Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love is a side-story volume about Cinderella that was released in 2010. As one might guess from the title, it’s a spy-thriller sort of story, with Cinderella tracking down magical items that have been smuggled into the mundane world and stopping it from continuing. There’s also a story about her assistant at The Glass Slipper having misadventures while she’s away on business.
(Just a quick note: The Jack of Fables reread will be back next week!)
This volume isn’t written by Bill Willingham, but rather by Chris Roberson, of I, Zombie repute. The art is by Shawn McManus, with colors by regular Lee Loughridge and letters by regular Todd Klein. The covers are by Chrissie Zullo.
The story opens with Cinderella doing her spy thing in London then coming home to receive another assignment from Beast straight away — someone’s smuggling magical artifacts into the mundane world in high quantities. She goes to see Totenkinder for some magic of her own, then to the Farm to recruit three helper animals who can be summoned to her using her bracelet. When she gets to Dubai, she’s attacked by Aladdin, who says he’s hunting for the same smugglers she is, and thought she was one. (Back home, Crisping, her store manager, is making some decisions on his own about ordering new stock.) He takes her along to a rooftop auction of a magical item, where a veiled woman recognizes them and sends her bodyguards — flesh-eating shapeshifters — after them. Aladdin whips out a magic carpet and they narrowly escape, but he’s been bitten and needs to lie low while the poison wears off.
Crispin, meanwhile, has ordered and is selling magic shoes, which everyone is buying. Except, it turns out that he doesn’t know how to turn them off — the running shoes keep running, dancing shoes keep dancing, etc. Meanwhile, Cinderella is on Aladdin’s private jet as they hunt down the items. They parachute onto an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, find the cache, and get caught by Safiya and her two sisters. The women chain up Cindy and Aladdin and are going to suffocate them with drilling mud, but Cinderella summons up the cat who is Puss in Boots, and he sets them loose. Cindy and Aladdin find whole boxes of mundane weaponry, which they pilfer to take out all the guards, then take Safiya and her sisters captive. Safiya explains that they were trading for weapons to secure a small chunk of the Homelands for themselves, free of tyranny and patriarchal oppression. (Well, those words don’t come out of her mouth because the script isn’t quite smart enough for them, but it’s the general intent.)
Then, it’s a matter of finding where the magical items were coming from, so they travel through the Arabic Fables’ portal into an icy strange world where everyone’s forced to smile at gunpoint and all magic is a matter of execution. Aladdin is captured and Cindy meets up with rebels, who set her up to get in the palace. Once there, she rescues him and encounters the villain of this half of the piece — her own old fairy godmother, who’s given up doing good spells to make people happy and decided to force them into it on pain of death instead. Her magic ends at midnight, though, and so after a long chat about free will and how crazy the Godmother is, Cindy sets free her last asset, the mouse who’s from “Hickory-Dickory-Dock.” He winds time forward so midnight falls and the Godmother is magic-free. Cinderella doesn’t kill the woman herself, but rather gives her to the townspeople to take care of. Afterwards, she takes Aladdin home and they spend a weekend together before he has to return to Baghdad. Oh, and Crispin has to have A Talk with Beast about selling magical items and how illegal it is, then pay for all the returns to the cobbler elves.
I was uncomfortable with Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love the first time I read it, and this time around wasn’t any better. In fact, it may have actually seemed worse upon re-reading. For one thing, the characters don’t feel quite right to me—Beast is a comical, overexcited guy who yells when he doesn’t need to yell, here. Does that sound anything like the Sherriff Beast from the past several volumes of Fables, especially in his role as spymaster? No. Cinderella doesn’t seem quite right, either. Totenkinder is probably the worst of the lot; her few lines don’t feel like anything she would have said.
I suppose that’s the danger of having a new writer work with old characters, but I’ve also seen co-writing and guest-writing go very well, so — perhaps it’s just this story that doesn’t work for me at all.
Then, we get to the actual plot. I have to say, “evil feminists did it” is probably my least favorite plot device, ever. There is so much hair-raisingly wrong about Safiya and her sisters’ characterization and the way they’re portrayed that it makes me want to throw the book. The lines about how being a sex slave really wasn’t so bad? Wow. Wow.
Also, why the flying fuck are they still wearing their stereotyped “sexy harem” outfits during this weapons-dealing mission that is expressly for the purpose of securing them a chunk of the Homelands where they can live unmolested and free, together as women? It’s mind-bogglingly stupid and badly thought out, though I’m not sure who to blame, artist or writer. The infantilizing nature of constantly calling them “girls” or “ladies” isn’t a good thing, either—it makes them comical, hapless villains, as well as seeming to show in dialogue that Cinderella has no more respect for other women than a man would, and I just don’t believe that in the slightest.
I suppose I should go ahead and just say that I didn’t like this comic, not one bit.
The one good, interesting bit is seeing Cinderella combat her old Fairy Godmother, who it turns out is kind of a psychopath. It’s a cool plot twist that this Godmother was the one always trying to do good things and make people happy — though, she fails to actually think things through — while Totenkinder was coming behind her and wrecking things. She’s just decided to force people to be happy, instead, because she can. The argument they have about Prince Charming is pretty hilarious and revealing, also. The confrontation between Cinderella and her Godmother was the best bit of the comic, far and above.
I’ve already made one complaint about the art, above, but there’s another — seriously, in the “Maryland, 1862” section, what made it seem like a good idea to illustrate the black slave woman like that? What would make that seem like a good idea? I need to know.
Aside from those bits of horrible, the art isn’t very impressive overall. Facial structure changes between panels for characters and often looks mismatched to their bodies, children look strange and ill-proportioned (especially Aladdin in his flashback), et cetera. It’s just clumsy work, and it didn’t help with the already stumbling story.
Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love was a spy thriller tale that doesn’t get any love from me, with its awkward characterization and “evil feminists did it” plot.
Next week: Jack of Fables: Jack of Hearts (V. 2).