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Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages COMICS RETROSPECTIVE. You don't know what you've got, 'til it's gone.

Fables Volume 12 Cover 1. Published by Vertigo.

Fables Volume 12: The Dark Ages.

Collecting 'Fables' Issues 76-82.

Written by Bill Willingham.

Art by Michael Allred (Issue 76), Mark Buckingham (Issues 77-81)

& David Hahn (Issue 82)

Inks by Andrew Pepoy (Issue 77-81).

Last time, Fabletown went to war! The time had finally come, to take the fight to The Empire. First off, Super Agent Cinderella must rescue Pinocchio from his father. With that mission achieved, it's time to show Geppetto and his forces of evil that it doesn't matter how powerful you are, it doesn't matter what magic you've gathered... you all fall the same, when faced with VASTLY superior weapons and training. Sorry 'Petto. You brought a sword to an airship fight. This time around, the war is won, and all that's left to do is clean up and make some plans for the future. A future which is sure to be bright, happy, and not at all filled with pain, suffering, and a rather nasty new threat...

Chapter 76: Around The Town. Geppetto is now a more than a little unwilling resident of Fabletown. So, it's Pinocchio's job to show him around town and get him up to date with the modern world. A world which hates and fears him.

Chapter 77: Life In A Headless Empire - Chapter One of The Dark Ages.

So, let me pose you a bit of a brain-teaser. What happens when you blow up the capital city, and capture most of the government for a multi-world spanning empire?

Yeah. Seems Fabletown didn't really know the answer, either.

Of course, that doesn't mean that people aren't trying to take advantage of the situation. Enter Freddy & Mouse, who are having a grand old time robbing some of the Empire's old bases. I'm sure they'll only find safe, expensive things.

Chapter 78: Boxes - Chapter Two of The Dark Ages.

Ooooooh no. Freddy and Mouse have broken up the secret mysterious chest of totally not actually a prison and sadly, it wasn't River Tam inside.

It was Morpheus's evil twin, who is going by the name Mister Dark and is apparently the original owner of both The Witching Cloak and The Witching Well.

Needless to say, he's totally fine that Fabletown have been using them this whole time. Meanwhile, Boy Blue is feeling a little green... seems that last surgery didn't go quite as well as planned.

Chapter 79: Fabletown Unbound - Chapter Three of The Dark Ages.

As Prince Charming's official funeral is held, people around Fabletown begin to notice some odd events...

Like whole offices vanishing, prisons turning up empty, and magical artifacts of great power collapsing into rags.

It's almost as if something has cast a spell, to undo all manner of enchantments. Enchantments that the people of Fabletown relied on!

Chapter 80: The Darkest Hour - Chapter Four of The Dark Ages.

Bereft of its enchantments, The Woodlands collapses. And things go from bad to worse, as the Fabletown government realise this means ALL of Fabletown is now lacking the spells which kept away the Mundys (normal humans).

Time to flee!

Up on The Farm, Rose Red has a surprising midnight visitor. And then, considerably more visitors.

Meanwhile, as Mister Dark's spell continues to take effect, throughout the world, all manner of boundaries are removed.

Chapter 81: The Blue Horizon - Chapter Five of The Dark Ages.

Mister Dark arrives in the ruins of Fabletown, and decides that he rather likes the place.

Meanwhile, up on The Farm and in need of a miracle, the Fables call on their last hope to save Boy Blue: Flycatcher.

Geppetto has a little trouble, mixing with the locals.

And Rose Red hears some necessary, but maybe a little harsh words.

Chapter 82: Waiting For The Blues.

It's the day of Boy Blue's funeral, and nothing is okay. As everyone gathers to say goodbye to a great hero, plans are formed, harsh words are spoken, and plans begin to form.

Chapter 76, summed up in one image.

Well, that was quite the emotional rollercoaster, wasn't it? I really thought we'd get at least ONE volume to relax and lick our wounds, before the chaos was unleashed once more. But, nope. Willingham doesn't play that way. We're still dealing with the fallout of the war with The Empire, and already Mister Dark has shown up to ruin our day... And this guy seems like he just might be too much to handle. Even Totenkinder is on the back foot, against this guy. And somehow, that scares me more than anything...

It's okay, though. Bad Sam the drunk Kinkajou will save us!

Well, that was a LOT. Thankfully, we were at least allowed a tiny moment of respite in that the first chapter was basically just Geppetto being grumpy and hilarious for 20 pages, before everything fell apart. literally.

I believe I mentioned in my Volume 11 Retro, that I'm a big fan of series where the big villain doesn't die and has to spend the rest of the series as a powerless figure. It seems Willingham is as well, because the first story this volume is basically just about Geppetto and his inability to adjust to the modern world. It's vaguely hilarious seeing him Grandpa Simpson his way around Fabletown, getting more and more irrationally annoyed at everyday events, all the while railing that when he was in charge, these things never would have happened, gosh darnit!

It's somehow a massively anticlimactic, but thematically perfect ending for the terrifying and all powerful Adversary. This cantankerous old coot is the reason that all the Fables had to flee their homes and stay away for centuries... and now he's reduced to eating at Wendy's because no one in Fabletown will talk to him. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.

