Why were plane tickets to Stockholm in January so cheap? Because it was cooold. Beautiful! But cold!
See that boat over there? It was our hostel, the af Chapman and highly recommended. Went into several bookshops looking for books in English by Swedish authors to get as souvenirs (as I’ve done in the past), but everything seemed to be dominated by Stieg Larsson. Only read the first in the trilogy and although I found it hooking, I still don’t get why the big fuss.
I’ve been making my way through Fables ever since reading the first volume back in November. It keeps getting more and more addictive. I wonder is Bill Willingham already knows where he wants to go with the story or if he’s just playing it by ear. In the long-term the first option of course works better (think Lost), and it’s especially rewarding as a reader to see certain details being slowly explained over different volumes – why is Bigby always smoking? Why is Flycatch always doing “community service”?
Another thing I really like about the series is how in every volume a different artist is invited to draw a short-story about the past of one of the characters. Favorite so far: War Stories, about Bigby during WWII.
Only volume 4 and 5 are valid for the Graphic Novel Challenge as they were the only ones read in 2011.
There are spoilers all over this post as from this point, so read on at your own peril!
Animal Farm (Volume 2)
We discovered in the first book that Fables who don’t look human and can’t afford to (or don’t want to) look human live on “The Farm”. Now we travel there with Snow White, on one of her regular control trips. She takes Red Rose with her as an attempt at a reconciliation after what happened in Volume 1, and the story develops after they discover a plan by some Farm animals to invade the Homelands and defeat the Adversary.
More than in the first book I was impressed by the double-page scenes where hundreds of characters seem to be moving independently. It’s great to spend 10 minutes on just one of these pages, trying to identify each Fable. It’s like looking at a painting by Bosch.
Still, it was probably my least favorite of the books so far, mostly because there’s not nearly enough Bigby and Snow’s naivety starts to border on stupidity. Everyone could feel the building rebellion except her, the cunning woman who single-handedly runs Fabletown.
It was only after some Googling that I realized that Red Rose is not actually Red Ridding Hood. She was Snow White’s sister in the original story, but (Disney’s fault?) somehow didn’t made it into present-day lore. This is a major issue in Red Rose’s life, especially because Fables physically resiliency increases according to how much they’re remembered by mundanes (similar to fairies and believing in them). It made me wonder about the amount of fairy-tale characters which have fallen into oblivion and give a mental thanks to Bill Willingham for reviving them.
Highlight of the book: Reynard the Fox. He’s cunning, witty, utterly charming and I hope we get to see more of him in the future.
Storybook Love (Volume 3)
A mundane journalist who’s too smart for his own good, threatens to expose what he thinks is Fabletown’s secret: they’re a vampire society! Bluebeard is for outright murder, but Bigby get his way and comes up with “softer methods” which involve very cleverly crafted blackmail.
The tension between Blackbeard and Bigby, which has been an undercurrent in past books, really comes out here and culminates in Blackbeard’s attempt to get rid of Bigby and Snow by obliterating their memory, dumping them in the middle of some far-away woods and ordering Goldilocks to kill them.
The scenes where both of them are in the woods are beautifully drawn using complex backgrounds and unusual arrangements of the boxes. It was the perfect setting to get to know them a bit better and see their relationship evolve. Another character that also gets some attention and growth is Prince Charming, who starts becoming more than a womanizer. He doesn’t really change, we just get to know him better (didn’t Elizabeth Bennett say something similar about Mr. Darcy?).
The enormous possibilities offered by the Fables world is further exploited in the two short-stories in this volume: “Bag O’ Bones” about Jack’s adventures during the Civil War (you can almost hear the Southern accents!) and “Barleycorn Brides” which can teach you a thing or two about preserving an extinct race 😉
The storyline introduced in Animal Farm about the plan to attack the Adversary is not further developed in this volume, but you do get a lot of juicy character development.
March of the Wooden Soldiers (Fables 4)
My favorite so far. It has action, adventure, romance and tragedy, and above all, a very pregnant Snow. A pregnant heroine in an action comic book: how cool is that?! She’s even coordinates a battle through binoculars, walkie-talkies… the whole shebang! Right after Cuddy from House, Snow is the woman I want to be when I grow up!
The humor was top-notch. Although most fans elected as their favorite LOL scene the “Young Republicans” comment, I beg to differ and offer this one instead:
Bigby: I don’t believe you got mugged. You’re up to something and I don’t have time for it.
Jack: I am not! Look at me!
Bigby: You’re lying now because you always lie.
Jack: Not this time!
Snow: Jack, did you ever hear about the boy who cried wolf?
Jack: Sure Snow. He lives up on the seventh floor. So what?
The story starts in the Homelands, with Little Red Ridding Hood riding for her live as she tries to reach the last safe refuge against the Adversary. The Fables trapped in this last Castle know they have no chance to resist the Adversary for much longer, so they plan one last journey to our World before closing all gates to the Homelands.
Ridding Hood is though to have been killing during that last escape, until she shows up in Fabletown with a story of enslavement and escape. Her gazelle eyes fools everyone except Bigby, who smells fowl (pun unintended).
There are a lot of parallel story lines going on in this volume, from the election for Mayor of Fabletown (Prince Charming vs. King Cole) to the appearance of three ruthless, mysterious, sadistically-funny men who are just the start of a full-blown invasion by the Adversary. The final battle scenes were exciting and I was glad to once again see the Crow brothers, who stole my heart during the story of the Last Escape.
The Mean Seasons (Fables 5)
While “The March” was all action and adventure, this volume is much more subdue, but definitely out to pull at your heart-strings.
Snow gives birth to not-so-human babies, so they need to be raised at the Farm. Bigby on the other hand, is not allowed at the Farm because of his less than pleasant dealings with some of the creatures living there. To top all, both Bigby and Snow have been fire by Prince Charming, the new Mayor of Fabletown.
In the end, they decide, on less than friendly terms, to go their separate ways – Snow and the babies to the Farm, Bigby to an unknown location away from mundanes. I confessed I found it this decision a bit implausible, especially considering Bigby’s character – would he really be able to abandon Snow with 6 kids to raise?!
Though not so good as the previous one, I still enjoyed it more than the first volumes. I got a kick out of seeing Prince Charming’s struggle with the reality of running a Government and thought it a great twist the appearance of Bigby’s father, the North Wind (love the hair!), in the Farm to give Snow a much needed hand with raising her pups.
The ending was a bit of a blow – didn’t see that one coming! – sad in a beautiful way (or beautiful in a sad way?) and it made me go straight to BookDepository to order the next volumes.