Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Tarantula


By Matt Wagner & Guy Davis (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-195-6

Created by Gardner Fox and first illustrated by Bert Christman, the Sandman premiered in either Adventure Comics #40 July 1939 (two months after Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27) or two weeks earlier in New York World’s Fair Comics 1939, depending on whether some rather spotty distribution records can be believed.

Face and head utterly obscured by a gasmask and slouch hat; caped, business-suited millionaire adventurer Wesley Dodds was cut from the pulp masked mystery-man mould that had made The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, The Shadow, Phantom Detective, Black Bat, The Spider and so many more such household names and astonishing commercial successes in the early days of mass periodical publication.

Wielding a sleeping-gas gun and haunting the night to battle a string of killers, crooks and spies, he was accompanied in the earliest comicbooks by his plucky paramour Dian Belmont, before gradually losing the readers’ interest and slipping from cover-spot to last feature in Adventure Comics, just as the cloaked pulp-hero avengers he emulated slipped from popularity in favour of more flamboyant fictional fare.

Possessing a certain indefinable style and charm but definitely no more pizzazz, the feature was on the verge of being dropped when the Sandman abruptly switched to a skin-tight yellow-and-purple costume – complete with billowing cape – and gained a boy-sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy (in Adventure Comics #69, December 1941, courtesy of Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris), presumably to emulate the overwhelmingly successful Batman and Captain America models currently reaping such big dividends.

It didn’t help much but when Joe Simon & Jack Kirby came aboard with #72 that all spectacularly changed. A semi-supernatural element and fascination with the world of dreams (revisited by S&K a decade later in their short-lived experimental suspense series The Strange World of Your Dreams) added a moody conceptual punch to equal the kinetic fury of their art, as Sandman and Sandy became literally the stuff of nightmares to the bizarre bandits and murderous mugs they stalked…

For what happened next you can check out the superb Sandman hardback collection…

Time passed and in the late 1980s Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith & Mike Dringenberg took the property in a revolutionary new direction, eventually linking all the previous decades’ elements into an overarching connective continuity under DC’s new sophisticated suspense imprint Vertigo.

Within a few years the astounding success of the new Sandman prompted the editorial powers-that-be to revisit the stylishly retro original character and look at him through more mature eyes. Iconoclastic creator Matt Wagner (Mage, Grendel, Batman) teamed with artistic maverick Guy Davis (Baker Street, B.P.R.D.) and colourist David Hornung to create a grittier, grimier, far more viscerally authentic 1930s where the mystery man pursued his lonely crusade with chilling verisimilitude.

The tone was darkly modernistic, with the crime-busting playing out in the dissolute dog-days of the Jazz Age and controversial themes such as abuse, sexual depravity, corruption and racism were confronted as well as the rising tide of fascism that swept the world then. This is a warning: Sandman Mystery Theatre is not a kid’s comic…

This first collection reprints the redefining first story-arc from issues #1-4 (April-July 1993) and commences after an absorbing introduction from veteran journalist and music critic Dave Marsh, accompanied by a gallery of the series’ original, groundbreaking photo-covers.

The Tarantula takes us to New York in 1938 where District Attorney Larry Belmont is having the Devil’s own time keeping his wild-child daughter out of trouble and out of the newspapers. She’s out all night, every night with her spoiled friends; drinking, partying and associating with all the wrong sorts of people, but the prominent public official has far bigger problems too. One is the mysterious gas-masked figure he finds rifling his safe soon after Dian departs…

The intruder easily overpowers the DA with some kind of sleeping gas – that also makes you want to blurt out the truth – and disappears, leavingBelmontto awake with a headache and wonder if it was all a dream…

Dian, after her rowdy night of carousing with scandalous BFF Catherine Van Der Meer and her gangster lover, awakes with a similar hangover but still agrees to attend one of her father’s dreary public functions that evening. He is particularly keen that she meet a studious young man named Wesley Dodds, recently returned from years in the Orient to take over his deceased dad’s many business interests.

Dodds is genteel and effete but Dian finds that there’s something oddly compelling about him. Moreover he too seems to feel a connection…

The Gala breaks up early when the DA is informed of a sensational crime. Catherine Van Der Meer has been kidnapped by someone identifying himself as The Tarantula…

Across town, mob boss Albert Goldman is having a meeting with fellow gangsters from the West Coast and as usual his useless son Roger and drunken wife Miriam embarrass him. Daughter Celia is the only one he can depend on these days but even her unwavering devotion seems increasingly divided. After another stormy scene the conference ends early, and the visiting crime-lords are appalled to find all their usually diligent bodyguards asleep in their limousines…

Even with Catherine kidnapped Dian is determined to go out that night, but when Wesley arrives unexpectedly she changes her mind, much to her father’s relief. That feeling doesn’t last long however after the police inform him that the Tarantula has taken another woman…

When a woman’s hideously mutilated body is found Dian inveigles herself into accompanying her father to Headquarters but is soon excluded from the grisly “Man’s Business”. Left on her own she begins snooping in the offices and encounters a bizarre gas-masked figure poring through files. Before she can react he dashes past her and escapes, leaving her to explain to the assorted useless lawmen cluttering up the place.

Furious and humiliated, Dian then insists that she officially identifies Catherine and nobody can dissuade her.

Shockingly the savagely ruined body is not her best friend but yet another victim…

Somewhere dark and hidden Van Der Meer is being tortured but the perpetrator has far more than macabre gratification in mind…

In the Goldman house Celia is daily extending her control over dear old daddy. They still share a very special secret, but these days she’s the one dictating where and when they indulge themselves…

With all the trauma in her life Dian increasingly finds Wesley a comforting rock, but perhaps that view would change if she knew how he spends his nights. Dodds is plagued by bad dreams. Not his own nightmares, but rather the somnolent screams of victims and their cruel oppressors haunt his troubled sleep. What else could a decent man do then, but act to end such suffering?

In a seedy dive, uncompromising Police Lieutenant Burke comes off worst when he discovers the gas-masked lunatic grilling a suspect in “his” kidnapping case and again when this “Sandman” is found at a factory where the vehicle used to transport victims is hidden. Even so, the net is inexorably tightening on both Tarantula and the insane vigilante interfering in the investigation and Burke doesn’t know who he most wants in a nice, dark interrogation room…

As the labyrinthine web of mystery and monstrosity slowly unravels, tension mounts and the death toll climbs but can The Sandman stop the torrent of terror before the determined Dian finds herself swept up in all the blood and death?

