Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fables: Arabian Nights (And Days)

I'd been wondering what had happened to all the great Fables from the Arabian Nights tales, people like Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba. Blue got information from the Adversary in Homelands that they were on the hit list, but they were yet to appear in the pages of Fables. The Arabian Nights (And Days) collection rectifies that.

During his time in Baghdad, Mowgli made contact with the Arabian Fables, and had tried to set up some sort of meeting between the Western Fables and their Arabian counterparts. The first signal that the 'wolf boy' has been successful is the appearance of a stretch limo out the front of the Woodlands building. As if Charming didn't have enough to deal with as Mayor, now he's got to handle a large delegation from an entirely foreign culture with different customs and a language he can't speak.

Of the two options Blue was given to make restitution for his crimes (stealing the Witching Cloak and the Vorpal Blade) he chooses two years hard labour at the Farm. Although this will get him out in the fresh air it also means he has to leave Riding Hood behind. He asks his friend Flycatcher (the Frog Prince) to keep an eye on her and there is a growing friendship between the shy girl from the Homelands and the former prince, now janitor.

To Charming's chagrin, the only available Fable that can effectively communicate with the Arabian Fables led by Sinbad, is former Mayor Old King Cole. There are also hints that Charming is planning on adding another notch to his bedpost: Beauty. Fortunately the woman comes to her senses and rebuffs his advances, but Charming never gives up easily. They were also unaware that Bufkin witnessed the entire incident.

Once Cole starts talking to the Arabs things move along, the fly in the ointment is Sinbad's obnoxious vizier; Yusuf. The situation worsens when Frau Totenkinder tells Beast that the Arabs have a WMD (Weapon of Magical Destruction), in the form of a djinn, with them. Being composed of 97% magic djinns are the most powerful magical creature there is. They're also unpredictable and hard to control, in the hands of someone like Yusuf it could spell disaster for Fabletown. The only creature they have access to who could hope to challenge a djinn is the North Wind, who is still on the Farm bonding with his grand children. He's willing to do it, but the consequences of that sort of magical battle could very well destroy the world, so he's not really an option. The scenes at the Farm often involve Snow's cubs. Being werewolves who can also fly the six siblings can create any amount of havoc . The only person who has any real control over them at this point is not Snow, but their Auntie Rose. Her interaction with the cubs is delightfully written and drawn.

Back at Fabletown Yusuf has released the djinn and it takes some pretty swift and sneaky spell casting by Frau Totenkinder to prevent the destruction of Fabletown. Yusuf has unwittingly condemned himself to a slow and painful death at the hands of his own djinn. Frau Totenkinder oversees the death and as with the torture of Baba Yaga, she revels in it too much. She seems to be on the right side for now, but her enjoyment of suffering is concerning, as is the amount of power she has and the knowledge she's gathering. Maybe she'll work out okay, but I find it hard to fully trust someone whose name translates literally as Mrs Dead Children.

At the Farm Blue finds out that his exploits in the Homelands have made him into a hero and Rose's definition of hard labour for heroes is somewhat different to what he initially expected.

Sinbad returns to his base in Baghdad and Cole goes with him in a capacity as Fabletown's ambassador to the Arabian or Easter Fables. The collection ends with Ride developing feelings beyond friendship for a clueless Flycatcher.

There's a standalone at the end of this collection called The Ballad of Rodney and June. It's largely the story of two of the wooden soldiers who develop feelings for one another and the Adversary's method of satisfying both parties. Although the story is standalone it could definitely have implications for the larger story. The artwork for that was provided by Jim Fern. The wooden soldiers were effectively portrayed, but it simply didn't have the life of Mark Buckingham's work.

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