Fables Volume 2: Animal Farm.
Collecting 'Fables' Issues 6-10.
Written by Bill Willingham, Pencils by Mark Buckingham,
Ink by Steve Leialoha.
Last time around, we were introduced to the world of Fables. Where Snow White is kinda badass, Prince Charming is a sex pest, and the Big Bad Wolf (Bigby) is the long, furry arm of the Law. This came back to bite him, when Snow White's sister Rose Red was seemingly killed, and Bigby was put in charge of finding her killer. Everything turned out all right, though. Because it turned out that Rose had set the whole thing up, and everything ended happily ever after... Right until it didn't, that is. So, this week, we take a trip to The Farm, where no one is planning to murder anyone.
Chapter Six: Road Trip. Rose Red has been given Community Service to work off her debt to society, after the whole 'faking her own murder' incident. In a blinding display of nepotism that is not at all going to backfire, Snow White has decided that Rose's community is best served by taking her on a road trip to... The Farm!
Chapter Seven: The Guns Of Fabletown. Colin the pig is dead, and now Snow White must put her best detective skills to use, and work out who did it. Meanwhile, the quietly simmering tensions amongst the Farm's residents are about to boil over.
Chapter Eight: The Pirates Of Upstate New York. Rose joins the revolution, because of course she does. Goldilocks and the Three Bears get militant, and Snow White realises that things are far worse down on The Farm than she ever could have realised.
Chapter Nine: Warlord Of The Flies. Taken captive by her sister, Snow White is locked in a cave alongside The Farm's former mayor, who seems rather useless. Then, this whole bloody revolution comes to its explosive climax.
Chapter Ten: Twilight Of The Dogs. The Revolution has been quashed, but at a grave cost. As those that remain recover, the question must be asked: What do we do now?
Once against, I find myself pleasantly surprised with a volume of Fables. From the name, I figured I could guess how this was going to play out, and while there are certainly some parallels, Willingham once again shows us his knack for putting a dark twist on classic tales. Also, this version has dragons, which is a huge step up.
Fun little history lesson. A few decades back, when I was in high school, we were told that for our final year we'd be studying 'Kes'. The story of a young boy who turns into a pigeon or something. I don't know, I didn't actually read it. The class got about two chapters into the story before collectively deciding that it was pretty bad, and we asked if there was any way to swap in something else.
Our teacher told us that if we all decided together, and got copies ourselves, we could instead study Animal Farm (do you see what she did there?).
This proved to be the best decision we'd ever make, because Animal Farm remains to this day one of the few books I studied in school that I don't actively hate. In fact, I still love it and re-read it every few years.
So, seeing that Fables Volume 2 was titled "Animal Farm" was one of the main reasons I decided to pick up this series for my latest Comics Retrospective. And I have to say, I'm very glad that I did! Willingham and his band of Merry Artists have taken the spirit of the story and thrown their own twisted tale together, that holds true to the ideas Orwell put forth, while telling their own hilarious, savage tale.
The Farm is mentioned a few times in the first volume, so I'm quite glad that they didn't make us wait too long, before introducing us to the Fables' second home. For those that haven't read the first volume (Which you really should, it's great.) The Farm is a secret kingdom, reserved for those Fables that can't blend in with the 'real' world of New York. Your talking farm animals, giants, dragons, and such. So, while most of the humanoid Fables are able to live more or less normal lives, these poor souls are forced to live in seclusion for fear of upsetting the mundys (us non-Fable folk).
Bless her, it seems that basically everyone except for Snow White sees the problem with this set up. Some of these Fables live for hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of years. And many of them are required to spend their whole, near immortal, lives in one small location. Sure, it's a nice farm, no expense spared, etc., etc. But even the nicest prison is still, you know, a freakin prison. While I enjoyed the arc the volume took, I'd have liked Snow White to have had that "oh shit..." moment, where she realised that this whole system can't really last.
The Revolution comes, and is squashed, within one volume. We then see, in the final chapter, that Rose Red has been appointed (or seemingly, has appointed herself) the new leader the The Farm, and it seems like everything is going to go on as it was before...
And I can't help but think that they've not so much stopped the revolution, as they have delayed it for a while. It seems to me that the main push behind the revolution was that the non-passing Fables are trapped forever on this farm, and resented that a human looking Fable was put in charge. But now, things have changed for the better! Because the non-passing Fables are still trapped on the farm, and a human looking Fable has been put in charge. I mean, it's great for Rose Red, she had a chance to air her anger at Snow White (more on that later), and she's found something she's good at, which we all deserve. I can't help but wonder, though: how do The Farm's residents feel about the change in leadership? It seems to me that a better choice for the new leader would have been one of the actual residents of the place, or better yet, some form of Council. But not one made totally of pigs. We all saw how THAT ends...
So, while I did enjoy this arc, and I'm glad to see Rose Red catch a break... I can't help but feel like we're going to be back on the farm in a few volumes time, addressing the REAL problem, and finding some way to make the situation a little more equitable, for all involved.
