The Tor.com re-read of Fables began in February and has run until the beginning of September — that’s more than half a year of posts on Bill Willingham’s creation, including spin-offs and related works. It’s been a long ride from that first volume to the finale of Jack of Fables, and the series isn’t actually over yet; the next collected volume is set to be released in December of 2011. So, how to wrap up that many pages of story, especially as it’s been more than eight weeks since we’ve talked about Fables proper here in this space?
Willingham has said that he plans on writing Fables for as long as he can—there’s no end in sight, and there are some interesting things coming down the road. That’s a unique stance for a Vertigo comic; generally they have concrete runs and aren’t open-ended. It makes for a different kind of wrap-up than I would give for a completed series. After all, there’s no ending to pontificate on!
Fables opens with the premise that a great war in the original Homelands of the various lead characters that has driven them to our New York City — that first volume is just a mystery story that introduces us to the general premise. The good news is, the premise is excellent, and it gets better from there. In the course of the fifteen volumes currently released (collecting through issue #100), that war in the Homelands is won, the Adversary becomes another citizen of Fabletown, and then Fabletown ceases to be thanks to the coming of a new, terrifying, and primordial villain.
There have been many characters lost in the course of the story, and many renewed, and many more redeemed. The outlook from here is bleak, but there will be a reckoning, I’m certain — and this time, Rose Red is at the center, with the previous puppetmasters gone or retired in their ways. It’s a whole new arc, not with a whole new cast necessarily, but a different set of arrangements for them. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here in the next volume, Super Group. (In fact, not only are we not ending at an ending, we’re ending in the middle of a building arc. Oops?)
In many ways, doing the re-read for Fables has been more difficult and also rewarding than the previous installment of the “great comics read-along,” on Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan — there are things in Fables I’m not fond of, such as intellectually challenging issues of representation, that add spice to a critical reading. At the same time, it’s one of my favorite ongoing series; I genuinely like it and think it’s a great project that can — and frequently does — do so much with the idea of story. Engaging with a text that’s fun, interesting, well-written and also occasionally problematic is so very enjoyable, as are the discussions prompted in the comments on some of my more contentious opinions.
I’ve very much enjoyed exploring the nuances of the story with this loyal audience, from the tough as nails women like Snow White and Cinderella to the questions about redemption and character development with people like Bigby and Prince Charming. Willingham has a large cast, but in my opinion, they all grow and change throughout the series in interesting ways. Even characters that were previously minor have come to the spotlight at various points and developed more when they did. Flycatcher, for one, becomes King Ambrose. That’s a big change from background character and janitor.
From here, I suspect we’ll see Willingham developing more with Geppetto’s (likely wicked) plans now that Totenkinder is gone, the new witches’ council, and the retreat from the mundy to Haven. Speaking of the Mundy, I expect we’ll learn more about it, as well, in the coming arcs — after all, the last few things King Cole says about it are that he thinks it has inherent magical narrative properties, and that leaving it might be a major mistake, but they’ll have to see. I expect to see the fables return to the mundy, but whether it will take a completed battle with Mister Dark for that to happen, I don’t know. Rose Red’s return to the scene and her grasping of the reigns was a favorite part of mine in the last volume we discussed, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here in her full capacity as war-leader and strategist. It’ll be fun, I’m sure. (And kudos to Willingham, again, for women who aren’t just strong but are also powerful leading figures.)
As for my final thoughts on all these volumes: I’m a fan of Fables, and I only pick at what I love. It has low points and high points, but it’s quality work, and I’m going to keep reading it — even after this series of posts has ended. I hope you will, too.
Though many, many artists ply their trade in Fables, it’s Mark Buckingham who gives the series its usual face; his talents have grown in notable ways throughout the series, especially in regard to character expressions and uniqueness of facial characteristics. The art is generally a joy, and that aforementioned variety of artists in special issues and branch-off storylines is especially a treat, as it allows us to see the same characters through many different lenses.
It’s also no secret that I adored the James Jean covers for the series, though the later covers by Joao Ruas are also good. Jean’s art is almost iconic; it’s certainly recognizable. His condensations of the themes of each volume into gorgeous, finely detailed covers — and each issue, really — are part of what make the Fables series so visually arresting on a bookstore shelf.
Overall, the art is great — it’s always been fun.
And that’s all, folks. Thanks for reading along with us on the Tor.com Fables Reread!