PurplyCookie's Reviews > Fables, Vol. 9: Sons of Empire

Fables, Vol. 9 by Bill Willingham
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's review
Apr 24, 09

it was amazing
bookshelves: graphic-novel, mythic-fiction, comics-series, fantasy, fairy-tale
Read in June, 2008

We have seen Fabletown respond to the Empire in a devastating way. We cannot expect the Empire to roll over after just one hit. The first story arc ("Sons of the Empire") shows us how the Empire plans to respond by having their council of war, presided over by Lumi or the Snow Queen herself. What the Adversary and company want is nothing short of the destruction of Fabletown and our mundane world. The main issue is not `should they' but`how should they'. We are then introduced to the main allies of the Emperor: The Nome King (from L. Frank Baum's tales of the land of Oz), the Inquisitor General Hansel (of the "Hansel and Gretel" fable; later on, was to become very active in the mundane world's witch hunts), the head of the Knight Bright Day to represent the much feared witch Baba Yaga and Sir Rodney Greenwood (the recently made flesh wooden soldier). At the same time, Pinocchio finds out on a personal level what a monster his `kindly' Geppetto is.

The Snow Queen, as one of Geppetto's closest and most trusted allies, she set out a four-stage plan for the invasion and destruction of the mundane world, which she calls "the four plagues". First, thousands of warlocks will release six deadly diseases; second, dragons and fire imps will burn the world's cities; third, the Snow Queen's minions will turn the world to perpetual winter; finally, with all crops and means of production destroyed, the remaining humans will starve to death. The Empire can then use the mundane world as a prison. As a result of Pinocchio's briefing, Lumi has been ordered to amend the plans to ensure that all the Fables living in the mundane world have been assassinated prior to any attack, to prevent them rallying the technologically advanced mundane forces against the Empire.

We also learn of the pivotal role of Lord Hansel, as one of the first Fables to be tossed out of Fabletown and his rights under the Compact quashed. He and his sister arrived in the mundane world in the mid-17th century but due to his disgust over the Amnesty laws covering everyone, including the Black Forest witch, whom he thought he has killed, he left in disgust, leaving his sister Gretel behind. Hansel moved to Europe, where he swiftly established a name for himself as a witch hunter, testifying in numerous trials and taking part enthusiastically in the executions. When he next visited Fabletown, he asked his sister to leave with him. Gretel refused, explaining to him that she had spent time studying with Frau Totenkinder in the intervening years and had gained a new appreciation for the magic arts, seeing them not as the devil's work, but as a useful tool. Returning to the Homelands to recruit himself in the service of the Empire, Hansel was tasked with investigating and punishing any unauthorized use of sorcery. Now, Geppetto has designated him as the Empire's official envoy to Fabletown; however, his real mission in the mundane world is to send Baba Yaga and the wooden soldiers back to the Homelands.

Meanwhile, it becomes obvious to anyone with eyes that Red Riding Hood has developed a tendre for Flycatcher, or Ambrose as she prefers to call him. She decides to start looking like a "modern woman" by venturing out to the mundane world for the first time, assisted by one of the Crow Brothers. After displaying her new look to Fly, it however had a less than desirable magic effect on him: it turned him back to his Frog Prince form. There's also the matter of Rose Red expressing romantic interest in her prisoner up at The Farm, Boy Blue, who's to serve two years of hard labor for crimes against Fables.

A snippet (pun intended) of a story, "Hair," centers on Rapunzel. Cursed by Frau Totenkinder for displeasing her as she was a "slutty little girl", Rapunzel's hair is constantly growing, at a rate of four inches an hour, so she has to live under the most restrictive conditions of any of the city Fables, to prevent any mundanes from noticing the fast growth. She has three haircuts each day, courtesy of Joel Vulco, one of the Crow Brothers.

Another short story, "Porky Pine Pie"is a story involving a porcupine with a curse of liking human girls.

"A Thorn In Their Side?"is about a seemingly simple mundy, Kevin Thorn, a former New York City journalist who has the ability to see behind the illusions cast by Fabletown magic-users. In Kevin's free time (when not spying on Fabletown residents), he is writing a book describing what it is he has discovered of the Fables. In "Jack of Fables"the reason for Thorn being able to see through the Fables' illusions is finally given, but I won't spoil it for the readers.

We then pause to celebrate the holidays, courtesy of the story,"Jiminy Christmas", featuring who else but the most magical of Fables: Santa Claus. Stationed at the North Pole, he can magically be at every house in the world at the same time on Christmas night! Following an attempt by Jack Horner to steal the naughty and nice list in 1956, Santa has left the list with Bigby to put in a safe place every year since.

In the second main story arc,"A Man's Home Is His Castle." Meanwhile, Bigby Wolf and family have settled down to domestic bliss in their first Christmas together at Wolf Manor. However as her Christmas present, Snow White asks that Bigby visit his father with his family. Of course the problem is Bigby blames his father for his mother's death. Bigby gave in and he and his wolf pack travel to the lands of his father for a family visit. This is the first chance we have of seeing Bigby with Mr. North.

Ambrose, the chubby cub named after Flycatcher, is portrayed as the weak link; often too scared to transform or fly when in danger. Ambrose narrates certain events such as the family's trip to his grandfather's castle, as well as his narrow escape from his six wild uncles whom his father later had a grand battle with. These are done in the form of memoirs which hints Ambrose may have a larger role to play in the story later. "I learned two things, really: First, we would never have reason to fear our father. Second: those intending us harm couldn't entertain the same hopes."

As bonus material, Willingham, armed with a crop of talented artists, answers readers' questions. The various questions include:
- Did Hakim ever manage to get a regular job?
- How does Bufkin keep getting his hands on the liquor?
- What is training like for a new member of the Mouse Police?
- Did Jack ever leave anyone messages before he left Fabletown forever?
- How are the new Three Little Pigs adjusting to being pigs?
- Besides Fly, who else has asked questions of the magic mirror?
- What is Boy Blue's favorite song?
- What song was playing when Snow and Bigby first danced together at the Remembrance Day Ball?
- What is Frau Totenkinder knitting?
- Who was Prince Charming's first love?
- How many romantic conquests has Prince Charming had?
- Who caught the bouquet at Snow White's wedding?

Book Details:

Title Vol. 9: Fables: Sons of Empire
Author Bill Willingham
Reviewed By Purplycookie

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