Linda Medley's excellent "Castle Waiting: Volume 2" released almost two years ago as a lovely hardcover collection from Fantagraphics. Volume 2, like Volume 1 that preceded it, was incredible, with one small exception: it ended very abruptly. This single issue #18, ties up that volume beautifully and puts the characters exactly where they need to be both for closure purposes and as a set up for future stories to continue at any time. It's unfortunate that for whatever reason this issue wasn't included in the hardcover (timing, money, size?), but what's done is done.
This issue on its own reads with all the strength and beauty of every issue that came before it. The idea behind "Castle Waiting" for the uninitiated is simply the setting of a castle (formerly the Sleeping Beauty Castle, now dubbed Castle Waiting) in which fairytale and fable characters without a home have found one -- making the strangest of friends into their own new family. The stories follow Medley's characters almost arbitrarily, with a natural ebb and flow that only the best of storytellers can manage. Most of her fairytale characters are recognizable but distinctly different from their original and most well known tales, and Medley tends to like playing most with the side characters so often ignored in stories.
Medley's characters are incredibly inventive and easy to love. Her clean black and white artwork is efficient and precise without ever feeling stiff or emotionless. Medley approaches these characters and ideas with a boundless creativity that never feels forced, instead there is an effortless element to how her stories unfold, natural and without true purpose. Perhaps ironically, even though this is fiction of the highest order, it somehow also feels like the best of memoir, in that Medley is simply interested in exploring these people's lives. Sometimes exciting things happen, and sometimes they just sit around and talk, but it's always somehow fascinating.
For readers that have been reading Medley's series all along, this is another great installment, and one that is both open ended enough so that Medley can do whatever she likes, but complete enough that it feels finished if need be. For those that have never tried "Castle Waiting," I cannot recommend it more highly, though you should of course start at the beginning.