Having a limited (very limited) budget means I can only spend so much on the essentials each month (comics, movie tickets, books) and only a small amount on luxury items (food, shelter, grooming). That being said, I can only read an infinitesimally small portion of the comics I want to read. Once or twice a month I’ll go to the local comic store and pick out a handful, usually trying to adventure out into different titles, genres and publishers. There’s only a few books that rarely let me down, and I make sure to get those every month. Now, those titles are The Unwritten, Hellboy (when it does come out) and I’ll usually pick up one of the Green Lantern titles to see what sort of interstellar shenanigans are going on. The big one for me right now, and the one I’m going to go ahead and call the best ongoing comic, is Fables.
In case you haven’t heard about Fables (it took me years to finally start reading the series), it’s a monthly comic published by Vertigo, DC’s company for publishing more mature books (The Sandman, Y: The Last Man, et cetera). The entire series, apart from a few spin-offs, has been written by Bill Willingham and has interior art by Mark Buckingham, with Steve Leialoha inking. It’s a creator owned comic, meaning it’s these guys who decide what direction the story’s going to take and what guest artists to hire. I bring this up to emphasize the major perk the series has: the quality is conistent.
With superhero books, you don’t typically get that. If you look through stacks of Batman comics (especially from the nineties) you’ll see the guy hit some major low-points. One month he’ll be going through thrilling adventures that I can’t wait to read (Batman R.I.P.) and the next I’ll barely bother to follow what’s going on with him (just what is going on?) In other cases, when a title’s creator owned, it means you the reader have to wait until the creator gets around to finishing each story to buy it. Hellboy, for example, isn’t monthly or bi-monthly or tri-monthly; it comes out whenever Mike Mignola feels like it. Another example: we’re still waiting for the next League of Extradinary Gentleman comic that Alan Moore promised more than a year ago.
Fables comes out every single month. Not only that, but there’s spinoffs too written with Willingham’s cooperation or endorsement. The Jack of Fables series just wrapped up, but there’s been two mini-series starring Cinderella, who, in the Fables universe, is a James Bond style secret agent. Somehow Bill Willingham found time to also write a prose novel (Peter and Max) and several issues of the Justice Society of America. His long-time colloborator Mathew Sturges (writer of Jack of Fables) now writes for JSA: All-Stars and The House of Mystery every single month–and both of those books are good.
What about the comic itself? It’s a surprisingly deep comic, for stories featuring Pinocchio, Sher Khan, Little-Boy-Blue, the Big Bad Wolf and countless other names you may recognize. All of these characters, before the events of the series, have been forced into exile from their mythic/folkloric homes by the enemy called the Adversary. What follows is actually written to greatly resemble real life diasporas. The Fables have to immigrate into America and seek out small communities receptive to their kind. The Adversary is there to represent imperialism. The story deals heavily with how the world works: warfare, power struggles, and the need to belong.
Most importantly, Fables is a fun series to read and re-read, and that’s why I give it the honor of being the best ongoing comic for my money. If you disagree, leave the title of what you think the best ongoing comic is and I might reconsider.