Fables Vol 7: Arabian Nights (And Days) COMICS RETROSPECTIVE. Be careful what you wish for...
Fables Volume 7: Arabian Nights (And Days).
Collecting 'Fables' Issues 42-47.
Written by Bill Willingham.
Pencils by Mark Buckingham (Isuses 42-45) & Jim Fern (Issues 46-47)
Inks by Steve Leialoha (Issues 42-45) & Jimmy Palmiotti (46-47).
Last time, we took to trip to Hollywoodland, where Jack of Stories got up to all sorts of mischief. In a few short years, he was able to taste the highs and lows of being a Hollywood douchebag, and in the process gave himself quite the Fable power boost... worrying. Then, Little Boy Blue showed he's the man, by infiltrating the Homelands to rescue his sort-of beloved and kill The Emperor. In the process, he revealed the true face of the Adversary. Who'd have guessed, it was the creepy old guy with the pupper collection. Shocking twist, I know. This week, we have some more puppets on an adventure to finally get wood, and our visitors from the Far East find out that sometimes, getting everything you wish for isn't as good as it seems!
Chapter 42: Broken English - Chapter One. It turns out, to the surprise of literally no one, Prince Charming is awful at his new job. One of the many crucial tasks that he's let slip by is picking up the new ambassador to Baghdad!
Chapter 43: Djinn & Tonic With A Twist - Chapter Two. Best chapter name ever. Now that he's finished sexually assaulting his staff, Prince Charming makes the wisest decision he's made in a while... and lets King Cole take over talking to the delegates. Meanwhile, The Beast consults a specialist, and realises he might be in a little over his head.
Chapter 44: Back to Baghdad - Chapter Three. Little Boy Blue hands over some truly excellent intel, but gets some pretty rough information in return. Meanwhile, The Djinn returns to Baghdad to begin its "secret" mission.
Chapter 45: Act Of War - Chapter Four. Yusuf's plan has backfired, quite spectacularly, thanks to the work of Frau Totenkinder, but now they must find out... was he working alone, or is this just the beginning! Then, Little Boy Blue begins his new life on The Farm.
Chapter 46: The Ballad of Rodney And June - Part 1. Rodney is a good soldier. Carved from the Holy Grove itself, he is eternally loyal to Lord Geppetto, and Lord Geppetto alone. That is... until a trip to the hospital introduces him to June.
Chapter 47: The Ballad of Rodney And June - Part 2. This tale of stiff love concludes, as Rodney and June set off to deliver a very important letter, to The Emperor himself!
That was an interesting tale, wasn't it? The story of The Adversary's assault on the further Fable realms continues, but we're only really told about it from the side. We hear about it, it's mentioned in passing, but the actual stories are told AROUND that central fact. It's a good way to let us know that the war continues, without giving us a third "Arg, so much war!" volume in a row. But, I must say; I'm starting to get a bad feeling...
Has Willingham done it again? Because I think Willingham might have done it again...
So, as I'm sure the five of you that read it remember, from my Retro last week, I was convinced that Jack's story was in fact foreshadowing for the reveal of The Adversary. And, tricksy devil that he is, I think Willingham has pulled the same trick on us again, this week. Except, this time, it's on a far grander scale... and there's far, FAR more at stake.
Let me explain: while it's couched within a solid story of culture shock, and the fact that Prince Charming is the worst character in this series, the basic outline of this arc is pretty standard: New people arrive in the hero's kingdom, at first they seem strange and confusing, but slowly you realise that the leader is actually a nice guy and concessions are easy to make if we just talk it all through. But, shocking twist, the leader's chief assistant is an actual and evil wizard and is going to do evil wizard shit to try and steal the kingdom away from the actually nice leader guy. You'll recognise the evil wizard, he's the one that looks exactly how you expect, when you think of the phrase "evil wizard". Right down to the little twirly goatee!
But here's the thing: We get pretty much a whole issue explaining why Djinn are stupidly powerful and basically unbeatable and how if the Baghdad crew unleash their Djinn then Fabletown is SCREWED. We hear it from Totenkinder, we hear it again from North Wind, they really hammer the point home.
Then... Totenkinder pulls some tricky magic, and ensures that even when it IS unleashed, it actually does exactly what she wants it to, and then seals itself up again.
So... the kind but ultimately a little dim leader, who was tricked by his evil wizard advisor is saved... by the seemingly kind but unfeasibly powerful assistant to our own ultimately a little dim leader. Do you see where I'm going with this?
If you don't, let me be clear: I'm very worried about Totenkinder.
This is, I think the second or third time she's casually defeated an enemy that by all rights should have destroyed Fabletown. She has repeatedly shown herself to be an extremely powerful witch, with her power only matched by her intellect...
And yet, we still have NO IDEA who she actually is. She flat out told Baba Yaga that she's kept her true identity secret, and that she's been manipulating stories in order to keep her works hidden... So you have to wonder: In a world where your power is, as far as we know, based on the popularity of your story... just how powerful is a person, that is able to control the narrative, in such a skillful fashion?
I can't help but wonder, with The Adversary being revealed far earlier than I was expecting them to be... is this all a fake out? Are they going to defeat Geppetto, only to find out that kindly old Frau Totenkinder, who seems to be gaining more and more political power by the issue, is the real threat to Fabletown?
Overall, Volume 7 was an interesting one. Telling a solid story, that feels like it was more about what WASN'T said, than the printed content of the tale. Sure, on it's surface it's a story about the formation of Fabletown East, AKA Baghdad. It SEEMS to be about Fabletown defeating a Djinn, and Little Boy Blue being sent to the farm... But I can't help feeling that the real story this volume is about what these events imply, about the potential future of Fabletown...
Man, I really do love this series. The scope of the world created by Willingham, Buckingham, and Leialoha is SO vast, that it leaves an almost endless amount of space for sad old nerds like myself to theorise about things we've read into the text, that probably never existed in the first place. Just how I like it!
Keep up the good work, Bill, and if anyone actually read this far, have a cookie!
If you want more cookies, come back next time for Fables Volume 8: Wolves, collecting issues 48-51. The community of Fables living undercover in our midst has endured plenty of suffering at the hands of their longtime antagonist, The Adversary. Now it's time to return the favor and put the would-be conqueror on notice that the cost of subjugating this last stronghold of independent magic will be higher than even he can bear. The one Fable who can accomplish this mission, however, has hidden himself in the wild and will take some convincing—if he can ever be found. Luckily for Fabletown, there is something more than a trip behind enemy lines awaiting Bigby Wolf's return!
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.