Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #292: Cinderella: Fables Are Forever by Roberson & McManus

Sometimes parallels can trip you up: you want to do a story just like that other one you like, but the materials you have at hand don't really match up. So you shove them over and force them into the pattern you want, even if that doesn't entirely work. It can still be entertaining, but there's a creakiness and instability there that you didn't need to introduce.

The second spin-off Fables miniseries about Cinderella (superspy!) is a bit like that: it's a Cold War story, in large part because that's what we expect from our superspy stories. But the main conflict of the early Fables stories -- the ongoing battle with The Adversary across a thousand fable worlds -- wasn't really on that model: The Adversary was overwhelmingly more powerful, and the Fabletown crew a small, beleaguered band trying to hide, stay alive, and win through asymmetric warfare. The Cold War, on the other hand, was a battle of equals, through proxies and cutouts, and the myth was that there was a nobility and a camaraderie between the agents trying to kill each other.

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever introduces a secondary conflict that I don't remember seeing anywhere else in the many other Fables books: there's a "Shadow Fabletown" behind the Iron Curtain, and its inhabitants are spying on our beloved Fables (and vice versa) because...well, there's no actual reason, except that the plot requires it to set up that Cold War schema. The two Fabletowns aren't in conflict for resources or power or even new refugees; they're both secret enclaves, with more in common than to divide them. So writer Chris Roberson quickly skates over the source of their conflict, presenting Shadow Fabletown as a mystery in 1983 and then quickly getting the fighting started so that, presumably, no one will wonder why they're fighting.

That's all background, though -- it's fairly intrusive background, since it allows Roberson to tell a globe-hopping story both in the modern day and the early 1980s, but still primarily setting -- for a story about Cindy and her great rival, the opposite number that we never heard about before now. That opposite, of course, is also a female fable, equally adept at globe-trotting spycraft, equally attractive, equally well-known to the mundane world -- codenamed Silver Slipper, which gives away her secret identity to anyone who can tell books from movies.

So Cindy battles Silver Slipper, in the early '80s for not-entirely-clear spycraft reasons and then around 2010 because SS is back and seeking revenge. The two plots intertwine well, and there's a lot of action in both timelines, ably scripted by Roberson and drawn by Shawn McManus (whom I've neglected to mention until now: he does great work here, though his faces still have a slight tendency to be unexpectedly large and big-eyed). It's a good adventure story set in the Fables world -- but it just seems to start from a bit of worldbuilding that doesn't exactly line up with what we already known about this world.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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