Fa­bles: Cov­ers by James Jean

The un­sung hero of the Fa­bles suc­cess story takes his last bow with a be­daz­zling col­lec­tion of fan­tasy art

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

Au­thor James Jean his is not the first re­lease col­lect­ing to­gether the ex­quis­ite cover de­signs of Tai­wan-born, US West Coast artist James Jean. But if the in­sis­tence is true – that the Fa­bles se­ries re­ally has been drawn to an ab­so­lute con­clu­sion af­ter 13 years – it may well be the ul­ti­mate col­lec­tion.

With small-screen adap­ta­tion po­ten­tial headed off by the likes of Grimm and Once Upon A Time, this may be it for Snow, Bigby Wolf and their bru­tal and sexy Fa­bles kind. But then it wasn’t truly unique to bring to­gether fig­ures from lit­er­a­ture and mythol­ogy in a gritty, adult nar­ra­tive – it just so hap­pens Fa­bles caught the con­cept from just the right an­gle, and found a vast, ador­ing fol­low­ing.

TPub­lisher Ti­tan Books

Au­gust 2015

Price £25

Web www.ti­tan­books.com

Avail­able Now

Bound in muted greys though it is, this up­date is a de­serv­ing trib­ute to James’ years of com­pelling artistry, con­sid­er­ing how up-front credit and praise for the hit se­ries has al­ways gone pri­mar­ily to cre­ator Bill Willing­ham and artists Lan Me­d­ina, Mark Buck­ing­ham, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamil­ton.

James has fol­lowed in their wake, but in the process, honed their strips into bril­liantly ac­com­plished stand­alone art. The breadth of artis­tic style dis­played through­out the book is im­pres­sive, from vi­brant car­toon to mourn­ful old mas­ter to daz­zling manga – and although the lack of cover con­text for any but the most clued-in Fa­bles fan is slightly re­gret­table, the qual­ity of his vi­sion for each and ev­ery is­sue makes this a wor­thy pe­rusal, even if you’re more of a Grimm fan.

With each spread laid out by James him­self, what com­men­tary we do get to ac­com­pany each cover is worth its weight in faerie dust – such as the artist’s vol­un­tary ad­mis­sion that he largely sug­gested wrap­around cov­ers to earn a bit more money, or Willing­ham’s di­rec­tion for the first ap­pear­ance of Fly­catcher that he should re­sem­ble “Alan Moore at his most vis­ually ma­ni­a­cal”.

Nonethe­less, Willing­ham’s at­tempts to wring any telling ob­ser­va­tions out of James in the af­ter­word in­ter­view only speak vol­umes by their fail­ure: James in­sists he’s, “Merely an artist… My phys­i­cal body is di­vorced from my body of work”. He concludes, gnom­i­cally: “The as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween the two is un­com­fort­able for me.”

By all means get hold of a copy, but don’t ex­pect to get it au­to­graphed by the gifted but shy cover artist.

James Jeans’ strik­ing cover for Fa­bles #75, War & Pieces.

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