Review by Frank Plowright
The way in which Fables breaks down as a series leaves this very much a transitory volume, spotlighting individual cast members with more than two rarely seen together. While this may disappoint readers who’d prefer a direct continuation of the previous volume’s startling events and revelations, there’s some excellent material here.
Bill Willingham’s quirky side is on display in the opening tale, which poses questions. Can wooden puppets fall in love? Should this be permitted? And what if they’d prefer to be human? In context these are small, but potentially empire-crumbling issues should they spread further. Among the puppet community there’s an element of revulsion about what’s considered perversity, and when the puppets discuss human needs and habits it’s both amusing and enlightening. Jim Fern applies a decorative style to illustrate.
The other guest artist on display here is Shawn McManus with a tale of Cinderella among the giants of the cloud community, only relatively recently contacted by the Fables. It’s a whimsical tale of awkward negotiation and even more awkward medical problems, while Willingham’s characterisation of the giants again reverses expectation. This is a trick he’s repeating from the earliest days of Fables, yet it’s also necessary for the ongoing plot.
In Fabletown it’s been decided that whatever the issues between Bigby and Snow White, his disappearance has left the community more than usually vulnerable, and it would be best to locate him. This task falls to Mowgli, and if ever there was an example of the journey being purpose itself, it’s here. Bigby’s not a wolf easily located if he wants to remain concealed, Mowgli’s trials are epic and his persistence equally so.
Mark Buckingham returns for that story and also illustrates the follow-up in which there’s another mission to the Homelands. It makes some ingenious use of a familiar magical artefact, and delivers a thrilling confrontation with the Adversary. From that point the story spins out in the manner that anyone who’s invested any time with the cast would surely want to see.
The book also contains the 28 page typed script Willingham produced for that sequence, along with some of Buckingham’s design sketches.
There have been complaints from people whose experience of Fables is exclusively in these deluxe editions that this is a particularly slim volume. It’s an understandable gripe from their viewpoint, but given the way the story breaks down from this point the alternative would have been concluding on a cliffhanger, which surely would also have been considered unsatisfactory. The content collected is all of the Wolves book, plus the final content from Arabian Nights (and Days).