Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fables: The Dark Ages

I read this collection some time ago, but I've been busy with other things and it's a deep emotionally affecting collection. It's not an easy one to review.

After the war was over and the good guys had won you would have expected things to get better for our Fables, however the title The Dark Ages did not really hint that would be the case.

The first issue was a one shot set in Fabletown and featuring Gepetto. Pinnochio had insisted that his father be brought from the Homelands, but it was not going to be easy for him to assimilate and the Fables weren't greatly accepting of a man they believed to be guilty of genocide.

Trying to let him see the new world he was now part of was probably a good idea, but was doomed to failure. Gepetto is a nasty old man who cannot come to grips with the fact that he has lost the power he once wielded. He had a screaming match with Snow White, was nearly lynched by an angry mob and caused Kay to gouge his eyes out again.

It was a rather uncomfortable issue and the way Michael Allred drew Pinnochio was just wrong. Mark Buckingham has always drawn the puppet turned boy as a rather nasty looking little kid, you can believe he was once carved out of wood and that he has lived as a young boy for centuries. The other artists who have drawn him have followed Buckingham's lead, but Allred drew him as a sweet looking little boy, it was just so at odds with the other depictions of the character that I could not come to terms with it.

The next 5 issues were the title story arc. The action began back in the Homelands with 2 rogueish treasure hunters called Freddy and Mouse, most people believe them to be an homage to Fritz Lieber's barbarian adventurers Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and I agree. They come across what they believe is abandoned treasure in a castle and open a large box. A white skinned cadaverous creature emerges from the box. He kills the two adventurers and takes control of them. He goes by the name Mr Dark and he spells bad news for the Fables.

Back in Fabletown things are going wrong at a great rate of knots. An earthquake levels the Woodlands and the Fables lose most of their treasure. Baba Yaga gets free and Boy Blue has to have his arm amputated due to an infection caused by a shred of the witching cloak that got into his arm when he was shot by the enchanted arrow.

The Fables are forced to move en masse to the firm and Blue's condition is worsening, even though Dr Swineheart removed the thread by amputating his infected arm. Rose has taken up with Sinbad, possibly because he was the one with Charming when the Prince selflessly gave his life for the rest of the Fables.

Rose, knowing that Blue is dying, goes to him and pledges her love. Blue refuses it, Rose seems to want whatever she can't have and Blue is determined that he won't be her 'forever lover' because he's dead. Despite everyone's best efforts Blue dies. He is buried in Haven, where Ambrose and his people will remember him and what he did for them forever. Mr Dark has crossed the worlds and taken over what used to be Fabletown.

Can things possibly get any worse?

Waiting For The Blues which is an epilogue for The Dark Ages shows Blue's funeral and the belief that he will come back as Fables sometimes do. Brock the Badger looks set to begin a religion around Blue himself and that belief. Gepetto gets cornered by some of the animals on the Farm and goes missing. The Beast and Bigby throw down as everything begins to fall apart.

The last few issues cover what has been turned the Homeland Recovery. Mowgli and Bagheera along with Bigby's brothers go back to the Jungle Book lands to reclaim them from the Adversary's forces. They meet a clockwork tiger called Mountbatten (I wonder how many people got that joke?) and with the help of Bigby's brothers send the goblins packing. At least one Homeland is ready for repatriation.

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