Fables Volume 3: Storybook Love.
Collecting 'Fables' Issues 11-18.
Written by Bill Willingham, Pencils by Mark Buckingham,
Ink by Steve Leialoha.
Last time around, things went a little wild, down on the farm. As the not quite imprisoned, but strongly advised against leaving non-passing Fables decided they'd had enough of living in secret and, led by the surprisingly hardcore Goldilocks, rose up to take over... just as Snow White and Rose Red were visiting, to check up on them. As you can imagine, it all ended peacefully, and there was no need to summon any dragons, and no one got shot in the freakin head. This week, I'm sure things will be far calmer. After all, aren't things always so peaceful, in love stories?
Chapter 11: Bag O' Bones. Featuring art from the legendary Bryan Talbot, this first chapter is a standalone tale, where Jack of Stories takes a break from doing no good in present day Fabletown, and mixes things up by doing no good in post Civil War America.
Chapter 12: A Sharp Operation. There's trouble a-brewing. With Snow White still on the mend, Bibgy has trouble on his paws, as a Mundy (non-Fable) journalist confronts him! Mr Sharp says he has 24 hours, before he publishes everything he knows... or rather, THINKS he knows...
Chapter 13: Dirty Business.
Bigby's plan to stop Sharp goes into effect... but will it be enough to keep him silent forever? Bluebeard doesn't think so. Because Bluebeard is a toolbag.
Chapter 14: Storybook Love - Part I: The Mouse Police Never Sleep!
Introduces us to Lilliput's Finest, The Mounted Police, AKA The Mouse Police. Tiny coppers, riding talking mice. Because what more could you ask for? There's other stuff going on this chapter, mostly Bluebeard and Prince Charming competing to be the biggest ass in Fabletown, but honestly, all I can focus on is tiny mouse cavalry.
Chapter 15: Storybook Love - Part II: Into The Woods. Snow White and Bigby have decided, totally under their own volition and without any magical interference, that they both really want to take a camping trip right away. And they both need to be as far from civilisation as possible.
Chapter 16: Storybook Love - Part III: Duel. Bigby explains his connection to Snow White, and she seems a little creeped out. But, kind of in a good way. She's a complex lady. Then, things get action-packed, as Bluebeard and Prince Charming duel for the title of "King Douchebag", and Bibgy finally confronts their hunter.
Chapter 17: Storybook Love - Part IV: Road-Runner And Coyote Ugly.
First off, GREAT title.
Then, as so many self proclaimed "animal lovers" end up doing, Goldilocks reveals herself to be something a liar, by shooting Bigby a bunch of times.
Thankfully Bigby is kind of a beast. Literally speaking. Or should that be literarily?
Then, back in Fabletown, Price Charming does what he does best: Sleazes his way out of trouble, and somehow spins his misdeeds into pure gold.
Chapter 18: Barleycorn Brides. Guest artist Linda Medley delivers a delightfully Saturday morning cartoon-styled tale, as Bigby explains the history of Smalltown to a somewhat confused Flycatcher.
That was quite a collection. I mean, who DOESN'T want a collection of light, fun tales, clearly inspired by the younger end of the fairy tale spectrum... and sandwiched between a gory tale of survival and revenge, set in the harsh wilderness? It's like an ice cream sandwich, but the ice cream is flavoured with California Reaper chilis. And methamphetamines.
I'm honestly not 100% sure what I think about Volume 3. So, I'm just going to ramble on for a bit here, and let my subconscious tick over for a little. See what comes out!
Okay, easy stuff off the bat first. "Bag O' Bones" was a solid opening story. Self-contained, funny, entirely NSFW, and with one of the most hilarious postscripts I've seen in a while. To boil the tale down to its bones (sorry, I had to), Jack leaves the army when he realises they're going to lose, tricks the devil in a game of cards, and then meets a beautiful young woman... who is about to die. But, it's been years since he's been with a woman, prostitutes no counted, so Jack takes the only reasonable course. Trap Death in his magic sack, so she'll sleep with him. So simple, right?
But, as many tales have told us in the past, trapping Death is never as easy, or as side effect free, as you'd think. So, Jack finds himself in a bit of a pickle.
The whole thing is just... SO freakin bizarre. I did enjoy it, though. Willingham works his usual magic with this classic tale, and Talbot's art gives the whole thing a weirdly harmless but unsettling look, even when zombies turn up, and the yard is filled with immortal chunks of farm animals, the whole thing just feels hilarious, but in the wrongest possible way. Is wrongest a word? I don't even know any more.
Okay, I think I have most of my thoughts in order now. Or, as orderly as they ever get.
This volume is a somewhat scattered collection. But there DOES seem to be a theme, running through the whole lot. And that theme is "Seriously, WHAT is up with Prince Charming?". Honestly, I'm not sure I've gone from disliking to liking, to being vaguely worried by a character in such a short time.
Honestly, I've read whole runs, that don't have as much character development as Prince Charming got, in just this volume. He starts off exactly how you remember him; being a tool to Betty or Chrissy or whoever she was. He then tries and fails to fence Bluebeard, losing 5-0 in front of a whole class. It was VERY embarrassing...
Or was it?
I don't know why, but it was at this point, that I started to suspect something was up. Charming is a toe rag, that much is confirmed. But he's not a fool. I just couldn't understand why he would attempt a duel with Bluebeard, knowing that despite his many, many, many, many flaws, that guy can THROW DOWN.