Moody, dark and superbly engrossing, these revisionist “anti-superhero” tales offer an impressively human and realistic spin on the genre; one that should delight all those grown-ups who think masks and tights are silly.
© 1993, 1995, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

American Vampire Book 1


By Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque & Stephen King (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-0-85768-032-7

Here’s another welcome and long-past-due remedy to the scarlet deluge of lovey-dovey, kissey-poo tales of forbidden love between innocent modern maids and moody, tragic carriers of the Curse of the Night’s Children, and one that uses for its themes Darwinian Survival of the Fittest, old-fashioned Revenge and the ultimate grisly example of Manifest Destiny; all played out against the chillingly familiar backdrop of the bloody birth of a modern nation…

In Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque’s stellar first narrative arc, augmented and supplemented here by a stunning sidebar storyline from the functionally mythical Stephen King, the kind of vampires that you should rightly beware of are introduced and explained, but although there are love stories in this series they’re probably not the sort you want your impressionable kids to read…

The sinister suspense begins with Snyder & Albuquerque’s ‘Big Break’ as, in the Hollywood of 1925, struggling but popular and ambitious would-be starlets Pearl Jones and Hattie Hargrove followed their dream of celluloid stardom working days as bit-players in movie mogul D. B. Bloch’s latest silent epic.

The girls had only been best friends for a short while but shared hardship had made them closer than sisters, even if, too often, Pearlwas distracted by itinerant musician Henry Preston and the aggravatingly persistent and obnoxious drifter who hung out near their Ladies-Only boarding house.

The actresses’ careers seemed destined to blossom when leading man Chase Hamilton invited the fame-hungry girls to one of Bloch’s legendary Producer’s parties. Despite shaded warnings from their laconic stalker,Pearl and Hattie attended but when the unctuous Chase took the Jones girl aside to meet D. B. it wasn’t for the kind of assignation she expected.

Reeling with horror the feisty actress found herself a morsel and kickback offering for a pack of wealthy European money-men who were also literal blood-sucking monsters…

King & Albuquerque then take us back to the hoary days of 1880 and Sidewinder, Colorado, as author Will Bunting relates the true story behind his novel ‘Bad Blood’ to a group of eager fans and historians…

The ancient scribbler recounts the fantastic but apparently non-fictional tale of outlaw Skinner Sweet, a remorseless thief frustrating progress, killing good folks and stealing funds from sun-shy, Euro-trash millionaire railroad speculator Mr. Percy. When the psychotic bandit was finally captured by Pinkerton agent Jim Book and his deputy Felix Camillo, the triumphant banker laid on a special train and a gaggle of journalists to record the victory of civilisation over lawlessness…

As the killer’s gang subsequently derailed the train and massacred everybody who survived the crash Skinner cruelly and casually took time out to reveal how he had killed Book’s wife …

Sweet then gunned down Book and overwhelmed Camillo, but was utterly unprepared for the attack of the effete-seeming Percy who shrugged off the gang’s fusillade of bullets before slaughtering them all. Skinner didn’t die easily though, and in close combat with the fanged, gore-guzzling horror blew the European monstrosity’s eye out, consequently taking its blood into his own body before at last expiring…

Unknown to all, Bunting had seen everything and, as the fully-healed Percy tended to Book and Camillo, wisely decided to say nothing of the horror he’d witnessed…

The Hollywood story resumes with ‘Morning Star’ as Hattie and Henry discoveredPearl was missing. Driving to the isolated mansion they found her; ravaged, chewed to ribbons as if by some animal yet inexplicably clinging to life.

Pearlawoke in the Morgue, having been visited by her mysterious stalker. Skinner Sweet had shared his unique blood with her and now, as the once-deceased actress listened in astonishment, the smirking ghoul explained some facts of life – and death – to her.

Like himself she had been attacked by ancient, old-world vampires, but by sharing their blood – accidentally in his case but quite deliberately when Sweet bestowed his own kiss upon her – Pearl had become a new form of hybrid-bloodsucker, perfectly evolved to inhabit the New World, with completely different weaknesses to the old guard and, hopefully, sharing Sweet’s lust for revenge, taste for chaos and hunger for life…

After giving her a quick lesson on the differences between the European nosferatu who have carved themselves an almost unassailable position of closeted wealth and power in the young nation and the new American Vampires (now numbering two), the morally bankrupt wanderer then took off, leaving his hungry new offspring to sink, swim or stand on her own shape-shifting, taloned feet…

He did leave a present though: locked in her closet, Chase Hamilton quickly realised he was about to pay for all his many sins…

‘Deep Water’ saw author Will Bunting also in 1925, talking about the re-issue of his fantastic novel to a store full of avid fans. The tale, which described the iconic life of heroic Jim Book and his battle against vampire outlaw Skinner Sweet, resumed at the point when the infected owlhoot woke up in his own grave. Far above him the cabal of expatriate vampires secretly dominatingAmerica’s nascent financial system continued accruing wealth and power and insouciantly turned the entire town ofSidewinder intoColorado’s latest reservoir and boating lake…

For nearly thirty years Book continued with his peacekeeping profession and eventually Camillo became Mayor of the new town of Lakeview. Bunting had turned the tale of Sweet and the vampires into a popular dime-novel and sensation-seekers and treasure-hunters were regularly dredging the man-made mere for souvenirs of the infamous outlaw.

One day in 1909 a couple of them unearthed the now legendary bad-man’s buried, sunken coffin and unleashed a rabid horror unlike anything ever seen in the world before: a leech unaffected by running water, stakes or sunlight. Hungry for revenge and sustenance Skinner Sweet emerged into a newAmericaand began hunting old “friends” he owed a debt to…

In TinselTownmeanwhile, Pearlhad returned to her lodgings and told the shell-shocked Hattie to flee before continuing her own quest for vengeance in ‘Rough Cut’. The immortal Euro-cabal were, as usual, discussing what to do about their personal nemesis Sweet and his protracted annoyance, unaware that they had a far more pressing problem. That all changed after the unstoppable and infinitely superior Pearl slaughtered three of them. Without knowing what could kill this new world species of vampire, the clique resorted to age-old stratagems even as Miss Jones – resuming mortal form – turned to Henry for a little comfort and support…

Just then the phone rang and Bloch demanded that she surrender herself or Hattie would die horribly…

Back in 1909 Sweet’s ‘Blood Vengeance’ eliminated every human in Lakeview and proclaimed his intentions to a horrified coterie of arrogant old-world bloodsuckers who had previously believed themselves the planet’s apex predators. Even so, the resurgent outlaw had more pressing business. Before the last man in town died, Sweet made him send a telegram to Jim Book…

‘Double Exposure’ found Pearl desperately negotiating for Hattie’s life, knowing surrender would lead her to becoming the cabal’s eternal, experimental lab rat but utterly unaware that she had already been betrayed by someone close to her who was pitifully greedy and unable to resist the subtle pressures and obvious blandishments of the European ancients.

