Eugh... Honestly I'm just so disappointed to see what my favourite comic series has turned into. It's time to admit I've been inflating my ratings forEugh... Honestly I'm just so disappointed to see what my favourite comic series has turned into. It's time to admit I've been inflating my ratings for Fables for a while, trying to convince myself it still is as good as I want it to be. But it's not. And it's actually kind of horrible to see characters I once really liked acting like complete idiots as they're ragged through this completely arbitrary and stupid 'can't fight fate' Rose Red v Snow White ultimate battle to the death bolloxing storyline.
I don't care. I just don't. Nobody is acting like they're established characters, and everyone is just accepting that RR and SW have to do battle even though NO FUCKING REASON is really given as to why it needs to happen until the end of the volume. And even then it basically boils down to 'because destiny says so'. It's the sort of crappy characters doing things because the plot needs them to writing that I thought Fables was better than. And it used to be. But it has't been particularly well written for a long time.
Eugh...there's one more volume to go, and I will read it, but at this point I'm not expecting much from this series anymore....more
News broke last year that Fables would be ending for good with issue 150. As a massive Fables fan I actually couldn’t have been more pleased be3 Stars
News broke last year that Fables would be ending for good with issue 150. As a massive Fables fan I actually couldn’t have been more pleased because, since issue 75 when the first main plot thread was resolved, the series has rather lost its direction. New threats have been brought in, new villains, but none with the same impact. New plots and ideas and characters have been cycled through at such a pace that I find myself losing track and longing for more of the original main characters to step back into the spotlight. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong, but it's no longer brilliant. And I no longer instantly want to rush out and buy the trade paperbacks the moment they come out, I sit about not even realising they've been released and then go ‘oh yeah…I should probably catch up...‘ when I do chance to see a new volume in my comic store. A planned endpoint is really what the series needs right now.
But onto this particular volume! Although I’ve rated it 3 stars I actually like it more than the last one. It’s a much welcome return to the core cast and the two characters who really sold me on the series right back at the beginning: Snow White and Bigby Wolf.
But, the problems I identified with the post-adversary plot lines are still there. The new villain comes from almost nowhere to suddenly dominate the storyline and then, just as suddenly, be vanquished. If this were a US TV series it would be one of those self contained episodes which has no impact on the overarching season arc. Except that Snow White will have an impact on the Fables universe, a pretty major one, and it makes the whole thing seem really oddly written and plotted out. This is how you chose to get rid of a main character? This? I think I just kind of stared at the page with a raised eyebrow for a full minute. This a character who, if he/she is gone for good, really deserved a much better exit – this is more of a whimper than a bang.
Also, again with the relegating of female characters into mere observers of their own story. Fables gets a lot of praise for its female characters, but it still pulls the ‘men do the physical action things, women do the thinky organising admin. things’ thing more often than I would like. It does get subverted at the end here, with Snow showing us some of her more badass skills, but I can’t help but feel Snow, her sister, and their witchy friends should have been able to work out a way to escape the villain far quicker than they did.
I enjoyed the story – up until the end, and I loved returning to the main characters, but it certainly wasn’t Fables at its best.
The sidestory for this volume was, again, Bufkin’s adventures in Oz and, again, I really don’t care about Oz. I can admire Baum for trying to write fantasy for children that had girls as the heroes and the rulers, but I still think his books themselves are pretty shite. I don’t like the world, I don’t like the characters and, in this case, I don’t like the art. I loved Bufkin when he was in Fabletown, and I’m very sad it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning, but I found his adventures in Oz dull and his romance with Lilly skin crawlingly yuck. So I’m very glad that subplot’s over, it feels like it was going on forever.
The next storyline, according to wikipedia, is apparently ’Camelot’. And, as a lifelong King Arthur buff, I’m looking forward to it. But I’ve more or less accepted now that new volumes of Fables are never going to be as good as the first 11 were....more
I enjoyed the story of The Hidden Kingdom a lot more than I did the previous volume, Wide Awake, but it still gets three stars3 stars - Review to come
I enjoyed the story of The Hidden Kingdom a lot more than I did the previous volume, Wide Awake, but it still gets three stars from me because I’ve become a much harder marker since then. It avoided a lot of the things I complained about in Wide Awake – The Hidden Kingdom is written by a woman (Bill Willingham is credited as ‘consultant’) and Rapunzel is very much the lead character, she has her own agency, and her presentation isn’t filtered to us (too much) through the eyes of a male character. She does things for herself and the story can be (and probably should have been) told without a male love interest. But I just simply couldn’t get into it enough for it to rank in the four stars.
The Hidden Kingdom ties Rapunzel, a very minor player in the main Fables storyline with only one minor appearance there so far, into Japanese mythology and folklore. The story is set several years ago in universe, with flashbacks going back several hundreds. With the exception of a couple of plot threads that are left hanging, it can easily be read as a stand-alone or out of order, as long as one knows the basics of the Fables universe. Though in part it seems to have been set in this time period purely to give Jack Horner the chance to appear. Why he has to be in this book though, I don't know. He’s not necessary to the story, he’s not been a part of Fabletown for years now and there’s really no reason to set the story while he's still around just to give him a pointless cameo. But for some reason the writers of Fables always try to squeeze Jack in at any and all opportunities and pretend that he’s just a harmless trickster rouge rather than a vile rapist shitbag, which is what he actually is.
