Fables: The Dark Ages

Fables: The Dark Ages
Fables The Dark Ages review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Vertigo - 978-1-4012-2316-8
  • Volume No.: 12
  • Release date: 2009
  • UPC: 9781401223168
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Fantasy

Considering that during the course of War and Pieces the Fables vanquished the Adversary and his forces, the person who’d occupied their homeland for centuries, this would appear a rather gloomy title. It’s apt, though.

The opening chapters deal with the aftermath of the campaign to free the Homelands. Gepetto and Pinocchio take a troubled walk around Fabletown in a chapter illustrated by Mike Allred, whose art looks better brightly coloured as here than his previous work in Sons of Empire. Again, though, it would be nice if he’d bothered to draw Pinocchio as visually established. Gepetto is well characterised as an unrepentant and arrogant grouch.

Bill Willingham indulges in a Fafhrd and Grey Mouser pastiche during a glimpse into one liberated world where a deadly menace has remained trapped, but in the leaderless chaos they’re freed. An immensely powerful sorcerer named Mister Dark is now at large, not happy with what’s happened during his entrapment, and a danger to all. He’s designed as a ghastly gaunt figure by Mark Buckingham, and Willingham provides him with the unsettling habit of consuming teeth from skulls, then regurgitating them to specific effect. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Baba-Yaga is also on the loose again.

For all the comparative ease with which the Homelands were liberated, it transpires there is a price to be paid after all. Some very potent magical objects were utilised, and that comes at a cost. There’s also a personal cost for one popular cast member, and two funerals feature in this collection.

Instead of taking stock or thrashing around rudderless, Willingham propels the Fables cast full pelt into their next crisis. The rug is pulled from under them in startling and unpredictable fashion, schisms appear, and there’s an in-depth assessment of Rose Red. Much of the later material takes place on the Farm, and some of the less human Fables get a rare look in. Stinky the badger starts on a path that will result in greater prominence, and others have a plan for Gepetto.

The bulk of the book is illustrated by Buckingham, now inked by Andrew Pepoy, but there’s a less than successful artistic return for David Hahn, last seen in Homelands. He at least keeps Pinocchio consistent, but his Bigby and Beast lack bulk and gravitas. Central to this interlude is a consideration of the story and the storyteller, which, to some extent, feeds into the next volume The Great Fables Crossover. Far more satisfactory art is supplied by Peter Gross as Mowgli, Bagheera and Bigby’s brothers cross over into a goblin-occupied world. It’s a whimsical tale, and introduces Mountbatten, a clockwork tiger who’ll feature heavily in Cubs in Toyland.

This is collected along with the preceding War and Pieces in Fables Deluxe Edition Book Nine. It’s a hardback printing the pages on gloss stock rather than the pulp paper used for the regular collections. The content is also packaged with the five previous slimmer paperbacks as the massive paperback Fables Compendium Two.