Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 10 (2/13) -- Fables. Vol. 12 by Willingham, Buckingham, et. al.

Realizing that Fables -- which I still sometimes think of as the book that's keeping Bill Willingham from getting out the fourth issue of Coventry -- is now eight years old and in its twelfth collection does nothing to help my occasional feelings of being old and tedious. ("You whippernappers! I was reading Elementals when it was being published! Before it started sucking golf balls through a garden hose, too!") But time moves on, and we have to move with it.

This book is entitled The Dark Ages, and is anchored by the story of the same name, by the core Fables team of Willingham (writer) and Mark Buckingham (artist). Also included are Willingham-written single-issue stories with art by (for one) Michael Allred and (the other) David Hahn, plus a serialized back-up story with art from Peter Gross. Dark Ages follows the previous book, War and Pieces, which many thought was a natural end for the series and wrapped up the major fighting-the-Adversary plotline from the previous seventy-some issues.

But Dark Ages shows that the previous storyline wasn't the end of the story of Fables, and it's pretty clear that Willingham planned it that way; this isn't an epilogue or an attempt to start a new story, but an examination of what happens afterwards. Besides the obvious questions -- what do you do after you've accomplished the great deed of your times? what are the personal and political ramifications of winning the war that defined your society? -- there are the specific issues of the Fables universe. Sure, the Adversary was a bloody-handed tyrant who slaughtered millions to bring a thousand worlds under his rule...but, along the way, he sealed or neutralized a host of other nasty folkloric entities, and those may now find their way to freedom. And those thousand worlds are full of people who want to live free...and of people who want to get rich the quick and easy way, or conquer and slaughter their neighbors, or a million other things that are detrimental to peace and good order.

If the defining metaphor of the first act of Fables was the myth of modern Israel -- the plucky, embattled small land fighting against overwhelming odds on all sides -- this second act looks to draw much more heavily from the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, with unintended consequences blossoming both in Fabletown and across those thousands of now "liberated" worlds. In this book, there's already a major death in the aftermath of the war, a new and dangerous power coming to the mundane world, and a major disaster in Fabletown. It's no comics cliche to say that, by the end of this book, the status quo for Fables has been completely changed -- more so even than by the end of the war.

Willingham has always been a writer willing and able to torment his characters, all the way back to the Elementals days. (Remember: that superhero team was made up of four people who died in horrible ways to get their powers.) Fables has generally had Willingham channeling that in a friendlier, more grand-adventure way -- there have been deaths, but generally heroic ones, and Our Heroes did win their big war -- but I would not be surprised to see the darker side of Willingham coming more and more to the fore. (This may be the time for Fables fans to dig those three Coventry issues out, to remind themselves of what he's willing to do.)

I'm glad to see that; falling in love with his own creations is one of the deadliest sins for any writer, and I'm confident that it hasn't happened to Bill Willingham. So I'll stick with Fables to see where it goes next -- and remember that there are hundreds of folkloric folks that he could write about, so I shouldn't get too attached to any of the ones currently populating this book.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Paper Route - Thank God The Year Is Finally Over
via FoxyTunes

No comments:

Post a Comment