SPEED READING: Fables


SPOILER WARNING! This article will deal with some of the events of the most recent issues of Fables.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to sit down and read the entire Fables series from start to finish. It took me about 2 weeks and (with the exception of 4-5 book I picked up on new comic days) I read nothing else but Fables. Whew!

For those not in the know, the premise is simple: characters from all the old stories and nursery rhymes (called Fables) are real. When their homelands are conquered by an unknown Adversary, they escape to the Earth dimension and now live in a neighborhood in New York City. They keep their identities secret and try to adapt to living in the mundane or “Mundy” world.

Overall, it is definitely a series worth reading. The central gimmick (storybook/nursery rhyme characters living in modern times) never wears thin. The dialogue is crisp and the art is always eye-catching. Mark Buckingham’s pencils are emotive and at the same time simple. The variety of settings really works well with the comic book format, and you really believe these places exist, from Fabletown to the Homelands to Baghdad. I would recommend this series to anyone in a heartbeat.

But that’s not to say it’s always the best written series. The series as a whole gets away from the initial premise about 20 issues or so in, and from there it attempts more epic storytelling. The cast of characters is turned over several times, only allowing the reader a brief moment to adapt to a new cast dynamic before it changes again. That’s not really to my liking, at least not for a serialized story. It’s never dull and you’re always invested in the characters you’re reading, but the turnover harms the series as a whole in establishing emotional continuity.

Probably my favorite moment in the whole series. Should be telling that it comes in the 27th issue.

And when the series goes into a more epic story-telling mode, the charm of the Fables living in the real world is more or less ditched for a story of destroying the Adversary who conquered their home worlds. Which is all well and good, but it seems to come fairly early in the series’ life. I would have liked to see more stories in the Fabletown setting and more tension between Bigby and Snow White, but they quickly fall in love, get married with kids and leave their respective positions before issue 30, even.

What’s apparent is that this is a series about the characters. It started out with that being its strength, and throughout the series it remains what Fables does best. The bulk of the series involves wars, plots, and running from enemies, and all are very readable. But when one examines the actual structure of the plot, they are revealed to be a little flimsy. Most of the time, the pacing is way, way off. Take the latest villain, for example: Mr. Dark. Mr. Dark is released from imprisonment, spends an issue or two being menacing and building power, then proceeds to destroy Fabletown. After the Fables flee, he takes up residence there… and it’s about a dozen issues before anything really happens next.

The intervening issues deal with a lot of left-over character issues, including a power struggle among the witches of Fabletown and a different power struggle among the leaders of the Farm. Then, all of a sudden, Totenkinder returns and goes off to fight the Dark Man and fails, causing the Fables to flee even further.

A bad read? Not at all, but in retrospect, it seems like a bit of fumbling around before we get back to the real action. It’s even mentioned several times that they’re specifically avoiding Mr. Dark, which seems like a bit of lazy writing to avoid dealing with the immediate threat.

But ultimately, Fables is a great series and one worth buying every week. It has its problems, but the good very much outweighs the bad. I don’t regret dropping everything to catch up at all. As a whole, I give it a 7/10.

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