Thursday, July 05, 2007

Just Read: Fables, Vol. 9: Sons of Empire by Willingham, Buckingham, and others

This is a whole lot of middle -- it's pleasant middle, and artistically interesting middle, and middle filled with characters we know and like and want to see more of -- but, still, there's no beginning here, and there's no end here.

At this point in the Fables saga, the ground rules are pretty well established: the Adversary (revealed to be Gepetto a couple of volumes back) is in control of most of the worlds of fable and folklore (or at least the main European ones), and our heroes are the plucky band who fled his forces to come to what seems to be the only world inhabited by non-magical people and live in a small, hidden enclave in New York.

(Now that I type that out, one thing does seem very suspicious -- there's only one world of "mundanes?" One, and precisely one? That seems tidy in a very unlikely way. I also wonder about more modern, more technological tales -- is the Steam Man of the Plains out there somewhere? Or the WWII Gremlins? Or a million even more up-to-date things?)

This volume collects two storylines, "Sons of Empire" (four issues) and "Father and Son" (two issues), plus two single-issue stories (one a Christmas story and the other a series of questions from readers). In the first story, Gepetto makes war plans against Fabletown, and then has to revise them -- but they're long-term plans anyway. In the second story, Snow White, Bigby Wolf, and their unruly children visit the paternal grandfather's homestead for family bonding and family history. All pleasant, all interesting, but all still middle; we can see things moving about for large confrontations, but those confrontations won't happen for a while yet.

Doing a long-running series like this is a delicate balancing act; the overplot and the individual plots need to share importance. In Fables, the overplot is currently vastly outweighing the individual plots, so all of the little stories feel a bit like distractions (or like wasting time) while we wait for the other shoe to drop.

I'm in no danger of dropping this series, but, if it is going to have a large, central over-arching plot, that needs to be the focus, and it needs to move forward. (This may end up being a problem, since the Fabletown/Adversary conflict is at the heart of the series, but once you pull Chekhov's Gun off the wall, you have to fire it pretty quickly.)

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