By Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, David Hahn, Lan Medina & Steve Leialoha
(Vertigo) ISBN 1-84576-124-3
Vertigo’s best title just keeps getting better. As well as the long anticipated revelation of the identity of the Adversary, this volume (collecting issues # 34-41 of the monthly comic) also contains concurrent adventures featuring the fate of the morally ambivalent Jack (the Giant-Killer, and the Bean-stalk, et al) plus a foreboding, foreshadowing tale featuring Mowgli’s (of Kipling’s Jungle Books) return from a mystery mission.
Fables deals with refugee fairytale characters who all fled to mundane Earth from their various mythic realms to escape conquest by a mysterious and unbeatable adversary. Keeping their true nature hidden from humanity they have created enclaves where their immortality, magic and sheer strangeness (all the talking animals are sequestered on a remote farm in upstate New York, for example) keep them luxuriously safe. Many characters wander the human world, but always under an injunction not to draw attention to themselves.
This volume begins with a revelation that the always ‘difficult’ Jack has gone to Hollywood with stolen Fable funds and created a new studio solely to create a trilogy of fantasy films detailing his own exploits, absolutely counter to Fabletown edicts. His fate (illustrated by David Hahn) serves as a lead in to the true meat of the book: Little Boy Blue’s return to the lands of Fable on a mission of revenge and a search for his lost love. Following this, Jack will be starring in his own spin-off series, of which more at a future date…
In many ways this is the most traditional story – in comic book terms – that this series has ever produced, as the heroic Blue, with the aid of plundered magic weapons taken from the Fabletown Armoury, battles his way to the adversary’s very throne room before he is defeated by the Snow Queen, the tyrant’s number two.
Compounding cliff-hanger with teaser, Willingham then switches the story back to Earth for a glimpse at the lives of the other escaped story-people. Meanwhile drawn by Lan Medina, updates the continuity with a series of vignettes that serves to set up the next major storyline as well as lay the groundwork for the eventual return of the long missing – and popular – Bigby Wolf.
Returning to the Homelands opus Willingham and Buckingham complete their tale with stirring panache, revealing the identity of the arch-foe, delivering a memorable climax, and even then managing to pull a surprise rug out from under the feet of we weary, worldly-wise funnybook veterans.
This series just keeps on improving. A wild and savvy exploration of traditional story-telling leavened with acerbic wit and cynical street-smarts, always beautifully drawn. You must read this series (but only if you’re over eighteen, or nobody in authority is watching).
© 2005 Bill Willingham & DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.