Book Review : Fables, The Dark Ages - Bill Willingham*****
Note - Some spoilers ahead.
A quick recap, the war has been fought and won, the vile and blood drenched tyrant Gepetto overthrown and taken alive because of a last minute plea by son Pinochio, many good Fables lie dead or wounded, but at last it appears that the Fables can live in peace, and that after many decades they can begin to return to their homelands.
Much like Mike Carey's Lucifer, it did rather appear that this 12th volume of Fables would be a wrap up issue in the style of Lucifer : Evensong, tying up the loose ends and doing a short 'lived happily ever after' selection of stories. For fans of the Fables series though, it appears that Bill Willingham has no intention of laying his creation to rest just yet.
As the Fables work their way through the aftermath of the way, two Fables on a distant world (who are an almost undisguised Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) come across a locked box in a treausre hord, reasoning that a secure box in a pile of gold must contain treasure beyond imagining they hack open the chest, but the chest does not contain treasure, it was a holding place for an ancient, dark and terrible evil.
Willingham's 12th part of the Fables series is as exciting and well crafted as any part of the story arc so far. Like many of the really great comic writers, he doesn't get too attached to major characters, so be prepared for a tearful farewell to a long running favourite or two in this book. Willingham also works major changes to the power structure of the Fables, and with an implacable enemy approaching whose own power was used in tiny fraction to aid the Fables in the war The Dark Ages ends not in the flush of hope and victory that marked the end of War And Pieces, but with a deep sense that the next chapter might not go at all well for many of our favourite characters.
Since the end of Lucifer, Fables has become easily the best written graphic novel going. Willingham has a fine and deft touch for emotion, politics and humour, for love and loss and honesty. If he can keep up this level of writing I would be happy if Fables were to follow Hellblazer and become a really long lived title.