Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Sandman Presents: Thessaly - Witch For Hire #4 - A Review

Written by: Bill Willingham
Penciled by: Shawn McManus
Inked by: Shawn McManus
Cover by: Tara McPherson
Colored by: Pamela Rambo
Lettered by: Phil Balsman
Editor: Mariah Huehner
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

I should honestly feel cheated. I don’t, but I should. The last issue’s final page promised “No More Talking Heads. It’s All Monsters From Here On Out.” Well, we don’t get much in the way of two-fisted, monster fighting action in this issue. Indeed, the big battle that the whole mini-series has been building towards is barely allotted a single page. And there are a LOT of talking heads.

Still, like with all the Fables whom Willingham writes about monthly, it is not the destination that matters. Only the journey along the way holds our interest. And in this, the final issue of Thessaly: Witch For Hire, Willingham concludes what has been one heck of a journey.

This mini-series was a sequel to Willingham’s first Thessaly story: The Thessaliad (available as part of “The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales” at fine comic shops everywhere) and has proven to be a worthy effort, as a sequel, an individual story and one more thing for us fans of Willingham’s work on Fables or The Sandman series in general to collect.

To quickly sum up the plot, Thessaly is an older than old witch, who still looks like a rather mousey college girl. She is being haunted by Fetch, a gestalt ghost made up of the spirits of every person Thessaly has ever killed. Fetch is, despite this, madly in love with Thessaly and winds up signing her up for an obligation: a mission to deal with several monsters. He does this in order to make her life more interesting and getting her out of the house.

Thessaly would be quite content to spend eternity reading and not doing anything at all interesting, but has a mean streak a mile wide concerning anyone who disrupts her life or tries to kill her. She deals with the various monsters only to find that the last one is a beast of pure chaos who is now dead set on killing her, all thanks to the manipulations of Fetch’s employer, who was the original target of the chaos beast (A Tharmic Null, by name) and was able to set the beast on Thessaly thanks to some superior magical legal maneuvering. That brings us to the start of this issue where everything thing gets settled, to no one’s satisfaction but the readers.

(Yes, that WAS the quick version!)

Art fans will have nothing to complain. McManus, another alumni of The Sandman, does some great work here managing the neat trick of making Thessaly look innocent and mousy and yet very powerful when appropriate. The various monsters and ghoulies are illustrated appropriately in a style that manages to maintain the book’s sense of humor, even when dealing with concepts such as a woman being eaten by her suddenly feral house cats.

The story is left wide open for yet another sequel. Personally, I’d love to see a regular series based around Thessaly’s adventures but I suspect TPTB would be content to leave Lucifer as the only Sandman spin-off seeing regular publication. Regardless, this book is a treat be you Sandman fan, Willingham enthusiast or just a lover of a good ripping yarn.

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