Comic Review – Fairest by Bill Willingham (writer) and Phil Jimenez (art)



Does this man never run out of ideas? I consider myself a fairly creative person, and I write a lot, but Bill Willingham creates at an astounding rate, and happily, this latest addition to the Fables canon, is top notch.

This one combines the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Ali Baba, along with a snippy and somewhat tricksy, Djinn, to great and hilarious effect. It covers all the things you expect from a good Fables stories.

The characters are wise beyond their humble beginnings, sharing wisecracks and insults, the women are strong willed, strong minded, and never averse to taking control, the art is stunning and drives the story on, and the story itself is compelling and filled with twists and turns.

I love Fables because it never takes the easy route, or goes for the obvious choice. This story is no different, zigging when you expect it to zag, and throwing the heroes into all sorts of scrapes.

If you read Fables, you won’t be disappointed with this, nor with the follow up, written by a different author, and in a very different style, telling the tale of Rapunzel in a very different way to the recent Disney movie!

If you don’t read Fables, then this is an excellent introduction. It captures a great deal of the magic and atmosphe

Comic Review – Rachel Rising by Terry Moore

Rachel Rising Cover

I should start this by saying that I’m a rabid Terry Moore fan, and will happily bore you for hours should you give me the chance to talk about his work. However, I will also say that, whilst I enjoyed Echo, the series that came before this, it never quite hit the height of Strangers in Paradise for me, so I approached this with excitement but also a little trepidation.

Horror and comics is a combination I haven’t had a great deal of experience with. The walking dead is great, but not scary horror. In fact, there aren’t any ‘proper horror’ comics I can think of, not since Sandman twenty years ago. I am thrilled, and a little creeped-out to announce that Terry Moore does horror as well as he does people, and relationships, and funny.

The story, in a winding way, introduces us to our heroine, who dies, only not really, and her friend, who does much the same. Through her, we discover that the town in which she lives has not always been the peaceful little place it now is. It has a history of terrible happenings, a history which is coming back to haunt it, quite literally.

The question is, why is it scary? Well, first off, the actual ideas are scary. The little girl who kills people, the old dude whose very dead wife still occupies her old armchair, waking up buried. These things work, and are drawn beautifully. It feel cold when I read these comics and walk through the snow with the people who inhabit them.

Secondly, the character reactions, are, once again, spot on. It’s not all mad hysteria, and each person has their own way of reacting, responding to the insane things happening to them. What’s key, is that you believe them, in who they are, and why they do what they do. Except the old dude, he’s just nasty.

Third, the comic medium is again put to excellent use. The more outlandish parts of the story are supported by wonderful  breaking of the panels, whole page reveals and edgy, challenging artwork. Terry also excels in telling moments using silence, a page of nine panels revealing a very simple task that provides lulls in the comic. Even those, though, have my skin crawling as I wait for something to happen.

My best moment so far? The kindly vicar offering a hand to a poor little girl. Such love, such kindness. Hehehe.

I’ve said it before, but if you like comics, you should be reading Terry Moore, and if you like good storytelling, the same applies. I can now happily add to that, if you like horror, you should be reading Terry Moore.


7 days of comics and why you should read them, Wednesdays choice – 100 Bullets

Midweek, and assuming I‘m reading after work, the week is over half done, so excitement abounds. By this stage in the week I want to get into something a little closer to home and something that gets me thinking. That’s not to say that the previous two don’t make me think, but 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso demands some serious brainpower.


Something in your life has gone horribly wrong. A man arrives at your door in a smart suit, bearing a briefcase. Contained within it are a gun, bullets and evidence that conclusively proves that your recent hardship can be blamed on X. The question is that if you could kill X with the knowledge that you aren’t going to get caught, would you do it?

