FABLES #124

By: Bill Willingham (story), Shawn McManus (art)

The Story: A flightless monkey and inch-tall dame prove that anyone can be heroes.

The Review: In all the many issues in which Bufkin’s adventures in Oz appeared, I’m not sure Willingham ever succeeded in making me care about any of it.  Reading Fables with that back-up was a bit like inviting your one friend with a kid to a dinner party; you wonder why they won’t choose a better opportunity to cart the extra baggage around while tolerating its obtrusive presence as well as you can.

Maybe if Willingham had simply collected all the Ozian material into one issue, it would’ve been easier to care, but I tend to doubt it.  Except for the one moment where Bufkin was right on the verge of getting hanged, there really wasn’t much drama to be had from his rather breezy and whimsical uprising.  Even from a comedic standpoint, “A Revolution in Oz” felt disjointed and a bit pointless, more of a series of random gags than an actual plot.

Even here, with a whole issue dedicated to the aftermath of the revolution, it reads like a collection of back-ups mushed together.  I suspect this may have been part of Willingham’s original intention at one point, to spread out the various sequences contained here across the back matter of several Fables issues.  Wisely, perhaps, he realized we would care pay even less attention to a mere epilogue produced in such piecemeal fashion.

As a whole, the epilogue quickly ends our time in Oz, which is a smart move.  Frankly, I don’t care if the people of Oz decide to maintain the empire as is or break it up into smaller fiefdoms or regress into a hopelessly dysfunctional religious oligarchy with a flying monkey as its despotic pope.  Whatever path they choose, I’m sure it’ll remain pleasantly odd and nonsensical.

Instead, this issue focuses on the real heart of the Ozian adventures: the bond between Lily and Bufkin.  If you’ve wondered, as I have probably a million times, where in the world such a seemingly foreclosed relationship could lead, Willingham answers with the common sense of fairy tales: simply find occasions for them to share the same species as chance provides, by magical means or otherwise.  But whether they vacillate between romance or friendship, Bufkin and Lily have a deep, loving partnership, and perhaps that’s really all that matters.

The end of the couple’s story is quite poignant,* even if a bit hypothetical since you’re basically glimpsing into the far future, where Ambrose is all grown up with the Green Woman by his side.  Along the way, Bufkin and Lily, along with surprising tagalong Hangy the Rope, have a number of other daring, silly misadventures that look way more entertaining than the halfhearted jokes we got in Oz.  But perhaps those adventures are best left up to the imagination; as we’ve seen, too much exposure to the whimsical makes it lose all its fantastic allure.

McManus has always done right by the zany world and visuals of Oz.  Cartoonish and hyperbolic they might appear, but if you want to sell ideas this ridiculous, you really do have to go big and embrace the camp.  McManus also makes some great Technicolor choices; these monsters may look kind of goofy and harmless, but they also radiate fun, which makes a nice replacement for credibility.

Conclusion: An appropriate conclusion to what has been a rather fanciful storyline.  Outlandish it may be, but it has enough integrity for you to take its sweet, sobering moments seriously.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * I, for one, did not realize that Fables could die of natural causes, even if a lengthy period of time passes first (“seven hundred and forty-two years” on top of however long Bufkin and Lily had lived up to that point).

– I wonder, did Hangy’s attempt to asexually procreate work?

Grade

Conclusion