Twenty-eight fables—or, as Duffy pithily puts it: “bossy stories with a message for you”— get clever treatments and twists from nearly as many graphic artists.
Inspired by antecedents from Aesop and other traditions to more recent works from the likes of Ivan Krilov and Ambrose Bierce, the entries are a savory mix of standards and more exotic fare. Surprises lurk in even the more familiar tales: James Kochalka’s Fox can’t get those grapes despite donning a jet pack; R. Sikoryak’s “Lion + Mouse” is a terrific George Herrmann pastiche; Graham Annable jettisons the usual moral by giving his aggressive Tortoise (“In your face, you frickety fracking rabbit!”) a lift to the finish line from an eagle. Among less-familiar contributions, George O’Connor’s presentation of four tales from Aesop in which Hermes plays a role and Maris Wicks’ “The Dolphins, the Whales, and the Sprat,” featuring a small fish who delivers informative minilectures on cetacean anatomy while trying to broker a peace between warring parties, stand out. Except for R.O. Blechman’s minimalist “The Sun & The Wind” and, at an opposite, less-successful extreme, Jennifer L. Meyer’s diaphanously arty “Fox & Crow,” the fables are framed in neat panels of sharply drawn, easy-to-follow cartoon art, with legibly lettered dialogue or narrative. Morals are generally not explicitly stated but (aside from Tortoise’s triumph) are clear enough in context.
Funny, diverse, engaging: a lively addition to Duffy’s Nursery Rhyme Comics (2011) and Fairy Tale Comics (2013). (afterword, contributor notes) (Graphic fables. 7-10)