Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #263: Fables, Vols. 15 & 16 by Willingham, Buckingham, et. al.

It's not that I avoided writing about the Fables series for the past three years -- since I covered the fourteenth volume, Witches, in early 2011 -- it's that I haven't actually read any of the Fables books since then, as my flood later that year threw a giant hitch in my reading plans and discombobulated everything. (I've still got the last two collections of Jack of Fables on the shelf, plus a Cinderella collection -- and that's not even counting Fairest, which I haven't gotten around to even picking up in a store.)

But I used to really enjoy this series, and I've been following writer Bill Willingham's work since Elementals back in the 1980s -- and that's a property that's been completely forgotten for some unknown reason; I'd have expected a nice fat collection of it any time in the past eight years -- so I decided to jump back in with both feet, and read the next two collections, Rose Red and Super Team, back to back. As usual, the penciller for most of the stories is Mark Buckingham, who has been with the series since the beginning, and he's mostly inked by Steve Leialoha. But, as usual, the maw of monthly comics publication require fill-ins, and big complicated stories that can range across all of imaginative literature call out for varied visual presentations, so there's also artwork here from Eric Shanower, from Inaki Miranda, and from Terry Moore.

Willingham has always written this series in rather vague arcs, more Claremont X-Men than Gaiman Sandman, with a much larger plot going on overall and the smaller stories -- from a single issue to five or six, twenty pages to about a hundred and fifty -- usually illuminating some piece of backstory for that larger story, or moving it forward just a bit, or providing a bit of color. So there have been about twenty collections of Fables so far, but only two stories to this point, really: the battle against the Adversary, and then the battle against Mister Dark.

The latter story comes to a climax in both of these volumes, seeming finished near the end of Rose Red only to flare up again until what I believe is a more lasting ending in Super Team. But most the pages of these books tell other stories -- a long digression to Rose Red's youth in the first volume, along with a single-issue tour of Mister Dark's ever-more-dangerous and depressing New York; and the second one focuses mostly on an eventually useless (and always silly and comics-fan indulgent) plan to defend the Fables' last home against that Mister Dark, while their salvation happens somewhere else, at someone else's hands.

It's all very periodical comics-style: there's twenty-some pages to fill this month and every month, so there's plenty of time to digress over here and there as long as the audience is still interested. Willingham's building blocks here are always issues; he may have arcs that cover several issues, or issues broken into shorter stories, but the issue is always there, always the core metric of a mainstream comics series. Fables isn't exactly tired by this point -- it's a huge, nearly infinite conceit, with more stories than any creative team could exhaust -- but this particular core cast has a lot of miles behind them, and a shrinking story-space for their future adventures. So knowing that the end of the series is looming isn't a bad thing -- and, after all, there are around eight hundred more pages of Fables to go from this point.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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