on April 12, 2011
"Fables" hits its fifteenth trade paperback collection, and another individual-issue milestone with the release of the mammoth issue #100 (which was originally released in a format much more akin to a trade paperback than a single issue of a comic). Bill Willingham's series has now been running for nearly a decade, and has been for quite a while the centrepiece of the Vertigo imprint's output. This is one of the strongest volumes in a while, benefiting tremendously from a strong sense of drama and story momentum that some fans felt the series had lost a bit following the major changes to the series in issue #75. The full trade collects issues 94-100 of the ongoing series. Some spoilers follow.
The bulk of the collection consists of the "Rose Red" story arc that gives the volume its name. As you might divine from the name, it focusses on Rose Red, Snow White's oft-overlooked sister, who has been despondent since the death of Boy Blue nearly 25 episodes earlier. Finally, Willingham gets around to addressing her situation and the role she must play in Fabletown. This story is intercut with a fairly lengthy depiction of Rose and Snow's backstory, told in the Fables-verse for the first time. Willingham shows how the "Snow-White and Rose-Red" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" stories are made to fit together, despite seemingly contradictory elements (also incorporating parts of Snow's backstory previously revealed in "1001 Days of Snowfall").
That aside, arguably the centrepiece of the collection is issue #100 and its leadup, as the struggle between the Fables and the evil Mr. Dark (the avatar of darkness, essentially) comes to a head. Frau Totenkinder, the witch in a thousand different fairytales (including "Hansel and Gretel"), prepares to unleash the full force of her power to defeat a being that has previously vanquished whole armies of the Empire's mages. The resulting story takes a number of twists and turns, but I will say that Totenkinder's fate, if this is indeed the last we see of her in the series, I found rather surprising. It's not how I would ever have pictured her ending up, but based on her origin (also in "1001 Days"), it seems oddly fitting.
For my money, Vertigo is the most prestigious, most rewarding label in DC Comics' stable, and FABLES, still the best comic book currently going. FABLES Vol. 15: ROSE RED collects issues #94-100, darkly stirs up the pot, furthers Mr. Dark's incursion into the Mundy world (that's our world, yo!). Where last we left things: In the ruins of Fabletown strides Mr. Dark, one of the Great Powers and the embodiment of shadow and fear and all things creepy crawly. From Fabletown Mr. Dark is systematically expanding his influence, corrupting New York City, amassing (and consuming) precious, tasty teeth ripped from his victims' jaws. The surviving human Fables have fled to the hidden Farm in upstate New York, abode of the beastly Fables who cannot pass for humans. And in the course of things, several factions engage in a power struggle. Geppetto, manipulative old despot that he is, throws his hat in the game. Sly gambits are pitched by Ozma, newly elected head of them witchcrafty folks what used to dwell on the 13th Floor of the old Woodland building. Meanwhile, Brock Blueheart, the newly renamed badger (formerly "Stinky"), pushes on with his newly launched religion promoting Boy Blue as an Arthurian figure.
That insurrection is nigh is due primarily to the inaction of the Farm's director. Red Rose simply won't stir out of bed. Still grieving and remorseful over Boy Blue's death, she languishes in dirt and despondency. And if pep talk from a pig's head affixed on a pole can't rouse you, then it's a truly sad state in which you wallow.
I've pretty much used up all the superlatives in reviewing Willingham's past Fables trades. There are no more words to describe how so very good this guy is writing this comic book. And I'd be remiss if I didn't rave about Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha's clean, evocative art, again the perfect visual complement to Willingham's storytelling. Willingham is a master of pacing, is so expert at constructing a deep sense of anticipation. Several issues in this trade commit to chronicling Snow White and Rose Red's childhoods, and so we get to peek behind-the-scenes of that familiar fairy tale. We learn that Snow White's past is marked with bloody bleak moments, and that those pleasant Disneyfied seven dwarves were actually the vilest of mothereffers. We learn the details behind the falling out of these two previously inseparable sisters.
This volume is titled "Rose Red," so maybe we should talk her up some. This run of issues tells of how Snow White's sister shakes off her malaise and again shoulders her responsibilities. Rose doesn't quite receive the same epic treatment that Willingham graced on Boy Blue and Flycatcher and even on the blue flying monkey, Bufkin. But it's a delight watching Rose so confidently dispense with one crisis after another. Still, I expected her to have a larger role in this arc than she actually did.
