Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fables: War and Pieces SPOILER ALERT

It had to happen sooner or later and in this the 11th collection the Fables go to war.

In the first issue of the collection; Kingdom Come, drawn by Niko Henrichon, Boy Blue is shipping out, but before he goes there two things he has to do. One is to let the Fables on the Farm know that if they want he'll take them to Prince Ambrose's kingdom of Haven in the Homelands, but there is one catch. In area Haven isn't much bigger than the Farm, and while they'll be free to leave, once they do so they won't be under any protection from the Imperial forces of the Adversary. It's up to the individual Farm Fables to choose. We never find out exactly who does elect to go and who decides to stay, but there are some hysterically funny conversations when the Fables try and choose between the technological advantages of the Mundy world (TV, iPods, the internet) and the lure of being back in the Homelands. The second thing that Blue has to do is tell Rose how he feels about her, especially once Stinky, sorry Brock the Badger explains to him that it's painfully obvious to everyone else that she's head over heels in love with him. Unfortunately by the time Blue gets around to this and he's shipping out Rose decides she doesn't want to open herself up to possible heartbreak if he doesn't return.

The second two issues, a two parter called Skullduggery features Cinderella in her secret agent glory. Pinnochio has been smuggled back from the Homelands. Fabletown's brains trust: Charming, Bigby, King Cole, Beauty, Beast and Frau Totenkinder believe that the puppet is extremely important to the war effort and they want him safely hidden in the Woodlands building. It's up to Cinderella to collect him from Chile and spirit him to New York, battling Imperial agents the entire way.

Once Pinnochio is secured the action shifts to the war in the main story; War and Pieces. Charming resigned as Mayor and gave the position back to Cole so he could take an active part in the war. He's one of the commanders on the Arabian built skyship Glory of Baghdad. Sinbad is the other commander. The skyship is held aloft by flying carpets and armed with modern Mundane weapons, they are kept up to date with what the Empire is doing by the zephyrs. Glory's chief mission is to locate and bomb the gates that connect the various Homelands to each other, which will greatly restrict Imperial troop movements.

The war is also being fought on other fronts. Bigby commands Fort Bravo, their duty is to protect the one remaining magic beanstalk to provide an escape route for the Fables if needed and to destroy it if the Imperial forces look like gaining control. The Farm is being used as a storage and staging depot and the Homelands building is their headquarters. Blue is supply, he uses the Witching Cloak to ferry himself, reinforcements, supplies and news between the various fronts of the war.

Briar Rose has been dropped into the Imperial capital with Hakim, the Arabian Fable guard and one of the 13th floor Fables, the witch Mrs Someone to protect her. When the time is right she will prick her finger and the amplification that Fabletown's magic users have placed on her usual sleeping spell will put everyone0 in the city to sleep and cause it be covered by a near impenetrable thicket of thorns.

Things go smoothly until the Emperor (who is really just a giant armoured puppet) breaks free of the thorns and gets information about Fort Bravo. He travels there and the commander there fires a specially enchanted arrow at Bigby. The arrow should find it's target and kill them. Blue gets in the way and tries to shield Bigby with the cloak. Amazingly the arrow pierces the cloak and wounds both Boy Blue and Bigby, but neither fatally. Bigby takes on the Emperor and uses guile to bring him down and allow Blue to finish him off with the Vorpal Sword.

Meanwhile an Imperial dragon squad has managed to avoid detection by Glory and launches itself in a suicide attack on the flying ship. Glory explodes and Charming and Sinbad barely manage to esscape with their lives and their payload. They're grounded, but they still have one gate to destroy. At the last Charming proves that the stories about him weren't just that, he is courageous and noble and gives his life for the greater cause.

The war is over at great cost. The Fables have captured the Adversary, Pinnochio's father Geppetto. They bring him back to Fabletown at Pinnochio's insistence. I can't see this ending well.

This was a great collection. It was fitting of a big war collection, you could sense that the series had been building to this. One criticism is that there seemed a bit of an anti climactic sense to it. The war just went too smoothly for the Fables. Although the ending was tense there wasn't the same sense of loss we got seeing some of the heroes go down in March of the Wooden Soldiers. Yes, Charming died and did so nobly, but his amoral character never allowed readers to bond to him tightly. The only other Fable that I got any sense of loss about dying was Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows and that was only because I saw his grave at the end, he never spoke and I think we only saw him once in the entire series.

I'm still eager for more!

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