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Graphic Novel Round-up: Fairies, Fables and Fighter Pilots

FablesFive flights of fancy - from the distant realms of fairy to the shores of North Africa.

Fables: The Good Prince (Willingham / Buckingham): The conflict between the Empire and the exiled Fables heats up, but in an unexpected fashion, as Ambrose ('Flycatcher') somehow manages to get tangled up in the fate of both powers. If you're not reading Fables already, stop whatever you're doing and start from first issue.

Easily one of the best series of recent years - if not ever - Fables has magically stayed as good in this, the tenth collection, as it was at the start. Don't forget to flip through the cover gallery - they're absolutely stunning. 

The Books of Faerie (Carlton / Ney-Rieber / Gross): A short compilation of two stories related to the Books of Magic series. The first tells the back-story of Titania, Queen of Faerie, and the circumstances surrounding the birth of Timothy Hunter. The second story takes place a bit later (in continuity) but much earlier (in real world chronology) - a short Timothy Hunter tale almost immediately following the events of the first Books of Magic. The collection is a quick read, and a surprisingly good one. The Titania story, especially, feels like something that could almost come out of Fables. My only complaint is that this relies very heavily on a knowledge of the Books of Magic series - as a standalone it would be, at best, bewildering. 

The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night (LaBan / Hogan / Snejbjerg): Another spin-off of a Neil Gaiman series (at least only once-removed, in this case), this first collection of The Dreaming does a good job of channeling the original Sandman scribe's devotion to nostalgia and the esoteric. Of the three stories, the best, by far is Peter Hogan's 'Lost Boy', about a time-lost British architect, the ages-old witch 'Mad Hettie' and the secret origins of America. Like Gaiman at his best, Hogan is interesting, well-researched and more than a little sweet. It still isn't Sandman, but if the rest of The Dreaming is this good, it is nothing to sneeze at.

Jar of Fools(Lutes): Jar of Fools is exactly the sort of graphic novel I tend to avoid - vaguely emo, philosophically ambiguous story of real-world folks off on an existential crisis. Also, black and white artwork in which all the characters look identical. Still, despite my worries, Jar of Fools turned out to be an absorbing read. Originally published in 1994, Lutes deserves credit for being a perceptive forerunner in the 'stage magicians = iconic and depressing' school of literature. Nothing actually happens, the characters speak in self-absorbed monologues and the art really is a pity, but somehow, this 'Picture Story' still winds up being pretty powerful. 

Battler Britton (Ennis / Wilson): More British than British - one of Britain's iconic characters returned to life by an exceedingly British writer and an artist for 2000 AD. Yet, in the end, it feels like this was written for an American audience. British slang is discreetly translated in the footnotes, and the story - about Allied cooperation in 1942 - is almost defensively critical of the Americans. Still a 'ripping good yarn', Ennis does a good job updating the pilot Britton for a modern audience - without crossing the line into ultraviolent parody