kicked around the Vertigo offices for a few years before he
finally got himself noticed with the spectacular ongoing series
about fairy tale characters in the modern world, Fables.
Due to the popularity of that series, much of his earlier
work is seeing collection and reprinting, like The Sandman
Presents: Taller Tales and the topic of this review, Proposition
if you have a soul? Even better, have you ever thought about
trading your soul for a free beer? When professional gambler
Joey Martin makes what he assumes is one pricey bar joke,
he comes into possession of thirty-two souls, among these
the ones belonging to his girlfriend and fellow co-workers.
it's all a harmless prank, until what appears to be a three
hundred pound ex-drill sergeant with a halo named Bill shows
up at his door, wanting to buy said souls for a hefty fee.
Joey, deciding there's more money to be made, holds out, and
from there, things get strange. Well, stranger.
of every defunct pantheon or infernal or heavenly host are
trying to broker a deal with Joey, either looking to get his
souls or form a business relationship. Joey has to make the
biggest decision of his life: bet safe and sell his souls,
or go big and set himself up as a new god. When people start
dying and start showing up in Joey's afterlife (namely, his
roach motel apartment), the stakes get even higher.
is playing around with a lot of heavy concepts in this book.
Do we have souls? What happens when we die? Will I ever get
to sleep with a sultry she-demon from the nether realms (oops,
that one was my question best disregard that). Willingham
handles the topics in a very matter of fact way, which I found
somewhat refreshing in reference to a religiously over-toned
comic. When you die, your soul goes to whatever afterlife
notion you subscribed to. Whichever religious system controls
the most souls is the top dog, or rather "god" but
with a capital "G."
principals about good or evil, no romantic notions of self-sacrifice
or oneness with something greater than ourselves, just pure
unadulterated capitalism. Heaven is just as cut-throat, even
more so, than Hell in its zeal to collect souls, which is
demonstrated in the scenes involving Bill and Archangel Michael,
both bastards to the highest degree. Mary, in a nice bit of
biblical irony, is the envoy from Hell and makes a straight
up offer at least: money, sex and power. You gotta love a
comic where Hell is playing it straight, and Heaven ends up
being the psychotic bastards.
feel of the book is kept very amoral. Willingham doesn't seem
to want the reader to identify with his characters (with is
probably best, since most are current, former, or future gods),
or make them good or evil. Instead, he's using the characters
to give his take on one possible interpretation of the "afterlife,"
throwing in some major and some minor mythological references
(I know Anubis, but who the Hell is Moloch?) and using a pretty
workable metaphor for the whole thing using poker and gambling
to show how the game of soul gathering is played.
the lack of character development irks me somewhat, the larger
themes interest me more and I find myself drawn into the "religious
corporate struggle" ambience that Willingham portrays.
is nothing special, but it works well with the book. Paul
Guinan and Willingham himself shared art duties. The interior
art is something of a mix of Daniel Clowes (of Eightball
and Ghost World, whose work is not my particular brand
of vodka) and Paul (Leave It To Chance) Smith, with
soft line work and more curved than hard or sharp lines. The
inking is inconsistent at points, mostly involving the character
Bill, which may be due the frequent size changes he goes through.
This was an interesting visual concept, but never fully explained
as to why Bill would go from King-Kong-Big to Gimli-Big at
a moment's notice. Still, the inking is light to reflect the
sterile quality that accompanies the Big Business feel of
the book, and Ron Randal and Willingham do well by the piece
(he writes, he inks, he draws; he's the Renaissance man of
I was forced to remember that this book is somewhat dated
due to a Vertigo nude scene that did not actually show nipples,
something every book in the Vertigo Line ends up doing eventually.
some parts didn't hit big with me, I'm recommending this book
because it hits some really good notes as far as plot and
concept go, not to mention some very humorous bits. Joey's
accidental hypothesis on how he created the universe, as all
competent gods claim, involves a monkey (fanboy favorite)
and feces (not so much a favorite as an interesting accessory
to the monkey).
paltry $14.95 (and your immortal soul), you get the full miniseries,
a snazzy introduction about the history of poker by James
McManus, and a beautiful gallery of the original painted covers
for the series. Pick this up, and then pick up Fables
if you're not reading it already. They're both worth your