James Jean (art and text) and Bill Willingham (afterword), Fables
Covers -- The Art of James Jean
(Vertigo, 2008)

I recently re-read the first twelve trade collections, plus the prequel, of Fables and I must say that it was even better this time than it was the first time! (I really like books that I can easily read while curled in a chair, unlike the Sandman Absolutes, which are very cool yet a pain in the ass to read due to their size. So I was delighted when I heard that Fables is getting released in hardcover trade editions like Starman instead of a series of absolute editions!) Needless to say, I was delighted to see this arrive in the post!

For the uninitiated, James Jean's cover art work for DC Comics and Vertigo has set the comic book industry and fans alike buzzing for well over. If you're familiar with his work, then you've probably suffered severe bouts of sketchbook envy. Fables Covers is indeed exactly what the title says -- a collection of all the covers he's done for the Fables series.

It is worth noting that James Jean has only worked professionally for seven years after graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His DC and Vertigo work has garnered seven Eisner awards, three consecutive Harvey awards, two gold medals and a silver from the Society of Illustrators of LA, and a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators of NY. Jean also has an impressive commercial career, including working for the likes of Prada and Pepsi. Truly amazing!

So how outstanding is his work on Fables? Just check out his explanation of how the cover was done here. (clicking on the images increases them to full size.) The finished illustration for the cover of the Fables Cover collection Cover is quite amazing -- easily one of the coolest pieces of cover art I've seen. Note that there are nearly ninety covers here (including the Fables prequel, 1001 Nights of Snowfall and the trades) shorn of their overlaying material in the original printing. You'll find much to enjoy here provided that you're a serious Fables fan, as I doubt these illustrations mean much to you otherwise, nor would his notes on each illustration interest you either.

But if you are a fan like me, there's hours of entertainment here examining each illustration. Jean has put a lot of detail into his work for this series and it's apparent that, like Bill Willingham, who created and writes Fables and its spin-off series, Jack of Fables, believes in this ever so fantastic creation. My favorites ,for sheer detailed awesomeness, include the 1001 Nights of Snowfall wrap-around cover in its shades of grey depicting winter ever so well, the secret stated explicitly if you know what's going on in cover number 64 ('The Birthday Secret'), and trade collection number eight (Wolves). I can certainly say that the Fables Covers made for some very pleasant eye candy on several cold winter nights recently!

Oh, there are several other goodies here, including the really fully afterword by Willingham ('Nosy Questions' is its title) and one other goodie that I shall not describe as it should be a surprise!

[Cat Eldridge]