Aaaanyway, back to the story. As someone who doesn’t know much Japanese folklore I have to confess to feeling rather out of my depth and oddly disconnected while reading this. I could follow the plot along just fine (despite a few choppy cuts) but I felt like I was missing key context about certain characters that could have been easily addressed. Without just that little bit of context, explaining the stories the new characters came from, some scenes seemed little more than a barrage of flashy lights and weird monsters. Art-wise, though, it was pretty great to look at and Rapunzel has some fucking fierce outfits and hairstyles too.
But the love story. Well…nothing against Rapunzel being bisexual (I am all for it!) but the relationship between her and Koi No Yokan never managed to feel like an enduring love story of the ages, the writing just couldn't convince me of it, neither in the flashbacks nor in the modern timeline. It felt like a lust-fuelled fling (which again is something I’m all for but probably shouldn't be presented as ‘love’). The real disappointment though was the unnecessary hetrosexual love story in the present-day time period. I’m tired of guys in stories ‘earning’ the heroine just by existing in their proximity and not being total arsewhipes. You cut her hair, Joel Crow, you’re her hairdresser and her friend and she doesn’t owe you fuck all in terms of romance. No, no matter how long you sit silently by pining in secret you will never have the right to get sulky at her for not somehow knowing and respecting your never-vocalised feelings for her. That's what nice guys™ do, and everyone knows they're sexist entitled jerkwads. Also, as a plot thread this romance felt tacked on and underdeveloped. By the way it was written it almost seemed to imply “see! she’s not a lesbian!” or to put an “it was just a phase” filter onto her previous relationship. Both of which are yucky motivations for introducing a love interest. The story would have worked just as well, if not better (much better), with Rapunzel traveling to Japan on her own.
But at least, the story wasn’t shown through the male character’s eyes this time. Which, unfortunately, can not be said about the final stand alone issue in this book written by Bill Willingham. It’s pretty much everything I dislike about the treatment of women in the Fables universe – a story about a woman’s life – in this case her love life – told through the eyes of a man who wants to date her. It’s just as skeevy as it sounds. And the ‘joke’ of the story is completely puerile. ‘Hurhur, she’s a dryad. Dryads are trees. Trees ‘eat’ manure. Dryads must eat poo. Hurhur! Dryads have poo breath!’. And that, in a nutshell, was basically the whole plot. The only part of the story worth reading at all was the “ominous epilogue” – and that could probably have been squeezed into any number of Fables stories without interrupting anything.
So yeah, three stars. The Rapunzel story was good and a definite improvement on the last volume in terms of actually doing what this series said it would by showing female characters having their own stories and adventures. But the Reynard Fox story was, much like a dryad’s casserole, kinda shitty....more
Without a doubt the darkest volume of Fables yet, this volume is also the best addition to the series for a long time. It’s not up to early Fab 4 Stars
Without a doubt the darkest volume of Fables yet, this volume is also the best addition to the series for a long time. It’s not up to early Fables standards, and I’m still not quite sure that the series was best served by continuing after the main plotline of the Adversary was concluded, rather than ending it on a satisfying, epic conclusion – Fables has been starting to show the wear and tear of a story stretched out beyond it’s initial plotline for a while now – but this has restored some of my faith.
I can’t really say I enjoyed this volume, it’s a pretty horrible story, but it was also a very powerful one. The cubs have been a constant presence in Fables since their introduction but, apart perhaps from Ambrose, I’ve always found them rather one-note and rather underdeveloped until these last two volumes – almost indistinguishable save by their gender and hair colours. Yet Cubs in Toyland, despite a few pacing issues, got me invested in their fates and managed to land some pretty emotional punches too.
And the artwork, I’m sure, played a big part in that. I’ve loved Mark Buckingham’s art since the beginning of course (though his Pinocchio took some getting used to) but it worked particularly well in this story. If you want bleak, hopeless, and more than a little terrifying, he’s obviously your guy.
As for the story. I’m not quite sure how and where it fits into the wider Fables plots going on at the moment, but obviously it’s going to have a huge impact on the Bigby/Snow family in future books. Therese (the blonde girl cub) is magically kidnapped by a creepyass toy boat and taken to a creepyass magical Toyland peopled by broken dolls and dismembered teddybears who declare her their queen. Only living in a decaying castle full of decaying toys isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (who knew?) and in a land of inanimate objects there is nothing for a human girl to eat. It’s up to her family, and particularly her brother, ‘pack leader’, Darien, to find and rescue her before she slowly starves to death.
As well as the Toyland plotline we also got a look in on the training of the new North Wind (my joint-favourite of the cubs), an intriguing vision of their future (my least favourite bit of artwork in the volume – magic hair colour change and stupid posing), a short story from Bigby Wolf’s past that promises an interesting future for another of the cubs, and the set up for nasty bit of backstabbing and treachery down the line in the main Fabletown plot too.
As I said, this book has a few pacing issues, the conclusion isn’t entirely satisfactory, and could probably do with a bit more exposition about certain plot elements, but it is the most raw and powerful instalment Fables has had in while. So while not ‘enjoyable’ per se, and while still far from my favourite volume, it still gets a high star rating from me.
But I will be happy to get back to the grown-up, better developed cast in the next volume....more