However even bushwhacked, mysteriously weakened and brutally assaulted, Pearl, with the aid of her last true friend, managed to turn the tables and even destroy Bloch’s fortress before escaping to prepare for one last showdown…

The writer’s tale was also approaching a climax as ‘One Drop of Blood’ found Book, Felix, the young Bunting and Camillo’s daughter Abilena hunting Sweet in the hellish ruins of Lakeview just as the bloodthirsty travesty discovered that his powers and energies were unaccountably waning. Watching unsuspected from a distant position of seclusion, the “Euro-Vamps” bided their time and saw the shocking finale as the valiant comrades used dynamite to bury the debilitated devil in a deep mine-shaft under tons of unyielding rock – but not before the sadistic Skinner had deliberately infected Book with his own tainted, mutagenic blood…

Pearl’s story in this first stunning volume concludes in a sustained spray of scarlet gore as she climactically confronts Bloch and his surviving comrades only to face one final tragic betrayal in ‘Curtain Call’ whilst ‘If Thy Right Hand Offend Thee…’ discloses Jim Book’s last desperate battle against the cursed thirst Sweet had inflicted upon him, even as the unstoppable Skinner enjoyed one last chat with the Euro-leech who created him…

The time-distanced yet parallel tales then coincide and conclude with a hint of foreboding; presaging more horrors in the days and decades to come…

This initial creepy, compelling chronicle also includes a pithy Afterword from Snyder, a welter of variant covers by Albuquerque, Jim Lee, Bernie Wrightson, Andy Kubert, JH Williams III and Paul Pope, a feature on the script-to-art process and 6 pages of designs and sketches by the supremely skilled and multi-faceted Albuquerque to delight and impress all fans of truly mature supernatural thrills and chills.

Far more True Blood than Twilight and substantially closer to Sam Peckinpah than John Ford or Tod Browning, this lightning-paced, sardonic and gory excursion into blood and sand and love and death is a spectacular and absorbing riot by two of the industry’s best and new talents, backed up and covered by an absolute master of tone and terror, combining to craft a splendid, sordid, sexy and utterly spellbinding saga, riddled with far deeper metaphors than “unrequited love sucks”.

American Vampire offers solid screams and enchantingly fresh ideas that all fear-fiends will find irresistible making this book an absolute “must-have” and a certain reminder that there are such things as monsters and some beasts just should not be tamed…
© 2010, Scott Snyder and Stephen King.  All Rights Reserved.

Seven Miles a Second


By David Wojnarowicz & James Romberger with Marguerite van Cook (Vertigo/DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-247-9

Every so often an outsider dabbles in the comics medium and brings something new to the tried-and-trusted mix which forces insiders to re-evaluate the way and the why of their preferred medium. Such a case was the collaboration between iconoclastic multi-media artist David Wojnarowicz and painter, cartoonist and occasional comics pro James Romberger.

During the 1980s and until his death in 1992 Wojnarowicz was a prolific author, poet, musician, painter, filmmaker, photographer, performance artist, advocate for Artist’s Rights, anti-censorship champion and political activist, driven or inspired to constantly create by his appalling life as a teen runaway, street prostitute and AIDS sufferer.

This slim 64-page painted album consists of three interlinked episodes from the author’s life, threaded and embellished with reminiscences, observations dreams and poetry to form a living monologue with the world which made Wojnarowicz the compulsive, questing, wonderingly politicized rebel that he was.

Beginning with ‘Thirst’, we follow as the world-wise, street-smart kid dodges Vice Cops and cruises for “Johns” on the 1970’s corners of 42nd Street, encounting just one more sad guy in search of negotiable warmth and affection…

‘Stray Dogs’ takes place a few years later as David and his latest dangerous boyfriend Willy struggle to feed themselves and trawl the soup kitchens, halfway houses and shelters in search of food and a safe place to sleep. Their nightmare journey through the dregs and gutters of the city would enrage a saint and make the Devil weep…

The disturbingly forensic inner narrative ends with a contemplative and breathtakingly introspective marshalling of ideas and experiences in ‘Seven Miles a Second’, begun as David was dying and left uncompleted until Romberger, a renowned artist himself – particularly scenes of urban and inner city life – returned to the author’s incomplete notes and his own memories of Wojnarowicz to pull everything together.

The final painfully intense and intimate project was initiated in 1989 and only completed after Wojnarowicz died from AIDS-related complications. The book was released in 1996 as a Vertigo prestige format publication.

Terrifying, hallucinogenic, appallingly revealing of a society that eats its weak and different, the graphic self-dissection is followed by the Afterword ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Maniac’, a history and appreciation of David Wojnarowicz by Carlo McCormick (Senior Editor of Paper magazine) which includes reproductions of many of his own paintings.

Hard to take, frighteningly beautiful and staggeringly honest, this is a book that will – and should – upset all the right people, but is one that no mature, clear thinking devotee of graphic narrative should avoid or miss.
© 1996 the Estate of David Wojnarowicz. Illustrations © 1996 James Romberger. Introduction © 1996 Thomas W. Rauffenbart.  Afterword © 1996 Carlo McCormick. All individual Rights Reserved throughout.

Shade the Changing Man: the American Scream


By Peter Milligan, Chris Bachalo, Mark Pennington (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-716-0 (1990)      978-1401200466 (2009 edition)

Even before DC hived off its “Mature Readers” sophisticated horror/hero series to become the backbone of the self-sustaining Vertigo line in 1993, the company had begun to differentiate between standard all-ages superhero sagas, new stand-alone concepts like Gilgamesh II, Skreemer, Haywire or World Without End and edgy, off-the-wall, quasi-costumed fantasy and supernatural suspense titles as Doom Patrol, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Sandman, Hellblazer and Swamp Thing. Perhaps the most radical and challenging was a darkly psychedelic reworking of Steve Ditko’s lost masterpiece of modern paranoia Shade the Changing Man. 

