“Fables Volume 22: Farewell” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2015)

Fables 22 Farewell
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It’s been 13 long years, 22 trades, and 150 issues, but the end for the award-winning Fables is finally here. Usually, a final book or volume in a series needs to impress you and make you feel nostalgic for the whole story and make you want to start reading it all over again. Fables Vol. 22: Farewell does exactly this, and in fact would also serve as good “hooking” volume for new readers, as this trade gives a little insight into all the main characters and a large number of secondary and minor characters that makes you want to read the series from the beginning and get the complete story.

Fables began with some core characters, most notably Snow White, Bigby and Rose Red, and Willingham has skillfully steered the last couple of trades to come to a climax between Snow White and Rose Red, tied in with their family and history, which is how it should be. But because this is the last trade and the writer and artist know they have a lot to get through to wrap everything up, they take care of the main story fairly quickly and decently.

And then it is on to a succession “The last story of . . .” for many different characters readers and fans have come to know and love and hate and sometimes forget about over the 13 years of this great comic series. The main characters get all their endings of sorts, but because they are fables while it may not be an “and they lived happily ever after” situation, you know they’re at least satisfied with how things turned out for them and their own, at least for most of them, but so do all the small and seemingly insignificant fables readers have come to know, as well as having some interesting questions finally answered. Readers, whether they be new or veteran, will be delighted with this final chapter on Fables.

Originally written on August 28th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Fables Volume 21: Happily Ever After” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2015)

Fables 21 Happily Ever After
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Things are coming to a head in this penultimate collected volume before the final showdown that will conclude the long-running, award-winning series. It is a case of good versus evil, as all great battles are, but the lines are severely blurred between who is good and who is evil.

Rose Red has been reborn as King Arthur, having formed the Knights of the Round Table at the Farm, though her prisoner is not as captive as she thinks. And now she must face her Morgan Le Fay, her villain, who turns out to be none other than Snow White, her sister, naturally. Readers get to see some important back story here with the sisters’ mother, who had her own large number of siblings and according to the way things were, these sisters had to kill each other to gain all the magic, and it is the story of Snow White’s and Rose Red’s mother who changed this.

Meanwhile, Bigby is sort of back. Having been turned to glass and then shattered, he was reassembled with a crucial piece still missing. A woman of immense power now possesses that glass shard and is able to control the big bad wolf, as he rampages around New York City, killing and eating like his fabled legend and being very unlike the kind, loving father we know him to be.

As the crescendo builds, Willingham – as he has done for the whole series – builds the tension and adventure and since this is the end, readers have no clue who is going to make it out alive, if anyone actually is.

Originally written on August 2nd, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 21: Happily Ever After from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 20: Camelot” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2014)

Fables Camelot
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To say that the comic book series penned by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Mark Buckingham has reached its twentieth collected volume is quite the astonishing feat, but when one considers that it has won fourteen Eisner awards, and is working its way through its second major storyline that continues to build and become more exiting with each volume, it’s not really a surprise at all.

After things continue to take a turn for the worse in the previous collected volume, Snow White, Camelot seeks to create a new hero to try to turn things around with Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. She takes on the role that she feels destined for, the Paladin of Hope, and what better way to do this than with a new Camelot and some brave Knights of the Round Table. One might also call them the Knights of Second Chances, as Rose Red is willing to wipe the slate clean if they prove themselves.

They travel from all the lands, creatures great and small, humans mighty and miniature, but only the bravest and true will succeed and be selected. Red even offers an old enemy a second chance, which sets her at odds against her sister. Snow White refuses to see her sister from now on, keeping what’s left of her family away from her also, feeling betrayal will inevitably come.

Meanwhile the witches and wizards of Fabletown are trying their darnedest to reassemble the glass shards of Bigby Wolf so he can be whole and alive once more. Side stories in Camelot include that of Bigby and Boy Blue in a sort of afterlife, as well as what Gepetto and Junebug are currently up to, and finally the Boy Blue Band go on an adventure into the Homelands.

For a special twentieth volume, Camelot is a nice long read, with a great main story that is ratcheting up the suspense with what is going to happen next, along with some great side stories. It shows that Willingham has so many stories to tell that the reader never knows what’s going to happen or who’s going to appear on the next page. Fables Volume 20 is a worthy addition to the collection that will be a delight to fans everywhere.

Originally written on November 18, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 20: Camelot from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Fables Inherit the Wind Cubs in Toyland Snow White

“Fables Volume 19: Snow White” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2013)

Fables Volume 19 Snow White
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Things are heating up in the various worlds of the fables, and this is what keeps the award-winning comic book series so popular and fun to read: multiple storylines going on in different worlds at the same time; at some point the reader knows they’re probably going to cross paths, but for now he or she is just enjoying the ride.

