city and an alternate dimension is created, known as a “BubbleVerse,” it’s a whole new level for him. And as they go through the necessary procedures to take care of the incident, new facts come to light that show there is something much bigger going on here than previously thought.

The story is an interesting start to a series that has a lot of potentially cool places to go, while the first volume has hints of more going on than expected. The artwork is a little complicated and haywire at times, that can temporarily lose the reader, but it fits well with the story and subject matter. FBP looks to be an catchy new series and another impressive addition to Vertigo’s great lineup.

Originally written on June 28, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of FBP from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 19: Snow White” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2013)

Fables Volume 19 Snow White
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Things are heating up in the various worlds of the fables, and this is what keeps the award-winning comic book series so popular and fun to read: multiple storylines going on in different worlds at the same time; at some point the reader knows they’re probably going to cross paths, but for now he or she is just enjoying the ride.

With two cubs still missing, Bigby and Snow are worried beyond their wits and so it’s up to Bigby to head on out in Rose Red’s blood-fueled sports car along with the help of Stinky. He will not rest until he finds his children safe and sound. Meanwhile, as Snow tries not to panic and lose it, a surprising old friend comes into town, one who is supposedly her husband and begins taking control, imprisoning Snow against her will and looking to sets things back to the way they used to be. And in the distant land of fables, Bufkin and Lily also get up to adventures.

With the beautiful artwork of Mark Buckingham, volume 19 presents another enjoyable chapter in the Fables saga told with skill and designed in that unique Fables way with the ornate borders clueing in the reader to the storyline being dealt with, and whisking them away to the land of the imaginary.

Originally written on February 17, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 19: Snow White from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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