In the original 1977 series Rac Shade was a secret observer from the other-dimensional realm of Meta-Zone, who was framed and went rogue; using stolen technology to combat a wave of insanity that emanated from “the Area of Madness” within the Zero-Zone which separated his world from ours. The madness threatened both universes and Shade was determined to stop it, despite the best efforts of sinister self-serving forces from Earth and Meta determined to destroy him.

When Peter Milligan, Chris Bachalo & Mark Pennington began to rework the character much of the Ditko concept remained but was brutally tweaked for the far more cynical and worldly readers of the Blank Generation…

This initial collection re-presents the first six issues of the new Shade from July-December 1980 and introduces deeply disturbed Kathy George, patiently awaiting the final sanction on spree-killer Troy Grenzer. Years ago the unrepentant psychopath butchered her parents and almost her too, and when her black boyfriend tackled the knife-wielding manic the Louisiana police shot her saviour instead of the white assailant…

Now in the final hours before Grenzer finally sits in the electric chair on ‘Execution Day’ Kathy is experiencing wild hallucinations. That’s nothing new: following the deaths of everyone she’d ever loved, Kathy was committed to an asylum until her inheritance ran out and she was released, apparently “too poor to be crazy” anymore.

Becoming a thief and a grifter, she wandered America until a radio report informed her that Grenzer was about to be put to death and Kathy inexplicably found herself heading back to Louisiana…

On Death Row things weren’t going according to plan. Bizarre lights, strange visions and electrical phenomena interrupted the execution and, as a fantastic reality-warping explosion occurred, Grenzer’s body vanished…

On a hillside overlooking the prison Kathy was pursued by an animated electric chair and Troy Grenzer materialised in her car – only he claimed not to be the serial killer but Rac Shade, a secret agent from another dimension who had left his own body in an otherworldly Area of Madness and mentally occupied the now-vacant corpse of the serial killer.

It wasn’t the craziest thing Kathy had ever heard and even if it wasn’t true at least she had a chance to personally kill the man who had destroyed her life…

As the drove away together insane things kept happening and Shade explained that his journey had caused a rupture in the fabric of the universes – a trauma in Reality…

Slowly acclimatising, Shade explains that his original body is clad in experimental technology and this “M-Vest” connects his subconscious to the chaos of the Madness zone. His job was to come here and stop a plague of materialised insanity threatening both worlds, but he’s actually given it easier access to ours…

After a climactic struggle with her own ghosts and traumas, Kathy reluctantly agreed to help the semi-amnesiac Shade in his mission…

Meanwhile at the Famhouse Mental Hospital uncanny events were culminating in a ghastly reordering of people and matter itself: a horrific nigh-sentient phenomenon dubbed “the American Scream” had broken through from somewhere else and threatened all life and rationality on Earth.

With casual daydreams, flights of fantasy and vicious whims increasingly given substance and solidity, the government, well aware of the crisis, dispatched Federal Agents Stringer and Conner to investigate…

The quest proper began as the fugitives from justice trolled through the hinterlands of American Culture and its Collective Unconscious, ending up in Dallas where obsessed author Duane Trilby, determined to discover ‘Who Shot JFK?’, found himself conversing with the tarnished martyr himself as the murdered president returned to the scene of the crime and the city started to literally unravel, with a giant idolatrous bust of the victim bursting through the tarmac of Dealey Plaza, incessantly screaming for answers…

The chaos affected Shade, and the last vestiges of Grenzer’s personality kept repossessing the body they shared, determined to at last add Kathy to his tally of victims, whilst Agents Stringer and Conner, convinced that she is connected to Grenzer’s abrupt disappearance from his own execution, followed her to Texas…

With madness rampant, Shade and Kathy were drawn into Trilby’s materialisation of events, becoming JFK and Jackie, inexorably heading toward death in that open-topped car…

The measured insanity continued in ‘All the President’s Assassins!’ as Trilby saved Shade/JFK and slowly revealed his own personal tragedy: one which drove him to solve an impossible conundrum and avoid an agonising admission.

All the while the Metan’s consciousness was being dragged into a succession of traumatised participants and realised that he must defeat this outbreak of the American Scream quickly or surely fragment and die…

Escaping into his own past on Meta in ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’, Shade physically re-experienced his early life whilst in Dallas Stringer and Conner apprehended Kathy. A lovelorn, impressionable poet, young dropout Rac Shade was tricked into becoming an agent and sent to Earth because it was apparently the source of devastating waves of insanity plaguing Meta, but he was sucked into the Area of Madness and met the American Scream face to face…

Falling back to Earth, Rac freed Kathy and they fled, arriving in Los Angeles in time to struggle with the dark underbelly of the film industry as it came to murderous, sadistic life and began stalking the stars and moguls who created the vicious yet glorious land of dreams.

First singled out were the cast and crew of in-production zombie epic “Hollywood Monsters’, who endured shame and career destruction as impossible film-clips of their deepest secrets and darkest transgression became to appear. Soon after, the mutilations and deaths began, before a psychedelic crescendo was reached in ‘Hollywood Babble On II’ with Shade and Kathy fighting their way through a physically realised and highly biased history of Tinsel Town triumphs and travesties, before seizing control of the noxious narrative and beating the Madness at its own game…

Darkly ironic, blackly comedic, gripping and dripping with razor-edged social commentary, Shade the Changing Man adds a sparkling brew of sardonic wit to the horror and action staples of the medium and remains one of the most challenging and intriguing series in comics.
© 2003, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Names of Magic


By Dylan Horrocks & Richard Case (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-888-4

Way back when Neil Gaiman was just making a name for himself at DC he was asked to consolidate and rationalise the role of magic in that expansive shared universe. Over the course of four Prestige Format editions a quartet of mystical champions (thereinafter known as “the Trenchcoat Brigade”) took a London schoolboy on a Cook’s Tour of Time, Space and Infinite Dimensions in preparation for his becoming the most powerful wizard of the 21st Century, and an overwhelming force for Light or Darkness.

