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Bookends: All good fables must come to an end January 28, 2016

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: All good fables must come to an end

By Dan Davidson

August 16, 2015

– 843 words –

Fables 150: FarewellFables 150

written by Bill Willingham

art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green and 26 others


160 pages



Fables, the comic book series, began with a mystery. Issues 1 to 5 were collected in book form as Legends in Exile, and developed the idea that a vast number of the characters who inspired our legends and folktales have been living, for some time, in a New York enclave that they call Fabletown. Only the human seeming fables could live there, and we later learned that there was an upstate Animal Farm where non-human fables resided.

Through 150 issues, published individually and in 22 collected volumes since 2002, the fables have been dealing with the problems created by a number of fearsome foes, as well as internal issues.

They had been driven from their homelands, which can be found in other dimensions, by a world conquering tyrant known as the Adversary. He intended to extend his conquest to Earth, known to the Fables as the Mundy (for Mundane) World. Roughly the first half of the series involves the story arc in which the problem of the Adversary is slowly revealed and brought to a resolution.

The next big problem comes from the fact that a very evil being called Mr. Dark, who had been captured by the Adversary during his conquests, is freed from his imprisonment and is able to wreak a considerable amount of havoc through many worlds before coming to Earth and affecting Fabletown.

As each problem’s solution tends to create a newer problem, so the resolution of the Dark threat exacerbates what have always been issues between the sisters Snow White and Rose Red, and the series moves towards its end by examining their family history and how those issues might be resolved.

Working with public domain characters, Willingham has felt free to reinterpret and put his own spin on their lives. Jack, for instance, is an avatar of all the fables named Jack, and his story became complicated enough to spin off into its own 50 issue series, also collected in a set of volumes.

Jack, like all the fables, is more or less immortal, his lifespan and general health determined by the number of people who have read about him and enjoyed his adventures. When Goldilocks becomes a psychotic anarchist and raises a revolt at the Farm, it becomes impossible to kill her because her story is so well known.

The first Sheriff of Fabletown is a fellow named Bigby (which is short for Big Bad), who is actually the Big Bad Wolf of many legends. Turns out he is a shapeshifter and can assume human form. He has reformed, largely due to having fallen in love with Snow White, and they eventually marry and have a litter of shapeshifting kids. Snow is the administrator of Fabletown working under King Cole, who is the elected mayor, until he is defeated by a certain Prince Charming, who has, at some point, been involved with most of the major fable females in a number of stories.

Willingham decided that these fables princesses had interesting stories that could be told, and that developed into another series called The Fairest. Other writers have been called in to flesh out these stories.

Willingham has used a wide range of story types to spin out this series. It began with a noir style detective story, and moved on to explore various genre types, including the conspiracy thriller and the caper story. It came to include romances, high fantasy, war stories, adventure tales and sheer comedy. There are long story arcs that run for five or six issues and then there are short items, perhaps not more than a page or two, that deal with small incidents and tie off some loose plot threads. Finally, of course there is this one, single, 160 page issue which devotes about half its space to wrapping up the Snow vs. Rose conflict.

The rest of the book is a series of “The Last…” stories, vignettes tying off the story arcs of some of the lesser characters in the list. This is where those 26 other artists that I mentioned come into play. Apparently a lot of creative folks wanted to contribute to this final volume, which culminates in a family gathering set in the Bigby/Snow compound (called Wolfholm, of course) about 1000 years in the future.

As we near the end of the series, we learn that the nearly everything we’ve read has actually been written by Ambrose, one of Bigby and Snow’s children.

Fables has been a positive pleasure for the last 13 years, and I shall miss it. It’s one of the few comics that I continued to buy (in collected editions) in hard copy format after I largely moved over to reading digital editions (I know – but it solved a storage problem). Fortunately, I can still read the whole series again, at my leisure.












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