But if anyone, it's Frau Totenkinder who is elevated into a character of grander consequence. Not that she needed a boost in street cred. Willingham commemorates the fabulous landmark 100th issue, tracking at one hundred pages, by showcasing the much anticipated duel between Mr. Dark and Frau Totenkinder. I'll say the showdown lived up to my expectations. And I admit that Frau Totenkinder is easier on the eyes now that she's assumed her original form. Other highlights in this issue include the birth of Beauty and the Beast's baby and Snow White's exquisite dressing down of the mean-spirited Mrs. Spratt. And, oh, but this arc has plenty of swerves.
The bonus stuff from the 100th issue is compiled here. I liked the switcheroo piece, "Pinocchio's Army," in which Buckingham writes the prose and writer (and sometime artist) Bill Willingham provides the occasional illustrations. "Pinocchio's Army" follows Pinocchio's attempts to cheer up Geppetto. In the aftermath of the epic duel between Mr. Dark and Totenkinder, we get two short stories: "A Thing With Those Mice" (with art by cover artist Joao Ruas) and "The Perils of Thumbelina." The illustrated Q & A segment features FABLES characters responding to questions by celebrities like Phil LaMarrl, Eddie Cahill, and sexy Cobie Smulders (from HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER). The Fables Paper Puppet Theater allows you to cut out FABLES characters (cut outs of established Fables locations also included). There's the "Escape to Wolf Manor" board game. And, lastly, you can marvel at Buckingham's fine detail work in his eleven-paged sketchbook.
If you're anticipating a resolution to the Mr. Dark dilemma, well, Willingham is stingy on that front. What happens in this "Rose Red" arc closes several doors but opens other avenues. We say goodbye to one of my favorite characters whose parting vow is: "But you'll not see me again." (We'll see.) As our Fables characters endure and move on, Bigby Wolf is deployed on another mission. The threat is very far from ended. Willingham keeps the FABLES engine running, hopefully keeps it running for another few hundred issues.
One question is nagging the hell out of me: Who was that creature, really, that got Rose out of her funk, and got such a reaction from Rose when she found out who it really was?
on August 1, 2011
Reason for Reading: next in the series.
First, this is a satisfyingly huge volume coming in at over 250 pages; this is because it includes the celebratory 100th issue in which they included lots of extras. I loved this volume! The main story is carried along nicely, plenty of characters have resolutions in their lives, we see the departure of a character that's been in from the beginning and then the start of new story threads are briefly introduced.
The book starts off with the title story "Rose Red" which consists of 5 chapters and takes a deep look at Red's character and the mess she is currently in. We are taken back into her past when she was a little girl with "Fables" retellings of "Snow White & Rose Red" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". This is the real focus of the volume and takes up over 100 pages. A very satisfying story; I've been unhappy with the direction of Red's character lately and this is a rewarding read. Of special note is that Red is exposed to a stunning reveal but, we the reader, are not made privy to what she sees. I have an idea as to what it is though, so we'll see if I'm right in future volumes.
Next we're taken into the Dark City for a single chapter to spend some time with the Dark Man and see what he is up to and planning for the future of the world. Then onto a long single chapter in which all things come to a head when there is an ultimate battle (well, duel, really) between the Dark Man and one character who has long planned to take him on.
At this point we are treated to the bonus material with two short stories, one featuring Thumbelina and the other the Three Blind Mice. Then a longer short story which is written in text about Pinocchio and Geppetto. Finally finishing off with some fun stuff, a few graphic shorts, a Fables Puppet Theatre (which can be photocopied and actually built and played with), a Board Game and finally a sketchbook of Mark Buckingham's work.
All the little extras are a lot of fun, but the two main plot developments of Rose Red and the Dark Man carry the story along wonderfully and leave us poised for the next volume. All the other characters do appear also and everybody gets a little character development or move forward in their plot. Beauty finally has her baby and it isn't what she was expecting at all! A highlight in the series!
I was eagerly awaiting this from amazon & trust me, I was almost ready to purchase the individual issues on back order so I could find out what was going on. Big things happen in this volume, after all.
This volume not only covers the showdown between Frau Totenkinder & Mr. Dark but also Rose Red's past & re-emergence into the world of the living. There's also a few extras at the end in the form of the game "Escape to Wolf Manor" & other goodies. (My personal favorite was a Q&A with some of the biggest non-major questions of the series.) Of course some of the goodies requires that you desecrate your volume by cutting it up, but they're still cool to look at.