Shy, bespectacled Timothy Hunter (co-created by John Bolton) was an ordinary lad unaware of his incredible potential: a natural but untutored magical prodigy (and yes, I know who he looks like but the series came out eight years before anybody had ever heard of Hogwarts, so get over it).

In an attempt to keep him righteous the self-appointed mystic guides provided him with a full tutorial in the history and state of play regarding The Unseen Art and its major practitioners and adepts. However, although the four guardians were not united in their plans and hopes for the boy, the “other side” certainly had no doubts. If Hunter could not be turned to the Dark he had to die

The Books of Magic spawned a 75 issue run of issues under the Vertigo imprint plus attendant annuals, mini-series and spin-offs as the neophyte sorcerer struggled to find his way and learn the craft, aided and/or hindered by sort-of girlfriend Molly and a hidden personal history akin to a colossal, convoluted cosmic onion skin. His enigmatic lineage and true origins remained a crushing, crippling but crucially important mystery – especially since all the mystic powers of this world and many others either wanted him dead or enslaved…

By 2001 and the advent of this excellent tome (collecting the five-part Names of Magic miniseries) Hunter is a lonely, isolated fourteen year old runaway with no past, roaming the streets of London. His loving family have been exposed as fakes and surrogates, he’s lost or been abandoned by all his human associates and the final reeling shock was finding out that his real mother was Titania, Queen of Faerie and his sire her mortal falconer and plaything Tamlin

However when he is simultaneously attacked by a raiding party of the Theena Sidhe from the Higher Realms and a politically influential mortal magician’s cult in ‘Invocation’, Tim is rescued by a sword-wielding stranger and old mentor Dr. Occult and his life is once again collapsing around his ears…

The stranger is Ash; a Walker and one of a hidden human brotherhood who police the ancient magical places of Earth, charged with taking the unwilling boy on a pilgrimage down those venerable lost paths to save his life and find his calling.

The Rosicrucian sages of The Cold Flame of the Golden Lotus, who want to co-opt Hunter’s power or negate his threat potential, have been embedded in the fabric of British Society for centuries and soon have their media tools and pet coppers on the trail whilst the rival Faerie stalkers – supposedly under a truce to leave Tim alone – rely on their own arcane methods to relentlessly pursue the fugitives…

When man and boy rendezvous with the “Trenchcoat Brigade” in Cornwall it is decided to closet the lad at the puissant magical college known as the White School where he can be safely trained in the use of his incredible powers.

Of course, there’s a snag: to enter a student must simply utter their True Name but when Tim tries he discovers that even his own identity is a lie…

Reeling in shock at the School gate, Tim and Ash narrowly escape a police ambush in ‘Trust’ and the boy almost succumbs to a beguiling spell from Lotus master Mr. Lily before stumbling into another Faerie trap. It appears that one clan of Fair Folk has made a pact with the eternal enemy of The Unseelie Court to destroy Tim, but the fugitives turn the tables on their hunters and Tim saves one of them from death, binding her into an unbreakable debt that she must repay twice-over…

‘Secrets’ sees Tim and Ash recruit modern Pagan “Bearclaw” Clarke to their Spirit Quest. However the Cold Flame close in and a police raid disrupts the astral journey before any secrets can be uncovered. Ruthlessly shooting their way out, the trio take ‘Flight’, daringly hiding deep inside the Faerie Kingdoms.

On Earth Mr. Lily turns his attention to Tim’s lost love Molly in his attempts to trap the young mage whilst, after a climactic struggle in Elfland, the seekers are captured and dragged before High King Auberon who denies all knowledge of Tim’s troubles. The Faerie Lord swears to ferret out the renegades working with the Seelie Court, and Tim finally learns his True Name, just before Iolanthe, eager to expend her onerous debt, warns him that he’s walked into another trap…

Battling free, the fugitive four head back to Earthly Cornwall where they wait helplessly for their following foes – both Faerie and Cold Flame – to converge for a final assault. With their backs to the sea and sure death approaching on all sides Tim and crew take refuge in tourist trap Merlin’s Cave, where as the various factions slaughter each other to get to him, the boy finds a hidden door and discovers the whole and unexpurgated ‘Truth’

Although a series with a lot of highs and lows and one which never really lived up to its promise, Books of Magic was a popular early foray into mature comic publishing for Vertigo and subsequent returns to the characters have proved quite impressive.

Here Dylan Horrocks and illustrator Richard Case – augmented by cover artist Bolton – have recapitulated and reconfigured the past whilst crafting a compelling and enjoyable fantasy yarn that reads well, looks great and stands solid enough on it own to easily serve as an introduction to the saga of Tim Hunter.
© 2001 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Sandman Presents The Furies


By Mike Carey & John Bolton (Vertigo)
ISBN: hardback 978-1-5638-9935-5, softcover 1-4012-0093-1

Even though the enchanting worlds of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman extravaganza have been generally hived off into their own authorial pocket universe these days, many of the elements and characters were drawn from pre-existing series and a number of them survived it to return to the greater DC universe.

Here one of the most poorly used women in comics got a chance to be the star in her own story for a change in a dark and moody semi-sequel to the events of Sandman: The Kindly Ones and Sandman: the Wake (which I must get around to reviewing one day…).

Lyta Hall has one of the most convoluted histories in comics continuity: pre- Crisis on Infinite Earths she was originally the daughter of Earth-2’s Wonder Woman, before being retro-fitted as the child of WWII heroine Helena Kosmatos AKA Fury: a Greek heroine possessed and empowered by The Eumenides: those fearsome implacable Furies of Grecian myth tasked with punishing all who spill the blood of kin…

Once the myriad Earths were blended into one in 1986 Lyta retroactively became the child of a Greek WWII heroine. Following in Mama’s footsteps she became a member of teen superteam Infinity Inc., where she loved and was impregnated by the son of Hawkman. He died and was subsumed into the Realm of Dreams as the red-and-gold 1970s Sandman created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (for which check out The Sandman), after which Lyta married his ghost and moved into the dream-world. Missing for years she finally gave birth to a son Daniel, who was subsequently abducted by Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming.

In maternal madness and frustrated revenge Lyta set in motion the events which finally culminated in the Dream Master’s death and the installation of her lost baby as the new Master of Dreams.

