By: Too many to list—check out the review.
The Story: Sit down, kids, and prepare to grow old, as I tell you about the olden days.
The Review: Bill Willingham likes to throw out these semi-out-of-continuity issues from time to time, which is all well and good. He largely does a good job with them, and an excursion from the general flow of story can be a relief every now and then. That said, I’m not so sure it’s entirely wise to throw in essentially a bunch of filler right after a Christmas issue that was itself a bit skimpy on the plot. Hasn’t it been quite a while since we checked in with Bufkin?
But let’s set that aside. Like I said, Willingham does write these sorts of things very well. What we get is a handful of short stories, each of varying length and degrees of importance to overall Fables continuity, and with a different guest artist on each one. Each tale has a great deal of charm, and there’s something to be said for stories that don’t require a lot of familiarity with continuity to enjoy them.
Even at his most free-flowing, Willingham’s knack for making connections between stories still pops up in the most surprising places. He starts off with one of your classic “magic spell as a lesson” parables, though the substance is a little more sophisticated than your usual fairy tales. It’s standard practice for people to go through some kind of physical transformation in these things to catalyze their spiritual transformation, but rarely is their soul—or entire race—at stake. P. Craig Russell draws the feature with a fitting cutesiness, which Lovern Kindzierski’s pastels complement well. Just as appropriate is Ramon Bachs’ cheerful, cartoonier linework (and Ron Randall’s vividly golden colors) as a father and son discuss the strange physics/superstition of their world, one which has a delightful link to the tale above.
Willingham even weaves these stories into established continuity, giving them a little more importance than your usual fillers. If anyone ever wondered why it took Gepetto so long to pay Fabletown any interest, the answer is not so simple as him simply not viewing them as a threat. Many years of Fabletown’s peace was apparently ensured by a clever sorcerer who managed to bewitch Gepetto into giving no thought to any land where he dwelled. Like any Willingham story, there’s an element of tragedy here, too, as the man responsible for Fabletown’s safety for so long seemed to have his own spell turn on him, and no one gave any thought to him either. There’s a stiff quality to Zander Tannon’s art that makes his otherwise fine penciling (inked by Jim Fern) a bit bland to see, and Lee Loughridge’s drab colors don’t help.
And for those of you who ever wondered at Porky Pine’s attraction to human women—although I don’t imagine it’s ever been a gnawing concern for anyone—Willingham gives us the answer to that too. There’s little point to the story, but it’s pretty amusing, if only for Porky’s totally inept come-ons (“Copulate with me for just one night and I grant a wish—whatever your heart desires. Or, for just a kiss and a cuddle: a new set of steak knives.”), or for Adam Hughes’ voluptuous pin-up art, which is just as capable of great comedy.
Conclusion: A diverting issue, far from the woes and anxiety of the ongoing story, but not quite as meaty as it could be.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Porky: “Did I mention the steak knives come in a really lovely gift box?” Well, of course, let’s get to the kiss and cuddle, then, if the knives come in a really nice box.
– It’d be churlish of me to leave out Rick Leonardi, who draws the opening page, the point of which is to deliver a rather weird, slightly creepy sight-gag.