But looping back to Rose and her justified anger at her scene stealing sister:
I LOVE that we're getting some more expansion of the Lore already. As you probably know, the only thing I love more than great character design, is really interesting, intricate lore. And even though we're only two volumes in, Fables is already scratching that itch for me!
We got two really cool pieces of world building, this volume. And probably a few more that I missed, but we're going to focus on the two that grabbed my attention:
First: Snow White gets shot in the freakin head. Now, I know what you're thinking, that's not Lore, that's gore. And you're right, but the gory part informs the story part, so I need to set the scene. After she gets her dome blown, Snow White spends about a year in hospital recovering. Once she's more or less healed, she finally gets to talk with her sister. Rose Red somewhat loses her cool, justifiably so, at Snow White's continued ignorance: She explains that she's pissed at Snow White, because they're sisters and were meant to do everything together, but as time as passed, people have kept Snow White and dropped her sanguine sister. Case in point, I have seen about 10 different takes on Snow White, and until I read this series, I had no idea she had a sister called Rose Red. Surprised Disney haven't done a straight to streaming live action movie about her!
Back on topic: She explains that Snow White was only able to survive getting her head aerated, because the love that mundys have for her story kept her alive. She says that if SHE were the one to take some copper to the cranium, it would be the end of her tale.
And I just LOVE that. The idea that the more popular a Fable is, the more powerful they become just has INFINITE applications, in a story like this. It also makes speculations about The Adversary a lot more interesting... it could be that he was a relatively obscure character, that suddenly got extremely popular with the mundys and that's how he was able to take over the way he did (if The Adversary is Shrek, I'm going to lose my shit).
It also opens up interesting ways to combat him, once that great battle comes around. They could either find out who he is, and try to make him less popular (maybe get him cancelled on Twitter? That seems pretty easy these days) OR, they could go the other way, and find a way to boost the popularity of their tales, in an effort to make themselves strong enough to oppose him. I'd be fine with either one, or some combination.
There's also a third trick they could try, that also happens to align with the second cool piece of lore we found out.
During the Revolution, Snow White and the loyal Fables woke up three honking great giants, to join the loyalist army. Understandably, once the war was won, they didn't really feel like going back to sleep forever, so a plan had to be hatched.
Using a little energon, and a lot of luck, the Fables transformed the three giants into... the three little piggies. And seeing as the original three pigs all died during the uprising, this worked a treat. We're then hit with a seemingly throwaway comment about how the public LOVE the three little piggies, but don't actually know their names, and thus, as long as there are three little pigs, ANY three pigs, they'll be fine. This idea that as long as the Fables present align closely enough with the characters in the story substitution is possible, could lead to a lot of fun down the line.
I mean, ignoring the plot potential of Identity Theft based arcs, where you can literally steal someone's place in their own story, assuming you can take them out of the picture and fit their role closely enough...
I must, once again, return to the idea of The Adversary, and how to combat him. It would be a fun twist they try to fight him, lose horribly because he's just too powerful and then realise that the only way to win isn't to remove him from the story altogether, but simple to REPLACE his role, with someone a little more... amenable to the residents of Fabletown. We're two volumes in, and there is already SO much potential for shenanigans here, I'm loving it.
Lastly, because I feel like I HAVE to talk about something that isn't in some way connected to my constant, almost certainly incorrect theories on The Adversary.
I couldn't stop laughing, when The Revolutions most ardent, and militant, member turned out to be none other than Goldilocks. Now living with the three bears, she's gone full Eco-Warrior, and I couldn't help but see her as a fairly savage takedown of the Angry PETA/Militant Vegan crowd. The idea of a Passing Fable, that chooses to live on The Farm, but is SUPER angry about it, and is constantly telling all the non-passing residents that they need to be way more angry, and questioning their commitment to their own cause was such a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with those movements, that despite her being a terrible, terrible person, I couldn't help but love Goldy. Because let's remember, people: you can be a great character, while also being a terrible person.
Overall, Fables Volume 2 builds on the very strong base that Volume 1 established, and takes everything one step further. Combining classic fairy stories with one of the greatest satirical stories ever penned... then adding in some grisly violence and a few jokes, just for the hell of it.
Willingham blends so many seemingly disparate elements, it had the potential to be far too much, but by skillfully utilising just the right amount of each source, and adding in enough of his own style, you end up with a tale that acknowledges its influences, but creates something that happily stands alone.
Combine all of this with Buckingham's very classical comic art, and you've got a book which really captures the old school fairy tale feel, while looking just as ageless as you'd want a story like this to feel.
If you can't help falling for this series, come back next time for Fables Volume 3: Storybook Love. Collecting Chapter 11-18! In the Fables' world, there isn't a lot of happily-ever-after to go around. As refugees from the lands of make-believe, the Fables have been driven from their storybook realms and forced to blend in with our gritty, mundane reality.
So, if you want to read along, you can find Fables at your Local Comic Book store, or on Comixology/Amazon. But go to the comic store, they're WAY nicer.
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.