The oneiric Daniel returned his mother to Earth under a spell of protection to ward off revenge from the supernatural forces she had exploited or offended; but Lyta was far from healed or even sane – nor was she safe…

There’s even more to her career set after this story but that’s for another time and place.

Three years after the climactic cosmic drama Lyta is a woman on the edge: under psychiatric observation, given to mood-swings, self-destructive acts, fits of violent rage and sweeping depressions. She is moments away from being dumped and forgotten in an institution; off the rails and obsessed with a missing child the physical universe knows never existed…

As a last resort her analyst convinces Lyta to join a theatrical troupe, indulge in some hopefully cathartic art-therapy and make a few friends she won’t sleep with or punch out, whilst in the Sublime Realms beyond reality a terrifying ancient foe of gods and men has freed himself from eternal torment and begun hunting the beings who betrayed and imprisoned him…

Events are shaped and the Goatsong Theatre Group is inexplicably offered the chance to perform in Athens, wellspring of Greek tragedy. How lucky for them then, that new recruit Lyta Hall is fluent in the language, history and customs? Capitalising on the mystical perturbations following Morpheus’ passing, the monstrous Cronus is closing in on Hermes and laying traps in the mortal world, ensnaring those pitiful, disposable wretches slowly warming to the troubled once-super-heroine. The cosmic patricide and unwilling father of gods is uncaring of the fact that his quest will bring him into conflict with the fearsome Furies who have hungered for his punishment since the dawn of time…

Cronus has a cunning plan…

Despite its convoluted antecedents this eerie, mythological horror story from Mike Carey is a compelling and inventive adult fable with a powerful kick and a disturbing message about love, friendship, duty and family, whilst artist John Bolton, who used this tale to shift his creative style from lush and mannered painterly illustration to a stronger, more photo-based expressionist form, excels in capturing mundane fantasy and inconceivable reality as diametrically opposed worlds collide.

Stylish, quirky and immensely impressive this nominal epilogue to Gaiman’s Sandman saga was released as an original hardcover graphic novel and is still generally available in a softcover edition.
© 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Y: the Last Man volume 10: Whys and Wherefores


By Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra & José Marzán Jr. (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-903-1

Some sense of disappointment is probably unavoidable when an acclaimed and beloved serial finally ends, but at least there’s a sense of accomplishment to savour and if you’re lucky perhaps a hint of more to be said and an avenue for further wonderment…

When every male creature on Earth suddenly dropped dead, only student Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand survived in a world instantly utterly all-girl. Unexpectedly a crucial natural resource, the wilful lad was escorted across the unmanned American continent to a Californian bio-lab by a government super-spy and a prominent geneticist, but all he could think of was re-uniting with his girlfriend Beth, trapped in Australia when the disaster struck.

With his reluctant companions Agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann – who were trying to solve the mystery of his continued existence – the romantically determined oaf trekked from Washington DC to California, getting ever closer to his fiancée… or so he thought…

Each of his minders harboured dark secrets: Dr. Mann was crucially connected to the plague and the lethally competent 355 had hidden allegiances to organisations far-more far-reaching than the First Ladies of the remaining American government….

Also out to stake a claim and add to the general tension were renegade Israeli General Alter Tse’Elon and a post-disaster cult called “Daughters of the Amazon” who wanted to make sure that there really were no more men left to mess up the planet. Further complications included Yorick’s sister Hero, who stalked him across the ultra-feminised, ravaged and completely dis-United States and the boy’s own desirability to numerous frustrated and desperate women he encountered en route to Oz…

After four years and incredible adventures Yorick (a so-so scholar but a proficient amateur magician and escapologist) reached Australia only to discover Beth had embarked on her own odyssey to Paris. During the trek Dr. Mann discovered the inconvenient truth: Yorick was only alive because his pet Ampersand (an escaped lab-specimen) was immune and had inoculated his owner via his disgusting habit of chucking crap which Yorick didn’t always avoid. He didn’t keep his mouth closed enough either…

With this book, reprinting issues #55-60 of the award-winning series, comes to a final full-stop in ‘Whys and Wherefores’ wherein the various cast members all rendezvous in Paris. As well as Yorick and 355, his sister  Hero is there, having successfully escorted baby boys born in a hidden Space sciences lab to the City of Lights as well as Yorick’s baby daughter and the determined would-be mother who raped him to conceive her…

Also on scene and hungry for blood is General Tse’Elon with a dwindling squad of Israeli commandoes: rapidly diminishing because of their leader’s increasing instability and her habit of killing anybody who crosses her.

At long last the Last Man is reunited with his long lost true love, only to find that she wasn’t…

Tragically though his actual one-and-only is forever lost to him when Tse’Elon captures him and the babies, leading to a shocking final confrontation…

For the last chapter ‘Alas’ the action switches to Paris sixty years later. Thanks to cloning and gene manipulation the human race is secure and other species are returning too. Men are still rarer than hen’s teeth though, as the women seem to prefer girl babies…

The geriatric Yorick is saviour of humanity, but since he keeps trying to kill himself he has to be locked up and constantly guarded. In a desperate attempt to cure his seeming madness the leaders of the matriarchal new world – which suffers just as much from most of the problems and stupidities of the old – have brought in the best of the Last Man’s seventeen viable clones to talk him round and find out what’s bugging him. However the intervention doesn’t go as planned and the old escapologist has one last trick up his straitjacketed sleeve…

Illustrated by Pia Guerra & José Marzán Jr. these concluding adventures are packed with revelation, closures and disclosures plus some moments of genuine painful tragedy, so keep tissues handy if you’re easily moved.

The last of Y the Last Man is as controversial and challenging as ever it was: perfectly providing an ending to everything; lifting you up, breaking your heart and still leaving the reader hungry for more. And that’ just the way it ought to be…

© 2006, 2007 Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra. All Rights Reserved.

Jack of Fables volume 4: Americana


By Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Russ Braun, Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy, & Steve Leialoha (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-050-5

Just so you know, Fables are fairytale, storybook and mythical beings hidden on our mundane Earth since their various magical realms fell to a sinister monstrous Adversary. Arriving hundreds of years ago (and still coming) the fantastic refugees hid their true natures from humanity and built isolated enclaves where their immortality and utter strangeness could not endanger the life of uneasy luxury they buried themselves within. Many of these elusive eternals wander the human world, but always under strict and draconian mandate to never get noticed.

