PurplyCookie's Reviews > Fables, Vol. 12: The Dark Ages

Fables, Vol. 12 by Bill Willingham
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Oct 17, 09

bookshelves: comics-series, fairy-tale, graphic-novel, mythic-fiction, faerie
Read in October, 2009, read count: 1

Bill Willingham's "Fables" series spent its first 75 issues being defined by the conflict between the Fabletown community on Earth and the Adversary's Empire, which had conquered their old homelands and driven them into exile centuries before. The despotic Adversary, eventually revealed to be Gepetto, created a seemingly-invincible state spanning hundreds of worlds. And then, in the space of a few issues in the preceding "Vol. 11: Fables: War and Pieces" tpb, the Fabletown forces, allied with Sinbad's Arabian Fables, succeeded in crippling the Empire and ending the war. It was, for my tastes, a too abrupt conclusion. But Willingham turns things around in "Vol. 12: Fables: The Dark Ages", by showing the many unpleasant consequences that you rarely ever see after the Evil Empire has been toppled. Spoilers follow, so be warned.

The Fables succeeded in decapitating the Empire's leadership, but it soon becomes very clear that the bulk of the forces, and the more junior ranks of the military and administrative leadership, have survived, and are now trying to deal with things individually. Each world now becomes an isolated problem to deal with on its own. In addition, the disbandment of Fabletown's specially-raised armies poses new questions, as many demand the right to conquer their own realms within the old worlds (here represented by the Society of Seconds).

We are introduced to this volume with Pinocchio showing his toxic maker around Fabletown, where most don't wish him well at all. He gets an opportunity to spout his menacing philosophy (Gepetto gets a particularly chilling line where he compares himself to God), and there's nothing likable about this still-menacing (if momentarily neutered magically) puppet maker.

A new romance, a visit to Mowgli's jungle, a terrible loss, and some insight into the emotional dysfunction of one of the main female Fables--a very good scene that's sad and insightful. The death of one of the most likable of the Fable characters may come as a shock to most readers. Equally sad is the mourning of the loss of a great leader of the war efforts, Prince Charming and of Kay--at least now he may finally be free not to gaze upon the horrors behind the true nature of man.

The darkness in this Dark Age refers not just that of the sorcerers villains (namely, Mr. Dark and Baba Yaga) who are revived/released, but the darkness within the hearts of characters--from the first pages showing us the wasteland of Gepetto's heart and mind, to the darkness in the looting mercenaries, to the surprising revelation of the darkness in Rose Red.

By far the biggest consequence, though, is the release from prison of Mr. Dark, a spirit of unknown origin but considerable magical power, who lends the volume its name. Imprisoned by Gepetto's forces, the chaos surrounding the Empire's collapse lets him loose, and he strikes with such unexpected force so as to knock even Frau Totenkinder off balance. While his actual actions are rather limited in this volume, he promises to be a compelling antagonist in future volumes.

I've never been let down by the "Fables" series, and I look forward to seeing what's up next.


Book Details:

Title Vol. 12: Fables: The Dark Ages
Author Bill Willingham
Reviewed By Purplycookie
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