Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fables: Witches

Witches is the 14th collection of Fables, it comprises issues #86 - #93.

I’m happy to report that it appears as if The Great Fables Crossover was a blip on the radar. It should have been confined to the spin off book starring Jack, but for some reason bled into the parent book. You could do yourself a favour by skipping The Great Fables Crossover altogether and going straight into Witches. The Great Fables Crossover gets only the briefest of mentions and you can easily understand the events in Witches without having any further knowledge of the preceding volume.

The first chapter is from the villains point of view. Mr Dark tells readers the story of how he came to be captured and why he was discovered in a treasure filled crypt. This is important background and also a well told war story.

The main part of Witches is split into 2 stories. One concerns the battle going on in the now disconnected Woodlands building and the other how the Fables, specifically the former inhabitants of level 13 of the Woodlands building; the magic users, are handling their enforced exile to the farm now living in their pumpkin house, another great touch by Bill Willingham and regular series artist Mark Buckingham. I’ll talk about each story separately.

Bufkin, the flying monkey was trapped in the Woodland building when it got shut off from this plane of existence. His only real company was Frankie (the head of Frankenstein that Bigby liberated from the Nazis during WW II) and the magic mirror. He also had a number of the wooden soldiers heads. The earthquake that cut the Woodland building off also freed the dangerous witch Baba Yaga and the djinn that the Fables had in the building. Bufkin attempts to warn the deadly duo off, but as he just looks like a monkey in armour, carrying a sword that’s too big for him they laugh at him. The mirror advises him to use the knowledge he’s gleaned from centuries of reading the books in the building’s extensive library to fight back. Never get on the bad side of a flying monkey, especially not one that reads EVERYTHING. Bufkin tricks the djinn back into a bottle and with the help of the wooden soldiers and a brave band of recently grown Barleycorn Brides (they’re used as mates for the largely male dominated Liliputian society on the farm) Bufkin also manages to defeat Baba Yaga, although his victory is won at great personal cost.

Back on the farm King Cole is concerned about the Fables lack of money and tells Frau Totenkinder about this. The old witch makes a decision and believes that she can relieve the financial squeeze, but she’ll have to go back to the Homelands to do it. She gives the garment she seems to have been endlessly knitting to Sheriff Beast. Her uncanny prescience was right again, Beauty is pregnant. Interestingly the jumper (?) has more than the accepted number of limbs and it’s also too large for a newborn. Someone did once ask Bill Willingham what it was Frau Totenkinder was always knitting and one of his answers was: babyclothes for Beauty and the Beast’s child. Maybe he wasn’t joking. She knew Beauty was pregnant before anyone else, maybe she got it right about what the child will be, too.

Once in the Homelands she finds Mr Dark’s crypt and magically transfers the money back to the farm, then she goes in search of the warrior wizard who designed the box that trapped the evil creature in the first place. The Fables aren’t taking Dark’s slight to them laying down. They’re going to fight back.

Frau Totenkinder’s absence sets the young looking witch Ozma thinking. It’s about time the Fables witches and wizards had a change of leadership, and she’s just the girl to do it. She takes charge and bullies the others into voting for her as their leader. It would appear just in time. The former Adversary; Gepetto, has climbed out of the grave some of the Fables buried him in and done a deal with the great oak in the forest on the farm to make a play for the leadership of the Fables. His dryad guardians warn anyone who wishes him harm off, and the wily old man may just win over the support of enough Fables to regain his position of power. That’s when Ozma steps into the game. She displays her power by turning the fox Reynard into a man and allowing him to transition between the 2 forms (man & fox) whenever he wants…forever. When this fails to impress Gepetto, she plays her trump card…and in flies the Blue Fairy and she is p’ed off! That’s where Willingham hung the cliff and left me waiting for collection #15.

The other story was a two parter set in Flycatcher’s realm. The first part was a Fables style rewriting of Ernest Thayer’s baseball poem Casey at the Bat. Unfortunately the winning team’s pitcher; a goblin, got drunk and ate a squirrel on the way home. It took some pretty fast thinking by Fly to serve justice and at the same time prevent a rebellion from tearing his fledgling kingdom apart. The story ended with a significant advancement in the relationship between Fly and Red Riding Hood. Haven may soon be getting a queen.

Ignore The Great Fables Crossover. Witches is indicative of Fables and the magic is back!

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