In Fables: Homelands the utterly self-absorbed and absolutely amoral Jack of the Tales (basis for such legends as Beanstalk, Giant-killer, Frost, Be Nimble and many more) broke all the rules – because that’s his nature – by stealing Fabletown cash and moving to Hollywood. Once there he set up as a movie producer, created the most popular fantasy film triptych of all time.

A key tenet of the series is that the more “mundies” (that’s mortals like you and me) think about a fable character, the stronger that actual character becomes. Books, TV, songs, all feed their vitality. So when the movies based on Jack’s life ultra-charged him they also brought him much unwelcome attention. The avaricious rat-bag coined vast amounts of filthy lucre in the process, but it all led the Fabletown authorities straight to him.

In Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape our irreverent faux-hero was brought to task by the Fables Police, exiled from Hollywood and ordered to disappear, with only a suitcase full of cash to tide him over. He was also banished from all Fable properties and domains. Alone and unprotected he was soon captured by The Golden Bough, a clandestine organisation that had been hunting Fables for centuries.

Jack escaped during a mass break-out of forgotten, adulterated and abridged Fables, all fleeing from a particularly horrific fate – metaphysical and contextual neutering.

He is presently on the run from those selfsame forces (in the distractingly vivacious shape of the Page Sisters, dedicated hunters of everything Fable-ulous) and constantly seeking to restore his cash-flow as this fourth volume – collecting issues #17-21 of the monthly Vertigo comic – commences with first chapter of the eponymous ‘Americana’ as Jack reviews his simple life goals – to be the richest, most powerful and best-looking Fable in the universe – and have lots of really hot sex…

‘On Eggshells’ opens with Jack, Gary, the Pathetic Fallacy and cynical sidekick Native American Raven hiding out in a cheap motel as Hillary Page, with diminished giant Paul Bunyan and Babe (a blue ox with a remarkable imagination), zeroes in on the fugitives.

Things pick up however when Jack reassembles the shell-shocked Humpty Dumpty who has the location of a monolithic treasure drawn on fractured exterior. Such a shame a few fragments are missing, or the daring band of brothers could go directly to the mythic Fable-realm of Americana and plunder the Lost City of Cibola…

As it is, the treasure-seekers have to hop a freight-train in time-honoured legendary manner, but ghostly iron horses are few and far between, so it’s no real surprise that they catch the same one as Hillary and Company…

‘Mind the Zombies’ follows the uneasy allies’ circuitous route via steamboat to the perfectly average, undead-infested picture-perfect little town of Idyll where they meet the utterly sinister Librarian of Americana. His name is Burner, but he considers it more of a job-description…

Narrowly escaping with their legendary, literary lives Jack, Hillary and the rest resume their peripatetic journey to Cibola, unaware that Burner has set the indefatigable Leatherstocking Nathaniel “Natty” Bumppo (that’s Hawkeye to you folks) on their rapidly scampering tails…

‘On the Road’ details the inevitable clash with literature’s greatest tracker and subsequent narrow escape into more trouble amidst the Ganglands of hard-boiled crime fiction. From their it’s an epic trek to the Great White North, mythical New York City and Broadway, Witch-haunted Puritan New England, the Antebellum South and the “Injun” infested Wild West, before finally reaching their ultimate goal in ‘Goldrush’ wherein Jack achieves all his ambitions, fiscal and carnal…

It’s not long before the boom is once more lowered on the obnoxious sap and Americana concludes on a chilling cliffhanger as the Bookburner vacates the United States of Fiction, intending to eradicate all the Fables still interned at the Golden Bough…

However there’s yet one more treat for fans as the metaphysical, engagingly peculiar and trouble-attracting Pathetic Fallacy takes centre-stage for ‘Gary Does Denmark’ wherein the affable, nigh-omnipotent sad-sack recounts his history with Shakespeare’s greatest work, ably hampered by our regular cast and with Jack’s evil prototype Wicked John standing in for the named star of our show…

Written by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges, illustrated by Russ Braun, Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy & Steve Leialoha this tome sees the series develop into a uniquely whimsical and absurdist meta-fictional delight that no fan of reading, high art or low comedy can afford to miss…

This imaginative and breathtakingly bold rollercoaster ride of flamboyant fantasy and snappy street-smarts is a supremely saucy, self-referential, darkly, funny fairytale for adults concocted with much more sly cynical humour and sex than your average funnybook – so po-faced moralistas and societal stickybeaks be warned!

Every enchanting volume should be compulsory reading for jaded imagineers everywhere – and in some as yet unreachable realm they actually are…

© 2007, 2008 Bill Willingham and DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Y – The Last Man: volume 9 Motherland


By Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra Goran Sudžuka & José Marzán Jr. (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-358-9

When an apparent plague killed every male on Earth, only student Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand survived in a world instantly utterly all-girl. Even with a government super-agent and a geneticist escorting him across the unmanned American continent to a Californian bio-lab, all the boy could think of was re-uniting with his girlfriend Beth, trapped in Australia when the disaster struck.

With his rather reluctant companions secret agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann – who were trying to solve the mystery of his continued existence – the romantically determined oaf trekked overland from Washington DC to California, getting ever closer to his fiancée… or so he thought. Each of his minders harboured dark secrets: Dr. Mann feared she might have actually caused the plague by giving birth to the world’s first parthenogenetic human clone and the lethally competent 355 had allegiances to organisations far-more far-reaching than the American government….

Also out to stake their claim and add to the general tension were renegade Israeli General Alter Tse’Elon and post-disaster cult called “Daughters of the Amazon” who wanted to make sure that there really were no more men left to mess up the planet. Other complications included Yorick’s occasionally insane sister, Hero, stalking him across the ultra-feminised, ravaged and now utterly dis-United States and the boy’s own desirability to the numerous frustrated and desperate women he encountered en route to Oz…

After four years and some incredible adventures Yorick (a so-so scholar but a proficient amateur magician and escapologist) and crew reached Australia only to discover Beth had already taken off on her own odyssey to Paris. During the hunt Dr. Mann discovered the truth: Yorick was alive because his pet Ampersand was immune and had insulated his owner via his habit of “sharing” his waste products if Yorick didn’t duck fast enough…

As this book, reprinting issues #49-54 of the award-winning comics series, opens with the eponymous four-chapter ‘Motherland’ (illustrated by Pia Guerra & José Marzán Jr.) Yorick and his guardians are following a trail to the true architect of the plague in Hong Kong, only to be captured by the cause of all the world’s woes – a deranged biologist cursed with genius, insanity and a deadly dose of maniacal misogynistic hubris.