Why I love it:

As a concept, it’s deliciously nasty and imaginative, whilst being thoroughly simple to understand. It also poses the sort of moral questions that can keep you up at night. The particular strength in this series for me was the development of the story. I’ve spoken Monday and Tuesday about the importance of character development to serialized fiction but the growth of the plot is also paramount. 100 Bullets starts off as a series of one-shots, the same scenario played out with different characters that react in different ways. However, as the strands are gently teased and pulled, so the big picture is slowly brought into focus. Questions are thrown into the air and left hanging for the reader to grab hold of and figure out the answer, sometimes waiting for months or years for the clues. The strength of the writing, and the intrigue created kept me searching for the answers, although, as with life, they were never delivered neatly. The payoff was well worth the wait, but it was the hunting for the answers that kept me reading. Kind of like Lost, only it made sense and was really satisfying.

7 days of comics and why you should read them, Tuesdays choice – Sandman

By Tuesday I’ve woken up a little, and hopefully started writing as well as doing my day job of teaching. I’m still on the hunt for escapism, but I can deal with something a bit closer to my own reality. I also want to read something that will inspire me and get my own creative juices flowing. I find myself endlessly inspired and taken away in equal parts by Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.


The greatest aspects of human life (death, delirium, desire etc) exist as people, the family of the Endless. One of them, Dream, is a bit rubbish when it comes to women, has a deep and all-powerful sense of duty, and has been magically captured in a basement of an old house.

Once again, forgive me for the rather brief set-up, but it’s either that or a couple of thousand words.

Why I love it:

In a blog a few months ago, I tried to explain what it was about Neil Gaimans’ writing that I found so compelling. Rather than repeat that, I thought I’d mention the wonderful humanity that can be found in his characters. It’s often easy to forget someone’s motivation when you need them to do something for you in a story. Their character changes just enough to support where you want your plot to go and onward you march. In my experience, most people, whilst happy to change in the privacy of their own mind, will often stick obstinately to a decision or path when interacting with others. Also, when their key values or beliefs are threatened, they tend to blunder on, at least at that present moment. The characters in Sandman are just like that. They piss one another off, and act stupid and selfish and all of those things that people do. Despite the other-worldly nature of the comics, the people who inhabit them are entirely real, and compelling.


The thing that makes the works of Bill Willingham so entertaining to read

Bill Willingham, another comic writer and the creator behind the wonderful Fables series. There are a handful of authors working within the comics medium who are, to coin a phrase, treasure troves of ideas. People you can’t imagine get much sleep because every hour they wake up and have to jot something down, some new nugget of storytelling wonder.

Bill Willingham is one of those. From the very concept behind Fables to the bizarre self-referential world of Jack and on to the shorts he created for House of Mystery, he always manages to make stories just a little more original than most. With either an unexpected twist or simply taking the road less travelled he never seems to follow the well-worn paths of story telling cliché.

This kind of thing is tougher to emulate; the simple creation of ideas isn’t easy to copy, but when I come to a part in my book where I have options within my plot frame, I ask myself, ‘What would Bill do?” My books seem to have more goblins in them now than I originally intended, but it’s a start.

There are a lot of other writers who deserve a mention here, and I’m hoping to write about them in the future.  However, I must just mention Robert Kirkman, mostly for his ridiculous work rate and, as with Bill Willingham, apparently endless supply of ideas.


The thing that makes Terry Moore so compelling and moving to read

Terry Moore, creator of the wonderful Strangers in Paradise. There have been a million reviews of Strangers, mostly focusing on how Terry writes female characters. When I cajoled my wife into reading the series, she spent the first few graphics assuming that Terry was a woman, a not uncommon event.

However, whilst I agree whole heartedly with those reviews, it’s not his female characterisation that really gets me. The thing I love about Strangers in Paradise and indeed everything that he writes, is his dialogue.

His characters sound very natural, using rhythms and words that ring true. At the same time, he isn’t afraid to throw in a sentence that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood movie. I think that the naturalism of most of it makes the filmic parts work and not jar, which they easily could. The comics in general have that feeling of heightened reality; real people in not quite real situations, but reacting in very real ways.

In many ways, that last sentence is perhaps a great definition of effective fiction. Once the audience believes in the characters, you can create situations that make for interesting and dynamic stories. The challenge is then creating reactions that are genuine and real and the dialogue to go with them.

Terry Moore is the master at this. It’s impossible to not get invested in his characters, even when they are involved in entirely mad situations.