Friday, April 16, 2010
Fables: Storybook Love
Storybook Love, the 3rd of the Fables collections is put together a little bit differently than it’s predecessors. Whereas Legends in Exile and Animal Farm were collections of 4 – 5 issues each that covered a single, largely self contained story arc, Storybook Love was a whopping 8 issues, 2 of which was standalone, 1 2 issue story, 4 issues were the title story.
The 1st story called Bag ‘O Bones, is essentially a retelling of some old legends about cheating the Devil at cards and forcing Death to take a holiday. It’s set during the American Civil War and the Fables connection is that the central character is Jack of the Tales. Aside from being an entertaining story it served to give the reader a greater insight into the character of Jack, who while he had played parts in Legends in Exile and Animal Farm and seemed to be an active member of the Fable community, had not really been covered in any depth.
The double issue story, fittingly called A Two-Part Caper, was exactly that. A caper story that ran over 2 issues. It takes place while Snow White is recuperating from the injuries she sustained during the rebellion at the Farm. In her absence Bigby, Bluebeard and Charming are running the show. An ambitious Mundane reporter approaches Bigby and tells him that he knows what the Fables are and he intends to expose them. It could win him a Pulitzer prize. Admittedly he mistakenly thinks that they are a vampire community, but publicity of this kind could ruin Fabletown and its inhabitants. Along with Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) the Fables hatch a plan to discredit and silence the journalist. Bigby and Bluebeard clash because Bluebeard wants to kill the 'Mundy', wheras Bigby believes the man can be taken care of without bloodshed. Bigby’s method wins out, but there’s a chilling post script that underlines how ruthless Bluebeard can be.
Storybook Love sees Bigby and Snow missing from Fabletown, having gone on an unexpected camping holiday together. The two most influential members of Fabletown have been enchanted and Bluebeard is taking advantage of this to position himself for a takeover. Charming is rightly suspicious and enlists the Lilliputians to spy on the wife murderer. He was right to do so, Bluebeard is behind the ‘camping trip’, and is trying to have his lover Goldilocks murder the wolf and the former princess. Bigby and Snow wake from their enchantment and it takes every bit of Snow’s ingenuity and resourcefulness along with Bigby’s ‘wolfish’ powers to survive the attacks from the largely unseen, insane assassin. Back in Fabletown Charming end Bluebeard sort out once and for all who will be the community’s next power broker, and Charming launches his bid for mayor of Fabletown. Once back home and on the job again Snow gets some news that could not only impact her, but the entire population of Fabletown.
Barleycorn Brides is a whimsical little fairy tale about how the Lilliputians wound up getting a female population and the ability to reproduce.
The artwork is another difference in this collection. The stories are as always written by Bill Willingham, but regular series artist Mark Buckingham only provides the drawings for Storybook Love. Legends in Exile penciller Lan Medina does A Two-Part Caper, Bryan Talbot's work features in Bag ‘O Bones and Linda Medley works on Barleycorn Bride. There’s not a lot of difference between Buckingham, Medina and the Talbot, but the work of Linda Medley in Barleycorn Bride was rather cartoonish and didn’t suit the rest of the series, it worked (just) for this story, but I wouldn’t like the see this style on a more regular Fables storyline.
During Storybook Love I was struck by how similar Mark Buckingham had made Bigby in his human form to Wolverine. The two characters are not dissimilar, they’re both rough diamonds who have pasts that they’re not proud of, they have heightened animalistic senses, they can heal from almost any mortal wound and there’s a dangerous berserker fury that simmers just beneath the surface. It’s probably not a huge stretch to think that Willingham based Bigby to a certain extent on the X-Men’s Logan.
As with Legends in Exile and Animal Farm I want more!