With two cubs still missing, Bigby and Snow are worried beyond their wits and so it’s up to Bigby to head on out in Rose Red’s blood-fueled sports car along with the help of Stinky. He will not rest until he finds his children safe and sound. Meanwhile, as Snow tries not to panic and lose it, a surprising old friend comes into town, one who is supposedly her husband and begins taking control, imprisoning Snow against her will and looking to sets things back to the way they used to be. And in the distant land of fables, Bufkin and Lily also get up to adventures.

With the beautiful artwork of Mark Buckingham, volume 19 presents another enjoyable chapter in the Fables saga told with skill and designed in that unique Fables way with the ornate borders clueing in the reader to the storyline being dealt with, and whisking them away to the land of the imaginary.

Originally written on February 17, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Volume 19: Snow White from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Rose Red  Fables Witches

“Fables, Volume 18: Cubs in Toyland” by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2013)

Fables: Cubs in Toyland
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The Fables are back again in a new collected volume and up to plenty of antics.  Willingham is still putting the pieces together for the next big saga of Fables and the blossoming full story isn’t clear yet, but readers are having a lot of fun along the way with the different subplots.  Snow White and Bigby wolf have always known that one of their cubs was destined for a great role, and its seems like it’s been filled when Winter begins training for the role of the North Wind, but each cub has a prophecy and some are fulfilled in this 18th volume, Cubs in Toyland.

Therese is an easily confused child, and when she finds herself a toy boat that talks to her, she is more than gullible.  The cub is led on a journey to a river, where the toy boat enlarges to a real-sized one.  She hops on and is taken across a great ocean through storm and sea until she reaches an island of broken and discarded toys, the misfits of toy society who all have voices and personalities.  They want little in life but to have a new queen to love them.  Therese thinks she might be this person, but soon discovers there is no food on the island, and begins to starve, while the incessant toys turn her into a dark and twisted person as time passes.

Darien is the leader of the pack and has always known he is the hero and must do everything he can, no matter what he takes.  He follows the clues about his missing sister and crosses the great ocean to find this distant land of mutated toys and knows what he must do to save his sister.

Cubs in Toyland is a great stand-alone story of the Fables universe, exploring some of the roles that the cubs of Snow and Bigby are destined to fulfill, pushing and pulling on the emotions of the reader, as they are ultimately just children, even if they are fables.  Included in the collection is the story of Bufkin in the Land of Oz, illustrated by Shaw McManus.

Originally written on February 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables: Cubs in Toyland from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 16: Super Team” by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Eric Shanower and Terry Moore (Vertigo, 2011)

Fables Super Team
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This new volume in the award-winning and fabulous Fables series features the familiar, amazing artists Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, and some well known guest artists with Eric Shanower and Terry Moore.  Shanower pencils an interesting introductory tale from fableland, while Terry Moore does the art of the moving final tale of “Waking Beauty.”

At the heart of the volume is the story of the “super team.”  Mr. Dark has Fabletown bowing to his whim, wreaking his evil and darkness, and must be stopped at all costs.  He is now growing his dominance in the land of fable, blocked by a protective force field by Flycatcher.  They’re going to need a crack team of really strong fables, the F-Men, to stop this Mr. Dark.  They’re going to need the likes of Werewolf Man, and The Golden Knight, and maybe the Green Witch.  They’ll need training and simulations to be ready, but ultimately someone much stronger will be needed to take down this master of darkness and fear.

Super Team does what every volume since the start has done: furthered the compelling story, as well as introducing new material and new fables, to keep the readers hooked.  The fresh art styles of Shanower and Moore add to the magic, making this volume a requirement for any fan.

Originally written on December 30, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Fables Super Team from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Down the Mysterly River” by Bill Willingham, illustrations by Mark Buckingham (Starscape Books, 2011)

Down the Mysterly River
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The dynamic duo who’ve been entertaining fans for years with the fantastic comic book series Fables now turn their writing and illustrating talents to middle readers.  Down the Mysterly River is a quaint, entertaining tale that straddles a perfect balance between a memorable fable or fairy tale, and a great kid’s story.  Combining Bill Willingham’s skill as a storyteller and Mark Buckingham’s recognizable illustrations, this book is a delight for anyone, be they child or adult.

Max “the Wolf” is the best of the best when it comes to Boy Scouts, so when he wakes up to find himself in a strange and unfamiliar place, the last thing he’s going to do is panic.  He’s got his tools and his abilities to tackle anything.  When a badger named Banderbrock shows up and starts talking to him, Max thinks it’s a little weird – maybe he’s dreaming? – but keeps on going.  Before long he’s on the run from a group of hunters and their snarling hounds, picking up new friends along the way: Walden the black bear and McTavish the Monster (who looks quite a bit like an old barn cat).  The question is will they be able to keep themselves from getting caught, and why is this all happening to Max anyway?