I mean, he does make a few strong points...

But sadly, that momentary distraction is all too swiftly over and we're left with The Dark Ages, which I've literally only just understand is a play on words...

Things are not going to well, in Fabletown. The Empire has fallen and you'd THINK everything is swell, but we have a problem, and I can't help but feel that it's not the one we're being lead to believe it is.

Okay, elephant in the room, there's a tooth chomping Dream cosplayer, who has just Shawshanked his way into the ruins of Fabletown and is setting up shop there, after using his incalculable powers to strip every enchantment between his former prison in the depths of the Empire and Fabletown's home office, leading to its destruction.

This is not a great situation, he's clearly a figure of EXTREME power, and he's clearly got a bone to pick with the Fables. He also likes to eat teeth, and that's just... nasty.

But there's a bigger problem facing the Fables. And it's everywhere. It's inside THEM. And somehow, the people in charge seem blind to it.

We see it throughout this volume, and it's got me a little worried. First, we have The Society of Seconds; a group of Second, Third, and Fourth generation Fables, they fought in the great war, they did their part to reclaim the Homelands... but they were born in Fabletown, they HAVE no homelands. But they WANT one.

And they don't care which one it is. They just want their slice of the pie.

The problem is, any slice you give to them, you have to TAKE from someone else.

Even if we skip over the fairly huge point that the homelands are currently full of the remains of the Empire's evil army, and even the most peaceful corners are falling to rebellions as we speak... there will come a day, very soon, when the Fables wish to return to their ancestral home. This day has come a large step closer, when you consider that Fabletown is now in ruins and most of the Fables have nowhere to live.

And therein, we have the problem. Because we have a large, undying population that wish to return to their homes.

And we ALSO have an equally large, if not larger, equally undying population that believe they also deserve to live in that same homeland. And they're willing to carve out a section of it for themselves, with violence if necessary.

Do you see the problem, here?

Yeah, you see a bit of it. But there's more.

Because Boy Blue is dead. It sucks, and I hate it, because despite his vaguely red pill antics in the last volume, he WAS one of the better characters in the series, and a freakin war hero. But sadly, war is a bastard, and sometimes being a hero doesn't end with you living happily ever after with the woman of your dreams. Sometimes, you get a little cut, which gets infected, and then you die.

But, there's a name for people that died in the service of their beliefs and goals.


And yeah... there are some rumblings, down on the farm. I've been sayin it since about the second volume. The Fables are NOT treating The Farm well; between putting one human after enough in charge, promising them spells to make any animal Fable that wanted it, look like a human so they could live in Fabletown proper. And now moving all the passing Fables up to The Farm, now Fabletown is gone... it's really quite understandable, if the Farm Fables have had enough.

And now, just when they needed it least, they've got Stinky holding secret meetings, talking about how Little Boy Blue is going to come back from the dead and lead them all off to their own little part of The Homelands, where they'll all be able to live together in peace.

Yup. That's a THIRD, equally large, equally undying group of Fables, looking to slice out their own little part of the Homelands, to make a place for themselves.

Look, I know that Mister Dark is the most obvious threat, right now. He's a powerful entity that is a clear and present danger to the residents of Fabletown... But I can't help but think that if they all really pull together, he won't be THAT hard to defeat.

And that, right there, is the problem.

How do you pull together to defeat a clear and present danger, when you're all too busy fighting each other, trying to claim your slice of home? How do you defeat a threat from outside, when you're too busy fighting threats from within your own populace?

Nothing really to say here, just posting this because, well, LOOK AT IT.

Overall, Fables Volume 12 was a tricky old book. Initially I enjoyed it and felt it was a solid conclusion to the Empire War arc, and a decent set up for Mister Dark as the next big villain. But honestly, the longer I sit with this book, the more interesting twists and notes I find within it. This really feels like a volume I'm going to need to think over for a while, and maybe re-read before I'll pick up everything it's throwing out, and I just LOVE it when something I read leaves me feeling like that.

But it wasn't just the writing that had an effect on me, this volume. Michael Allred's work on the art for Chapter 76 was excellent. The more 'real world' feel of his art work incredibly well stripping any magic of storybook elements from an issue that was very much about how you deal with life AFTER the story has ended. This wasn't an evil emperor and his magical puppet touring a fantasy realm. This was a young guy and his cranky old father, walking through a town that hates them, and rightfully so.

Then, as we returned to the more mystical side of the tale, Buckingham returned at his most... Buckingham, making sure that each new panel of potential threat Mister Dark was creepier and more off-putting than the last. We've left the world of Perrault, now. We're deep into the tales that are too dark, even for The Brothers Grimm. We're in Struwwelpeter's world now.

If you want to keep your thumbs, come back next time for Fables Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover! Collecting Chapters #83-85 of Fables, Chapters #33-35 of Jack of Fables, and The Literals issues #1-3. As the free Fables struggle to regroup following the destruction of their New York City stronghold, they are suddenly faced with a new menace—one who threatens not only their adopted planet, but all of reality itself! Against such terrible power, can even the combined abilities of these legendary storybook heroes prevail? Only one thing is certain: Once battle is joined, the world of Fables will never be the same!

I believe that's the polite way to say "Chat shit, get hit."


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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