So, thinking it through, there was only one reason he'd so publicly, horrifically lose the way he did.
To bait the perfect trap!
And who could have guessed, a couple of chapter later, that all pays off. As it's revealed that Bluebeard is in fact a scumbag, and is working with the always hilariously brutal Goldilocks, and has bad things planned for Snow White.
So, they fight, it's awesome, and Charming wins. Killing Bluebeard... apparently for good.
It's a pretty fun fight, and the very civilised, almost stage combat feel to it plays very well with the horrifically brutal Bigby Vs Goldilocks fight in the following chapter.
Which actually raises a fun point, and I'm guessing an intentional nod to the lore first discussed last volume:
As was mentioned last week, the more popular a Fable is, the more resilient they become. So, Snow White was able to survive a bullet to the brain stem, because her popularity makes her near on immortal. This is highlighted once more in this volume, as Goldilocks takes an almost comic amount of damage, before she finally falls... meanwhile, despite all his grandstanding, Bluebeard drops after sustaining an almost mundane amount of damage.
Now, I don't know if this is observer bias, but when I first saw Goldilocks show up, my initial reaction was "Awesome, that is a really interesting, but appropriate take on a well-known and beloved character".
In contrast, when Bluebeard first turned up, my reaction was "Hmm, better Google this dude, because I have NO freakin idea who he is."
So, it feels rather appropriate, that the seemingly more unknown Fable fell with relative ease, while the wildly popular and (at least to me) considerably more well known Fable turned into a tawny tressed Terminator. I can't know if this was intentional, or just happenstance, but it was a nice touch.
Also, I can't help but remember the first rule of Fantasy/Sci Fi. When someone 'dies', if you don't see the body, they're probably not dead. And even if you DO, there's always a chance it was a clone, or a robot duplicate, or an alternate reality version.
All of this is to say: While Goldilocks is 'dead', I can't help but feel like we might not have seen the last of her...
But back on topic: Prince Charming is a tool.
So, he takes down the traitor Bluebeard, and I was just starting to think "Hey, maybe this guy isn't ALL bad." and then he starts talking about how King Cole has been in charge too long, and wondering if he shouldn't run for Mayor...
Come ON dude, just when I was starting to like you.
Lastly, I just want to comment on the increasing tension between Bigby and Snow White. So, pretty much ever since The Remembrance Day dance, there's been a bit of back and forth between these two. And that reaches its fur-covered climax this volume (that might be a poor choice of words...).
Stuck out in the woods, in less that ideal circumstances, and with a two day blank in their memories, the unlikely pair have to struggle with the elements, Snow White's less than perfect health, and the previously mentioned murderous bear-lover trying to off them both.
Naturally, all that danger and Bigby's long, sort of touching, sort of creepy confession softens Snow White's icy exterior a little. It's all rather sweet, and I was starting to get a little invested.
Then, they get home, and it turns out Snow White is pregnant. Guess who the daddy is? (see why climax was a bad choice, now?)
Needless to say, Snow White is pretty pissed. Not about the mind-controlled dirty deeds; no one's to blame there. Well, no one that's still alive. No, she's mad because Bigby lied to her, to keep her focused while they were in danger...
Yeah, I'm already done with this plot. At the best of times, I'm not a huge fan of the "will they, won't they" stuff, and I'm just not a fan of where this is going. They'll fall out, because of all the lying, she'll have the kid, he'll want to help raise it, but she's still pissed at him, because she keeps dating dirtbags, but he seemed so nice... We've seen it a million times before. This part aside, the plots in Fables have been interesting twists on classic tales. And while this idea has been done many times before, it's more a played out cliche, than a classic tale. Willingham will need to put one HELL of a twist on this, to make it stand up to the other, far more interesting things going on, in this series.
Overall, Fables Volume 3 was another solid entry into what is shaping up to be a great series. Willingham continues to take stories we know and love and turn them into twisted but hilarious stories, that really turn these kids tales into fun for adults.
And while, as you know, I'm a big fan of ongoing plots, it was nice to see a couple of one-off tales this time, too. Smalltown's backstory was a lot of fun, with great art from guest artist Linda Medley. Blending Saturday morning cartoon style with hints of a medieval tapestry, which really boosted the idea that this was a classic, historical tale, from the Fables point of view.
So, while this volume felt a bit like it was wrapping up the last few threads from Volume 2, and setting up a couple of larger stories to play out in Volume 4 and maybe beyond, it still very much felt like a fun story, all of its own. There was a risk that this could feel like filler, but due to some strong character moments, some seriously grim fights and lots of comedy, the volume works well as a standalone, while supporting the greater arc. Can't wait to see where those threads lead!
So, if you want to see just how much of a menace Prince Charming really is, come back next time for Fables Volume 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers. Collecting Fables: The Last Castle, issues #19-21 and #23-27. When Little Red Riding Hood suddenly walks through the gate between this world and the lost Fable Homelands, she's welcomed as a miraculous survivor by nearly everyone—everyone except her old nemesis, Bigby Wolf, who smells spying and subversion more than survival. But will he be able to prove his case before disaster strikes? And how will it all affect Prince Charming's upstart campaign to become the new mayor of Fabletown?
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.