Sep 29, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: Fractured Fables

Fractured Fables is an anthology published by Jim Valentino's Silverline Books/Image Comics.

Cover by Mike Allred
The concept of the anthology is simple. Much like Shrek or Fables, this takes familiar fairy tales and folk stories and places twists on them - resulting in 33 stories overall. Since the lengths of these stories average around five pages, they're pretty much all comedic, charming, experimental, or any combination of the three. Shannon Wheeler does a wonderful and charming rendition of "Row Row Row" (Your Boat, that is):

And Bill Morrison brings his usual cartoony style over from the Simpsons comics and does a really fun and expressive sequence where a kid named Junior sings the old ditty, "On Top of Spaghetti."

Most of the other strips are fun and funny. More often than not, the twists put on them are quite modern and contemporary. Neil Kleid and Fernando Pinto do a version of "The House that Jack Built" involving a man and his family and his neighbors, which includes kids with a rock band. "The People vs. Hansel and Gretel" is drawn by Jeremy R. Scott in a style reminiscent of South Park, and is pretty much a spoof of those daily courtroom dramas, where the witch is the plaintiff and Hansel and Gretel are the defendants. Shane White cleverly tells of "Trouble at the North Pole," where Santa and his elves use broadcast a news program on the dangers of global warming. And one of the funniest stories is by Doug TenNapel, which is a retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin."


In this version, Rumpelstiltskin is an obnoxious little imp, while the princess who has to guess his name is an idiot. TenNapel's art conveys this perfectly, and made at least this reader laugh his socks off.

Though all of these examples are funny from the get-go, not all the stories follow the same comedic pattern. "The Real Princess," for example, is a takeoff of "Princess and the Pea," "Jack and the Beanstalk," and a few other fairy tales, and is about a princess searching for her true love. Instead of the more modern manner of speaking peppered throughout the book, writer Alexander Grecian tells the story in the same type of language as a regular fairy tale, and Christian Ward lavishly paints the entire story so it doesn't look like it's a comedy at all.

And the truth is, it's not. The story is played completely and totally straight, as per the conventions of the wacky world of fairy tales. Anything funny or comedic in it is more a circumstance of what actually goes on in the story than it is the story actually attempting to be funny. On that note, I think it's excellently done, and is one of the highlights of an already excellent book.

Another highlight is "The Little Mermaid," written by the one and only Peter David and drawn by Juan Ferreyra. More a riff of Disney's version than the old Hans Christian Andersen tale, David plays the story completely straight in the first half and then just runs with a repeating joke for the second. It's a clever setup, thigh-slappingly funny, and aptly drawn by Ferreyra. Even if just for this story alone, I'd recommend the book.

By far, my favorite of the funny stories is Derek McCulloch and Anthony Peruzzo's take on the Rapunzel fairy tale. I'll just post a page here to show you.

I'd probably be a bad Filipino if I didn't mention that one story here ("The Fox and the Cat") was written by the Filipina Nikki Dy-Liacco and drawn by May Ann Licudine. The story is funny and contemporary, and beautifully drawn, giving a fully painted look that is charming and compelling to kids and art lovers all over. I'd also definitely be both a bad Filipino and a bad reviewer if I didn't mention Marie Cruz and Whilce Portacio's (yes, that Whilce Portacio) "The Secret Princess Society," which isn't a comic at all, but a prose piece with accompanying illustrations by Portacio. Because it's prose, there's enough time to develop a full (if short) story, and so this is the one story in the entire book that doesn't try to be charming or funny at all. "Secret Princess Society" is heavily rooted in Filipino mythology, with anting-antings (special medallions for protection) and duwendes (like dwarves, but different), and it's just great, more than seeing Filipinos in the anthology, to see Filipino mythology getting international exposure. I also didn't think Portacio's art - usually sketchy and gritty - could be used for this purpose, and this was a nice surprise.

So yes, while this anthology is mostly funny, some stories are not, nor are they meant to be. Some stories are experimental and works of art; "The Secret Princess Society" is serious; and the funny stories all have great variety in their humor sensibilities that you never get burned out laughing.

The presentation of the book is also top-notch, with the binding and the coloring making it a true pleasure to read.

Highly recommended.


Peachy said...

The Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin stories were a riot, but for some reason, I have a terribly soft spot for Shannon Wheeler's work on "Row Row Row". :)

mags said...

any of the stories here appropriate for 11-12 year olds? thinking of using this for class. (i.e. hi peachy, where did you buy this? :) )

Duy Tano said...

I'd actually say they're PERFECT for 11-12 year olds. They're just at that perfect age to have fun with the fairy tales - you know, the age where they start to think it's corny, then you show them something like this and they don't think it is anymore.

My nephew is 11 going on 12 and he really likes some of the stories.

Also, Planet X in Glorietta has a copy.

Peachy said...

Maggie: Sa Planet X ra! Head over there, I think they still have some copies left. :)

Duy Tano said...

Also, tell them Peachy sent you. They like her, specifically because she conspired with them for getting me Fractured Fables for my birthday!

CloudWoman said...

Thanks for the special mention! :-) Glad you enjoyed the story and the book. May Ann and I had a blast!

Duy Tano said...

You deserved it! I'd only wish I'd found an image on the net to accompany it — the binding is too fragile for scanning.

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