Originally written on December 1, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Down the Mysterly River from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Fables Volume 15: Rose Red” by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham (Vertigo, 2011)

Rose Red
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With the war done and over, the next chapter in the incredible saga of Fables kicks it into high gear under the skilled pen of Bill Willingham and artistic pencil and color of Mark Buckingham as Mr. Dark is finally confronted and a character that has been hiding from the world for some time returns.

Rose Red has shut herself away from everything since Boy Blue died, unable to face her job and role as the one in charge of The Farm.  But now things are going downhill fast, and dissension is growing and getting out control at The Farm, as the natives are getting restless and plots are being hatched and it seems like a coup may be in the works.  With continued visits and visitations from the decapitated pig, Rose Red also receives a visit from her mother and is finally pulled out of whatever dark place that she’s been in, pulls herself together, cleans herself up and addresses everything that’s going on at the farm.  At the same time, readers get to see the story of Rose Red’s and Snow White’s childhood, the good times and bad together, and of course those infamous seven dwarfs.

Meanwhile back at Fabletown, Mr. Dark has his minions and is becoming scarily powerful.  The Fables mount their first attack with magic and witchery from Totenkinder, destroying his zombie followers and finally stopping this creature of nightmare and fear.  Celebrations over this defeat are short lived however, as Mr. Dark breaks free of his supposedly unbreakable bonds and seems little the worse for wear.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on April 10, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Fables Volume 12: The Dark Ages” by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, et. al. (Vertigo, 2009)

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The Eisner award winning comic book series returns at a poignant moment.  The great war between the good and evil fables is finally at an end.  All should be right with the world.  The fables should be able to return to their Homelands.  Everything should return to normal, as it once was, centuries ago.

Except this isn’t the case.

The fables in our world are slowly recovering from the war, surprised at the few numbers that died, while on the Adversary’s side, the number of dead are immeasurable.  That is except for Boy Blue, who suffered an injury from a magical arrow.  The fables’ best doctor thinks he has him all cured, but Boy Blue isn’t getting any better; in fact each day he looks much worse, one step closer to death, which would be wrong for one of the greatest heroes of the war.  Meanwhile there are those in the Homelands who are searching through the spoils, and they inadvertently awake a dark and terrible creature, a bogeyman that haunts our dreams, hides under our beds at night, and terrifies us from the closet.  He is the one whose power the fables have been using for so long to use their magical devices, and he’s very angry.

The Dark Ages starts a fascinating new plot line, reassuring any Fables fans that now the big war is over, Willingham isn’t done by any means, but merely with an important chapter in the Fables storyline, with plenty more tales to tell.  The use of magic and power for the war was at an immense cost, as The Dark Ages shows.  The question now remains who will live and who will die with this new evil loose amongst the fables.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 18th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall” by Bill Willingham, et. al. (Vertigo, 2006)

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Whether this is the first time you’ve looked upon the world of the Fables comic book series, or you’re an issue to issue addict (like me); 1001 Nights of Snowfall is a graphic novel that anyone can read and enjoy: Bill Willingham says exactly this in his introduction. Working with a host of different artists, including Mark Buckingham (who illustrates the series), John Bolton (Harlequin Valentine), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) and Charles Vess (Stardust, Ladies of Grace Adieu); 1001 Nights of Snowfall is the graphic novel you’ll want to own and show off to friends.

Featuring a collection of stories, the book is framed with Snow White’s meeting with a misogynistic Sultan who intends to kill her when he is through with her. To prevent this, Snow White must tell a new story to him each night to stay his lethal hand. From her stories we find out about Bigby’s (the big bad wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Three Little Pigs” fame) birth, his youth, and how he felt being the outcast of the family. We learn of an unusual story of a woman’s learning to defend herself with a sword coupled with the mysterious deaths of seven dwarfs. We learn about the life of a frog who was magically transformed into a prince, but then turned himself back into a frog to save himself as his wife and family were slaughtered. Then there is the story of the real Hansel and Gretel, showing in detail what really happened when the witch tried to cook them. The final story is about the animals of Fable banding together with Old King Cole to protect their realm.

With lots more stories to tell, 1001 Nights of Snowfall is the book you want for cold winter nights by the fire, when you can lose yourself in a world where the many characters you grew up reading about come to life and live everyday lives. And if, after this, you are looking for more, you might just want to start the Fables series from the beginning with Fables: Legends in Exile, available wherever graphic novels are sold.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on December 12th, 2006 ©Alex C. Telander.