Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Some patterns are doomed to be repeated, in stories and in real life. Take my reading relationship with Jasper Fforde. I bought his debut novel, The Eyre Affair, in paperback a few years ago after learning about the conceit behind his Thursday Next series. I liked it quite a bit and proceeded to buy the next three novels in hardback. So, last summer brings the arrival of a new Fforde book, The Big Over Easy, the first in a new series. Do I buy it? No, I wait until last week and buy the brand-new paperback edition. True to form, I liked it and I'm going to have to buy the next one in hardcover (which has now been published).

The series focuses on Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and the Nursery Crimes division. It's a world where cops not only have to solve crimes but publish their stories in "Amazing Crime Stories" or similar (lesser) magazines. Spratt is not in that club; he also has to deal with Friedland Chymes, the star of the Reading police scene. Spratt and his team are investigating the death of Humpty Dumpty and things are not what they seem. Add aliens, giant beanstalks, dueling foot care companies, a god, a mansion built by Dr. Caligari, and a whole parade of nursery rhyme characters to the mix and you get one entertaining book full of puns, jokes, allusions, and fun. Plus the murder mystery. Recommended.

I also picked up Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days), the seventh volume of the Vertigo comics series. This time around the residents of Fabletown are brought into contact with the Arabian fables and the first half of the volume is taken up with that culture clash and the problems of a d'jinn. We also see developments between Prince Charming and Beauty, learn Boy Blue's fate, and lots more. The second part of the volume is a two-part story detailing the brewing love between two wooden soldiers in the Adversary's kingdom who wish to become flesh so they can consumate their love. Their wish comes at a price, however.

This series has quietly become one of my favorites, in large part due to Mark Buckingham's art. He uses page borders to help set the scene, as well as small drawings at the top of the page to do the same. It's somewhat akin to how they would use the individual character logos in Justice League of America or Legion of Super-Heroes. The writing is good too, obviously, with plenty of ongoing plots and character moments. But Bucky's work truly makes it fun.

Finally, I picked up the first issue of the new volume of Castle Waiting. Linda Medley self-published this series a number of years ago (followed by a stint at Jeff Smith's Cartoon Books) and it was a favorite of mine. It has been on hiatus for quite a few years and I no longer have those issues. Fantagraphics has stepped in and is now publishing not only this new series but a collection of the series up to this point (which I have not yet picked up). Anyway, the new issue reprints the final two of the previously published series (they were left out of the collection), plus a new story. The charm of this series lies not in any fast-paced plotting but in the characters living in a castle that has been abandoned by its royalty as well as Medley's wonderful cartoony style. Yeah, I know I'm not describing this well enough. It's fun and funny and interesting and a joy to look at while you read. What more can you want in a comic book?

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