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Fables Vol 11: War and pieces. COMICS RETROSPECTIVE. The War begins! And it goes worryingly well...

Fables Volume 11 Cover 1. Published by Vertigo.

Fables Volume 11: War and Pieces.

Collecting 'Fables' Issues 70-75.

Written by Bill Willingham.

Pencils by Nico Henrichon (Issue 70) & Mark Buckingham (Issues 71-75)

Inks by Steve Leialoha (71-75) & Andrew Pepy (Issue 75).

Last time, everyone's favourite custodian and surprising hit with the ladies 'Flycatcher' decided to get his Arthurian Myth on. So he freed Lancelot from his prison, donned some spiffy armour and drew 'Excalibur' from its resting spot inside a stone. Along the way, he rescued a bunch of trapped souls from the Land Below, carved out a safe kingdom in the middle of The Empire, and just for poops and giggles, decided to decimate every remaining wooden soldier Geppetto had left. Turning them back into a magical forest, and winning the war without a single drop of blood spilled. Not too shabby. Sadly, this time around the war will be a little harder to win, and more than a little blood will be spilled...

Chapter 70: Kingdom Come. Boy Blue is getting ready to head off to war. And, while he prepared, everyone —including a semi-intelligent badger called 'Stinky'— is telling him the same thing: Tell Ruby Red how you feel, before it's too late! Then, The Fables are faced with a life changing decision.

Chapter 71: Skulduggery - Part One. Fun note, Skulduggery is an excellent word, and needs to be used considerably more. On a more 'related to the plot' note: this chapter kicks off a rather excellent two part tale, of daring spycraft of the highest order. As Cindy is sent to the Mundy world, to retreive a VITAL package.

Chapter 72: Skulduggery - Part Two. Things aren't going too well, for Cindy and Pinocchio. Or maybe they are. It's rather hard to tell. But there's one thing I know for sure: NEVER bet against Super Spy Cinderella!

Chapter 73: Voyage of the Sky Treader - Chapter One of War and Pieces. It's time, folks. After all their months of prep, all their training and planning... War is here. And as the great airship 'Pride of Baghdad' begins its bombing run through The Empire, the only question seems to be 'Can anything stop the Fables?'

Chapter 74: A Very One-Sided War - Chapter Two of War and Pieces. It would seem not. It would SEEM like all the monsters The Empire has under its control, all the great Warlocks and battle-trained magic users they have at their command are naught in the face of a buttload of automatic weaponary and a few carefully placed home-made Bunker Busters. This is all going a little too well, isn't it?

Chapter 75: The FIRE SHIP - Chapter Three of War and Pieces. Yup. All going FAR too well. With one Gateway left to destroy and Bigby's troops easily keeping The Empire's forces at bay, it seems like this whole War is in the bag... But that's exactly when things are most likely to go horribly wrong.

A lot of questions in this series can be answered with "short answer? Bigby."

After last week's more relaxed volume I figured we were really in for it, this time. And Willingham didn't disappoint. He rarely does, to be fair! We started off with a cracking tale of intrigue and spycraft, and then went right into the War for the Homelands, and I must say they packed a lot of story into so few chapters! But, now that everything seems concluded you have to wonder... what comes NEXT?

I've seen the true face of this war. And it's ADORABLE.

So! The war is over, the Empire destroyed, the Adversary apprehended, and all is right with the world!

Yeah, I don't believe it either. It's nice to dream though, right? We can pretend for a while that the Fables lived happily ever after and that we're not actually just reaching the halfway point in the story, and that there aren't another ten volumes for things to get bad in again... I'm sure it'll be ten volumes of happy stories, where everyone survives and no kindly old witches turn out to be evil masterminds...

Because, yeah. Are we all reading this? Because I think I know who Totenkinder really is, now. All it took was for Willingham to basically outright state it.

So, we know from her little bit of spellcrafter during operation "Briar Rose single-handidly wins the freakin war" that Totenkinder is rather familiar with the enchantment on her.

And we know from the battle with Baba Yaga that she can turn into a monsterous, almost draconic form...

And we know she DOES have a name, that was only mentioned in one story...

It's Maleficent. Frau Totenkinder is Maleficent.

I mean, I didn't EXACTLY call it, but again I have to give myself partial credit. I KNEW she was someone we'd know and I knew that she wasn't going to land on the "heroes" side of the original Fables.

But the question remains: IS she on their side, now? It's safe to say that Fabletown would be dead and buried without her. While she played a fairly small part in the current war, she's pulled the Fables collective nuts out of the fire many, many times before.

But, was she just doing that, because she didn't want someone else getting in on her game? She said it last time, this whole war was really a fight between her and Geppetto. Well, now Geppetto is out of the way. So with that war won, who will she set her sights on next?

Don't worry. I'm sure she has Fabletown's best intentions at heart... Right?

This was a rather clever move...

Speaking of his royal puppetness. I do rather like the way they handled Geppetto. I mean, both armies got to see Bigby take 'The Emperor' down with some help from Boy Blue, and outside of a select few in the very upper ranks of The Empire, no one really knew that Geppetto was the actual mastermind behind everything. So, part of me rather likes the idea that he'll be forced to surrender in secret and sign a bunch of contracts forcing him to behave, going forward. I mean, I don't think he'll actually DO it. Worst case scenario he'll end up teaming up with Totenkinder and that would end really badly for everyone.