Now for the review. This volume was excellent. I was eagerly awaiting Rose Red's eventual return as well as the eventual fight with Mr. Dark. I'll admit that I was surprised by some of the plot points of the book & I'm now insanely curious to know what will happen as well as what the outcome will be of some of the more surprising turns at the end of the volume. I can't elaborate without spoiling it, but the next volume holds the potential to be even more exciting than this one was!
Bill Willingham keeps raking in the Eisner awards and loving adulation for The Fables, perhaps the best running Vertigo title. This month volume 15 of the TPB Graphic Novels was issued, titled Rose Red. I was disheartened by the Jack of Fables Crossover and feared Fables was going over the proverbial shark when I read Volume 13, but a return to excellence followed with graphic novel #14, Witches! I only hoped Rose Red would keep up the same integrity of story and dedication to art as Witches did to be content. But Rose Red did not maintain the quality - it lifted up several notches! Collecting issues 94 through 100, Rose Red returned the series to a place of new discovery that it was when it all began.
What a wonderful story to tell. Our fables here in the mundane world were given a great new foe in the otherwise tepid Crossover volume, Mister Dark. Witches really set the tone for this superpower of the darker realms, how he ate the teeth of his victims for his power, how he turned mundane and Fable alike to witherlings, sort of undead enslaved to serve him. And he kicked the fables collective butts, driving them out of their well hidden home in the middle of New York, forced to reside on The Farm, where fables that cannot pass as human must live. How are we gonna get out this mess? Can the old wicked witch, Totenkinder (now on the "good" side, no longer eating children she lured in with candy houses) actually come up with a plan to box up Mister Dark again? Will the political intrigue of her fellow witches, long desiring her station as leader of the fable witches, get in the way? Will Boy Blue return from his horrid death, or is that all just religious PR? Will Rose Red, Snow White's sister and leader of the farm, ever get out of bed again? What calamity lies in store.
Rose Red is aptly named because it focuses on the back story for Rose and her sister, Snow, but from Rose's perspective. The build up to issue 100, the marvelous way Willingham keeps complex story-lines intermeshed, and the inevitable battle between the witch and the Dark, makes Rose Red one of the best tales told to date in the Fables setting (perhaps Peter and Max is better, but it was a novel, not a graphic novel). It is also one of the best drawn. Cover art, particularly that of Rose Red herself, is outstanding. Wow - who is the model for Rose? Are we sure Snow White was the fairest in all the land? The attention to detail found in Mister Dark, and the battle he engages Totenkinder in, makes this particular volume a beauty just to look at. This is truly a top tier effort, worthy of anyone's attention. Though it serves followers of the storyline best, it manages to be the kind of story you can read as a stand-alone book - perhaps an odd way to introduce yourself to the Fables setting, but not a bad way (I still encourage the uninitiated to read - or listen to - Peter and Max, it has the very best stand-alone quality).
Vertigo has had great fortune in their story telling company, Gaiman's Sandman and Willingham's Fables keep up a long tradition of quality work. If you have not delved into Fables by now, you should grab Rose Red, and then start saving up for the 14 Graphic Novels that precede it. You'll be hooked.
on July 21, 2011
Rose Red is a solid installment in the Fables collection, and rightfully so. Finally, we learn why Rose Red acted the way she did before and why she could be such a brat to Snow White. We FINALLY learn what separated those two girls, and how this story was intertwined with 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves'. The melding of these two stories is well-done, and I was so happy for this awesome prequel story within the Mister Dark story arc.
One thing that really bothered me was how much the separation affected Rose Red. She becomes so despondent that she loses the chance to go off on cool adventures and make a name for herself, and honestly, it just irritated me that she should cry for so much (and for so long) I do wish we had learned who Snow and Rose's father was (perhaps it was the mysterious apparition?) Hopefully we will learn more in the next volumes.
In Volume 14 of this series, we learn a lot about Frau Totenkinder. She just proves to be even more cooler than everyone thought she was, and this awesomeness continues in Vol 15. If you didn't think that her street cred could get any higher, well believe me, in this book it does. Don't get me wrong, Ozma is cool, but Totenkinder is the best of the old school. I am just hoping that her closing proclamation at the end of the book won't be true, because oh I would be so sad if it was.
I am especially interested to see what will happen when Nurse Spratt gets her wishes granted. Oh me oh my.
