Friday, December 7, 2012

Comic Quickies: Wrapping Up Fables

Fables Vol. 9 Sons of Empire: In this ninth volume of the Fables series, which I've plunged head-long into over the past half-year, there's a definite "calm before the storm" feeling.  Both sides, the Adversary and his empire, and the exiled Fables gear up for war.

In the Homelands, the Adversary calls together his most trusted advisers for a war council.  Together, they plan an invasion that would more or less decimate earth and all it's inhabitants, while putting an end to the threat of the exiled Fables.  Pinocchio, who's become on of the Adversary's favorites, is faced with the unfortunate task of throwing a big monkey wrench in their plans.

Meanwhile, Bigby Wolf, Snow White and their family embark on a risky trip back to the homelands to pay a visit to Bigby's dad, and his cubs' grandfather, the North Wind.  Bigby and North don't totally get along, so it's a trip neither one is looking forward to.

While all that is going down, the Empire sends an ambassador to Fabletown, Hansel, one of the two kids who stuffed Fabletown head-witch Frau Totenkinder into a hot oven.  Hansel is all grown up now and he's a total prick, which makes him a great match for Fabletown Mayor, Prince Charming.

I can't say that this was my favorite Fables volume, as it did more to cause me to lose steam for the series than it did to make me want to keep reading.  Under different circumstances, this is definitely a volume that would have caused me stall out on the series for a bit. However, I had the 10th and 11th volumes on loan from the library, so instead of taking a break, I forged onward.

Fables Vol. 10 The Good Prince: I'd been wondering when the Frog Prince, also known as Flycatcher, who up to this point has been seen mostly as the Fabletown custodian, would get a chance to shine in this series.  That question is answered here in this tenth volume, as Flycatcher finally gets his shit together, dons some sweet magical armor, hops down the witching well, puts together an army of ghosts, and travels back to the homelands.

Upon returning, he sets up his very own kingdom within the very confines of the Adversary's own homeworld, and begins building a castle and recruiting followers to his cause.  Flycatcher's kingdom, called Haven, is special because no harm can come to those who are part of the kingdom.  As more fables come to join Haven, the boundaries of Flycatcher's kingdom expand, and soon the Adversary starts chucking armies at Haven to remove the pest from his empire's backside.  However, the prince has a few non-violent tricks up his sleeves.

I was a little torn on this volume between like and dislike.  Sure, it was cool to see Flycatcher come up with a peaceful solution to problems which saved countless lives, but on the other hand, this whole story thread seemed just a little too convenient of a way for Willingham to remove a huge portion of the threat to Fabletown.  *Sigh* With the epic showdown looming so close, once again, this story arc did more to cool me off on this series.  There's just too much build and not enough payoff.  These last two volumes have felt more like bloat, or teasers.  I definitely have the feeling that the last two volumes could have easily been condensed, or trimmed in favor of taking a more direct line towards the conclusion of the main story arc.

Fables Vol. 11 War and Pieces: At long last, this eleventh volume finally gets to the long awaited war between the scrappy exile Fables and the Adversary and his world's spanning empire.  I've been excited to see this battle since the end of the first story arc.

Too bad I was a bit let down by the whole thing.

After about 70 issues of mounting tension, plots, sub-plots, twists, and a fair amount of bloat, Willingham finally gets around to telling the story of the war for the Homelands, and he told it in such a way that it felt like I was reading a highlight reel for the war.

I honestly felt a bit cheated.

This is a comic that gave something like nine issues to Flycatcher, a story arc that felt like a plot device to get the writer out of  a tight bind, but less than five issues to a confrontation that has been building for the entire length of the series.  That's not to say the conclusion wasn't good.  It was good.  I just wanted more of it.  This was the pay-off I've been reading towards and I felt like it barely got covered. I was sad.

As much as I've enjoyed this series overall, I don't think I could have read it in single issues, it would have been way too tiresome and tortuous, especially given the pay-off.  Overally, I'd say this is a remarkable comics series, but could have been much, much better with less bloat and a more finely tuned focus.  My plan has been to read Fables up to this point and then quit, unless I really wanted to carry on with the series.  After having read the first eleven trades worth, and covering everything up to my original destination, I gotta say that I don't have any urge to continue on with this series.

Despite being a series that flagged heavily towards the end, this is still a pretty great fantasy comic.  Sure I was a bit let down by the effort put into the ending, but it is still a pretty good ending.  Certainly not perfect, though no series is, I still recommend Fables, but with the caveat that one will have to be prepared for some writerly indulgence which leads to bloating along the way.

Overall Series Grade: B-


Bryce L. said...

I need to read more Fables. I read the first couple and liked the world, but I think I just like superheroes better. The first one was also a bit underwhelming. It introduced a cool world, but the actual story was pretty lame to be honest.

Alan T said...

Interesting. I did read this in single issues and ths was around the point that I junped off.

Alan T said...

Or jumped :)

Ryan said...

@Bryce- The world is quite impressive. Lots of freedom to do awesome things...which is a blessing and a curse, 'cause the series has some bloat to it. I think it's worth delving into further though.

@Alan T- I can't believe you read this in single issues. I would have gone crazy. Willingham likes to build things up too slow for my tastes.