But, for now, it's a clever way to take him out, while making sure that Pinocchio and the two remaining Wooden Soldiers don't break their vows of loyalty.

I'm always a fan of endings where the big scary ultimate villain doesn't get a chance to die honorably on the field of battle, and is instead dragged down into the mud, to suffer the consequences of their actions. I'd rather like to see a lot of Geppetto being forced to help fix all the chaos he caused as the Emperor, and rebuild the Fable worlds he was only too happy to subjegate or destroy.

Next, there are three characters we need to talk about...

First: Cindy is swiftly becoming a favourite of mine, in this series. I'd happily read a whole series of spy adventures, with her jetting around the world, using a combination of old school spy-craft and Fabletown magic to achieve her ends. The whole magic vs tech debate which is delved into in far greater depth during "War and Pieces" really starts in Skulduggery, and while it's probably over and done with in the main tale (for now, at least) it's something they could easily explore more, in her side stories.

Second: DAMN YOU, PRINCE CHARMING. You've spent pretty much ten volumes being a dick, then you spend one volume being kind of cool and wrap it all up by sacrificing yourself to win the freakin war. you're not allow to pull that stuff, dude. NOT cool. I mean, he's Prince Freakin Charming, so I'm sure he'll be back at some point. There are very few Fables more popular than him, after all. But still, dick move.

Last: Did... did Boy Blue just complain about getting Friend-zoned, then storm off in a huff? WHAT a bellend. I mean, I like the guy... but dude. That's not on.

Stinky is a strange badger/dog.

All that aside, it's time to finally discuss THE BIG WAR! which actually wasn't that big. After all the books of build up and preperations, I was expecting at least five issues to cover it... but nope. Down for the count in THREE.

And honestly, I think that was a fantastic call. Willingham EASILY could have really leaned into the whole thing. Dragged it out for volumes, given us epic battles and sagas on the brutality and horror of war... but that's never been what Fables is about. Fables has always been about taking what we expect from these stories and then going in the opposite direction.

And there is nothing more opposite from "long, drawn out, brutal battle arc" than having Charming and Sinbad laugh their way across the Homelands, in a steampunk airship powered by magic carpets, bombing the crap out of everything, while snipers keep them safe. It somehow managed to be hilariously underwhelming, as war arcs goes, while also being endlessly entertaining.

It really reminded me of an anime series I saw a few years back called "Gate". Essentially, a gate opens up in modern day Tokyo, that connects to an awesome fantasy world filled with noble knights, fearsome magicians, and mysterious elves.

Who all proceed to get utterly torn to pieces by the Japanese army. There's one particularly memorable sequence, where the seemingly "impregnable" fortress, that has never been overrun, is leveled in about five minutes by an attack helicopter.

They say that technology, if it's sufficiently advanced, is indistiguishable from magic. The problem is, we always think of that from a current day standpoint. What tech would be SO advanced for us, that it would appear magical?

Meanwhile, if we go back about... 50 years, a smartphone would be a mind-blowing invention. Now imagine what would happen if you went back 500. I'm pretty sure five well-equipped, modern day Marines would be easily able to overpower any historical battle, with minimal ease.

And that's exactly what we saw, here. Despite all the build-up, all the hints that this was going to be a war for the ages... the simple fact is, The Adversary's stubborn insistence on keeping his lands free of Mundy tech meant that he was WOEFULLY unprepared for the war he started.

They say those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. But those who ignore the FUTURE are doomed to fall before it.

Overall, Fables Volume 11 was a surprising but very satisfying read. Willingham continues to shock and outthink me at every turn, constantly taking my expectations and deftly sidestepping them. Meanwhile, Buckingham delivers some truly epic battle sequences as the magical Empire falls before the relentless powers of technology. I found his use of panels and page layout to be particularly eye-catching this time around, breaking up the larger battle scenes in way that makes them easier to take in and process, while still leaving the sense of scope and impact that they needed.

So, The Empire has fallen, and Geppetto has been pacified... but there's still a lot of work to be done!

If you're ready to pitch in, come back next time for Fables Volume 12: The Dark Ages, collecting chapters #76-82. Tourists of the world unite! If you've ever craved a guided tour of Fabletown's secret Manhattan location, prepare to be voraciously satiated. Pinocchio has a field day taking a certain VIP around the city. And exactly which Fabletown denizens are no longer active (dead, alive, or otherwise) just might shock you into a comic-book coma. Also in this volume, you'll find the 4-part story featuring Freddy and Mouse, two local rogues who just want to get along and perhaps turn a bit of profit in the post-war, topsy-turvy world. Meanwhile, in Fabletown, a new political group forms called the Society of Seconds, and what they want doesn't seem very reasonable at all.

Hmmm, return to the home that was stolen from us centuries ago... but give up Great British Bake Off? Tricky!


Taheg Gloder is a Freelance Copywriter from England. Obsessed with comics and Manga since his teens, he now splits his time between writing comic reviews and retrospectives for POP, and doing reactions on his YouTube Channel, The Dragon & The Hound. He lives alone, because he’s a hermit.

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