Just before a breathtaking denouement wherein Yorick and Allison learn the incredible reasons for the plague, and Agent 355 and turncoat Australian spy Rose clash for the final time with the ninja who has been stalking them for years, the scene switches to France where Yorick’s sister Hero has successfully escorted the baby boys born in a hidden Space Sciences lab to relative safety… although General Tse’Elon is not a pursuer easily avoided or thwarted…

Even after the plague is demystified, the villain fully come-uppanced and the world on the verge of coming back from the brink of extinction there’s still stories to be told as seen in ‘The Obituarist’ (with art from Goran Sudžuka& José Marzán Jr.) wherein the murder of Yorick’s mother by Tse’Elon takes centre-stage in a divertissement which hints that the planet is already fixing itself and this penultimate volume concludes with ‘Tragicomic’ (Sudžuka& Marzán Jr. again) as the lunatic land of Hollywood begins its own comeback: making trash movies, spawning bad comicbooks and splintering into a host of territorial gang-wars…

The end was in sight and even with the series’ overarching plot engine seemingly exhausted there was still one last string of intrigue, suspense and surprise in store from writer Brian K. Vaughn. The last of Y the Last Man will prove to be the best yet but that’s an unmissable tale for another time…

© 2006, 2007 Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra. All Rights Reserved.

Jack of Fables volume 3: The Bad Prince


By Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy, Russ Braun & Andrew Robinson (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-913-0

In case you didn’t know, Fables are refugee fairytale, storybook and mythical characters hidden on our mundane Earth since their various legend-drenched realms fell to a mysterious and unbeatable Adversary. Arriving hundreds of years ago (and still coming) the immortal immigrants disguised their true natures from humanity whilst creating enclaves where their longevity, magic and sheer strangeness (such as all the talking animals safely sequestered on a remote farm in upstate New York) would not endanger the life of uneasy luxury they have built for themselves. Many of these elusive eternals wander the human world, but always under injunction never to draw any attention.

In Fables: Homelands the utterly self-absorbed and absolutely amoral Jack of the Tales (basis for such legends as Beanstalk, Giant-killer, Frost, Be Nimble and many more) did just that by stealing Fabletown funds to become a movie producer; creating the three most popular fantasy films of all time, based on (his version) of his life and consequently drawing physical power from the billions who inadvertently “believed” in him.  The avaricious toe-rag also coined vast amounts of filthy lucre in the process.

A key tenet of the series is that the more “mundies” (that’s mere mortals like you and me… well, me anyway) think about a fable character, the stronger that actual character becomes. Books, TV, songs: all feed their vitality.

In Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape our irreverent faux-hero was brought low by the publicity-shy Fables Police, banished from Hollywood and ordered to disappear, with only a suitcase full of cash to tide him over.

Promptly captured by The Golden Bough, a clandestine organisation which had been “vanishing” Fables for centuries, Jack escaped during a mass break-out of forgotten, abridged Fables, all fleeing from a particularly horrific fate – metaphysical and contextual neutering.

He is presently on the run from those selfsame forces (in the distractingly vivacious shape of the Page Sisters, dedicated hunters of everything Fabulous and Uncanny) as this third volume – collecting issues #12-16 of the monthly Vertigo comic- commences with ’Hit the Road, Jack’ the first chapter of the four part eponymous Bad Prince saga …

Written by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges and illustrated by Tony Akins & Andrew Pepoy, the adventure opens with Jack and the metaphysical, engagingly peculiar but trouble-attracting sad-sack Gary, the Pathetic Fallacy desecrating the Grand Canyon and arguing – which allows the aforementioned Page girls to recapture them. Bundled in the back of their van is Wicked John, another escapee from the Golden Bough internment camp. Still feisty, Jack picks another fight and as the recaptured Fables bicker their spat causes the van to plunge into the Canyon…

Of course, nobody dies but there are some unfortunate consequences. They’re stranded at the bottom, Priscilla Page has a broken wrist and as they all dry out after their a dip in the Colorado River a wandering tramp shoves a six-foot sword through Jack’s chest…

‘I Forget’ (with additional pencils by Russ Braun) resumes the tale with the irate but otherwise unharmed Jack bitching and whining about how the sword – by all accounts the legendary Excalibur – won’t come out, whilst unbeknownst to all in New York an old and formidable metafictional menace is stirring…

Back in the Canyon, Gary has reached some unfortunate conclusions about Jack and discovered the downside of being the Most Popular Fable in the World. The Golden Bough is also making another move as Hilary Page pressgangs a few defanged inmates and sets off on a mission of her own. Chapter three reveals some startling secrets and the unsuspected, humiliating connection between Jack and ‘The Legend of Wicked John’ before the tale diverts into a re-examination of that dratted “Beanstalk/Giant-killer” debacle. And as the cast kvetches, another mysterious pursuer closes in on the stranded story-folk…

If you were confused before, the concluding ‘(Enchanted) Blade Runner’ (with supplementary inking by Bill Reinhold) might clear things up for you (or not – it all depends on how much attention you’re paying) as Jack finagles himself out of his human-scabbard situation and the sinister Mr. Revise opens up his unconventional family album for closer inspection: a sinister yet sardonic foretaste of odd events to come…

There’s one last eccentric endeavour in store however as ‘Jack O’ Lantern’, illustrated by Andrew Robinson, once more delves into our obnoxious hero’s chequered past and describes some of the unsavoury and hilarious events that stemmed from his various dealings and disputes with the devil…

This series just gets better and better. An imaginative and breathtakingly bold rollercoaster ride of flamboyant fantasy and snappy-patter street-smarts, these yarns are always beautifully drawn and continually push the boundaries of traditional storytelling.

Saucy, self-referential, darkly, mordantly funny, Jack of Fables is a deliciously whimsical fairytale for adults concocted with much more broad, adult, cynical humour and sex than your average comicbook – so mothers and matrons be warned! Every enchanting volume should be compulsory reading for jaded fantasists everywhere.

© 2007, 2008 Bill Willingham and DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.