By: Bill Willingham (story), Gene Ha (art), Art Lyon (colors)
The Story: The only thing that can make a giant wolf lose his appetite is his own ennui.
The Review: I’d never have predicted that of all the many comic book titles I’ve ever reviewed, Fables would end up being the one I covered the longest. Granted, the DC relaunch messed with the numbers a little bit, but facts are facts. At eighteen issues, it still rests solidly on my pull list and I imagine it will remain so for a long time to come. The world Willingham’s chosen to explore has few real limits and enduring appeal; it’s as eternal as it makes itself out to be.
And when you have different parts of folklore meet, especially with the spin that Willingham puts on them, the possibilities are endless. Some meetings, however, have more inherent story potential than others. I’d say a chance encounter between the Big Bad Wolf in his primal glory and a woman “from the deep realms” with the power to assign fates falls into that category. Is it even possible to write something unoriginal, given such a premise?
Willingham doesn’t stop there, though. He weaves in other elements: some big, some small; some old, some new. The finished product, rather than seeming a jumble of characters and random plot, has a unified quality that’s almost poetic. I find it nothing less than impressive that Willingham was able to use a momentary figure from a brief throwaway feature in a filler issue to such great effect. In fairy tale logic, it makes perfect sense for a god of wolves to take advice from an enchanted turtle.
Another thing I personally appreciate about the issue is Willingham’s expansive conception of magic. Unlike Justice League Dark, which relies mainly on flashing lights and fancy words to achieve whatever’s necessary for the story at the moment, magic in the Fables universe takes unexpected forms which may drive the story in surprising directions. I also like that certain kinds of power are unique to particular characters; it allows for more varied mystical exchanges, the striking of bargains that will have long-term consequences even the bargainers may not see.
“You’ll outlive all your children,” the green woman states (notice I do not say “predicts”), “but only after you’ve died seven times.”
“What does that mean?” demands the Magus Atlantes.
“I don’t know. Intriguing though, isn’t it?”
Of course, fate and destiny are tricky things. Even without individuals who can actually manipulate them, prophecies of the future come with all kinds of catches and loopholes that result in even more unpredictable conclusions. For this issue, dramatic irony gives us some clues as to the endgame. We know that the Big Bad Wolf does not die and that he’ll be the one to marry a beautiful woman with powerful wild magic, siring seven children of power greater than their parents. It’s how we switch to this fate from one where the wolf dies a purposeless death that remains an intriguing mystery.
Ha is an artist of the first class because he draws things that look nothing like you’d imagine, yet once you see them, you can’t imagine them otherwise. If anyone else got the charge to draw seven “gods and monsters that lay waste to worlds,” I’m sure they wouldn’t have thought of a young child in a toga riding upon two massive serpents, or a purple-skinned demon with mechanical wings. Best of all is the joy of looking at the many expressions of a giant wolf, each more perfect and true than the last.
A few words about the Shawn McManus-drawn Oz feature, I suppose. I don’t think you could pay me to read about a Rumble Tumble Tom getting grossly maimed by a cheerful Yoop, even if it ends with the magnificent, “Roll, Tom. Roll for your life. But I think ‘tis for naught. The day of Toms is past.”
Conclusion: But for a pointless back-up, this would be a really enjoyable interlude issue, bolstered by some lovely art.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - One day, I would love to read the complete History of Fables in America, the Mundy World and Beyond—all seven volumes. Can you imagine the treat of sitting down at your nearest Coffee Bean, ordering an ice-blended whatever (they’re all good, to my taste), and reading a chunk of that for an hour?