THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
I've read three graphic novels so far this year - one collection from an ongoing series, an original related to that series, and an original standalone. Here are some thoughts...
First up was Fables: Wolves, which collects issues #48-51 of the ongoing series and includes a script for the extra-length #50. The first two issues comprised the title story of the collection and mainly featured Mowgli's attempts to track down Bigby Wolf, who had left the fable community behind when he was forever banned from their lands. Mowgli was given the assignment as a way of freeing Bagheera from captivity; if Bigby comes back and performs a missions, he will be allowed a chance at happiness. #50 deals with Bigby's mission into the Homelands and his subsequent wedding to Snow White. The final issue is a one-off featuring Cinderella on a diplomatic mission to the Cloud Kingdoms. While the price is a bit high (the script at the end bumps up the page count and while I suppose some people are excited by its inlcusion, it didn't do much for me), this collection shows off the high points of the series - action, intrigue, soap opera action, solid writing (by Bill Willingham) and art (by Mark Buckingham and Shawn McManus, among others), and just a cool premise.
Next I read Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, the original graphic novel published towards the end of 2006. It is a collection of stories about many of the Fables cast, which take place before the beginning of the series. Snow White is held prisoner by a Sultan and due to be executed as well but she saves herself by telling stories. Within that framing device are the variety of tales - we learn about Bibgy, Frau Totenkinder, the Frog Prince, Reynard, King Cole, Colonel Thunderfoot, Rose Red, and Snow herself. These stories are drawn by a variety of artists, including rare sequential art from Fables cover artist James Jean. This would be a good introduction to the series itself and even though it's a hardcover, it is very reasonably priced.
Finally, I read Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon, an OGN telling the tale of 4 lions who were freed from a Baghdad zoo during the American attacks in the spring of 2003. Yes, it's a story about talking lions and giraffes and turtles and so on but it is not a funny animal story. Vaughan draws parallels between the lions' situation and the politics of the region, as well as universal issues like freedom. It is not a strict allegory either. It is a very affecting story with fantastic art. I highly recommend it.