Fables has reached a new peak with ROSE RED, as major happenings occur in the Fable-verse. In this huge volume, we get lots of treats in a great variety of styles. Political maneuverings within the Fable community, where Geppetto has established a concerning foothold, take center stage for the beginning of the book (transitioning smoothly from Witches). Then we get a nice little back-story from Rose Red and Snow White's childhood, where we learn a great deal about the events that set these two very different sisters down their respective paths. We also learn about the disgusting seven dwarfs from fairy-tale fame. Major events are related in short excerpts throughout this volume, including the birth of Beauty and the Beast's child, the learning of an invisible grandchild by the North Wind, and we get a disturbing glimpse at the true nature of Nurse Spratt. The real meat of the book, however, details an exciting battle between the Dark Man and Frau Totenkinder. Two powerful witches battling for the future of Fable-kind and possibly the future of the Mundy world. Events are moving quickly in the story now, and the book ends with plans in limbo, including a potential evacuation of all Fables to Flycatcher's Haven.
Some great bonus material is also included in this volume, including some short, illustrated answers to some questions from famous Fables fans. There is also a Fables Puppet Theatre included, with cut-outs of many characters and backdrops, a Fables board game with play instructions, and some nice sketch work of Castle Dark.
ROSE RED continues and surpasses the quality of writing and art that the series has become so well recognized for, and may even represent a new pinnacle of greatness for the series. That's an impressive feat for a 15th volume of a long-running story. Very highly recommended!
on April 14, 2011
Fables, in my opinion, is the most unique continuing series on the market right now. Bill Willingham has taken familiar characters, like Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf, and given them new life and new purpose. This series constantly leave me speechless, in a good way, at the twists and turns that you never see coming. And the art work for each issues is always spectacular. The characters live and breathe on the page and there is such depth to the world around them that I always have to go back through and relook at the issue just to see what I might have missed.
In this collection, which collects issues #94-100 plus its normal little extras like the covers for the series, we learn more about Rose Red, as the title would suggest. (Some spoiler may follow) After Mr. Dark invaded Fable Town all of the fables have been forced to live at the farm and different factions are arising battling to rule. Rose Red, having been in a depression since Boy Blue passed away, once again comes to the center of things. We learn more about her and Snow White's past, and the mysterious entity that appears to be Colin, formerly one the three pigs, comes back again.
The highlight of this collection of course is issue #100 where the battle between Frau Totenkinder and Mr. Dark comes to a head. There are some surprising twists in the story and fans of the Fables series will not be disappointed.
I highly, highly recommend this collection and look forward to the next one.
on August 19, 2011
Fables by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and others is simply THE BEST continuing comic book series i have ever read. The care, the craftsmanship, the cleverness that is put into each story is often staggering. Fables is what episodic televsion wishes it could be, if not for budgets, the egos of too many cooks in the kitchen and the cruelty of passing time.
Fables vol 15 has no right being as good as it is. Almost 9 years 100 issues in and the series is better than ever! That is absolutely absurd in any medium but especially comic books where creators and storyline directions seem to change with the seasons.
I cannot recommend this volume (the three page story featuing the three blind mice, alone, is worth the cover price) and the entire series highly enough.
on June 28, 2011
With the war done and over, the next chapter in the incredible saga of Fables kicks it into high gear under the skilled pen of Bill Willingham and artistic pencil and color of Mark Buckingham as Mr. Dark is finally confronted and a character that has been hiding from the world for some time returns.
Rose Red has shut herself away from everything since Boy Blue died, unable to face her job and role as the one in charge of The Farm. But now things are going downhill fast, and dissension is growing and getting out control at The Farm, as the natives are getting restless and plots are being hatched and it seems like a coup may be in the works. With continued visits and visitations from the decapitated pig, Rose Red also receives a visit from her mother and is finally pulled out of whatever dark place that she's been in, pulls herself together, cleans herself up and addresses everything that's going on at the farm. At the same time, readers get to see the story of Rose Red's and Snow White's childhood, the good times and bad together, and of course those infamous seven dwarfs.
Meanwhile back at Fabletown, Mr. Dark has his minions and is becoming scarily powerful. The Fables mount their first attack with magic and witchery from Totenkinder, destroying his zombie followers and finally stopping this creature of nightmare and fear. Celebrations over this defeat are short lived however, as Mr. Dark breaks free of his supposedly unbreakable bonds and seems little the worse for wear.
Originally written on April 10, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.
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