Friday, December 24, 2010

Book Review : Fables 14 Witches - Bill Willingham 9*

Long running comics with a constant story arc are not an easy thing to master, this is why so many of the marathon length series are written in turn by an ever changing line up of guest writers.  Solo authors always face the peril of running low on ideas whilst trying to keep the series going.  The comic greats like Moore, Gaiman and Carey get around this problem by defining a definite end for their creations before it gets tired and stale, Watchmen, Sandman and Lucifer all behaved like novels in that they they reached an end and allowed the readers to wonder at the the writer's brilliance, and the writers were allowed to move on to other projects.  Willingham gets around this problem by being constantly brilliant, here we are, 14 volumes into the ongoing Fables saga and he shows no sign of straying from the high standard he set back in 2002 when the first Fables arrived.

It might have been natural to end the Fables series after the defeat of the evil imperial overlord Gepetto, the whole thing could have been neatly wrapped up and Willingham's creations would have ended on a high note.  Instead, he chose to plant the seeds of a new adversary in the dying embers of the previous ones burning empire, as Gepetto's armies were slaughtered and his worlds rebelled against his iron, or rather wooden, rule, so something that Gepetto's mages had kept safe for ages was freed.

Mister Dark, as his name implies, is a much blacker and distubing evil than Gepetto was, indeed he seems to spring more from the pages of Hellblazer than Fables.  He kills fables with a thought, flenses their bodies, then consumes their teeth and re-creates them as unliving, animated slaves.

As well as creating great stories, Williingham has created a believable legal structure for the Fables which is rather more Old Testament than New, but still we see fables struggling with the implementation of their own laws and the consequences thereof.  Gepetto has been allowed to live, supposedly stripped of his powers, but he still proves capable of causing trouble, and Baba Yaga proves that even death and  imprisonment in the Witching Well cannot stop a witch of her power.

Some of the regular Fables characters take to the back benches in this volume and that allows some minor characters to step into the limelight.  Of particular joy is the transformation of the previously buffoonish Bufkin in autodidact style into the well educated bane of Baba Yaga.  Willingham ends this volume on a cliffhanger with Frau Totenkinder having left to research a magic to use against Mister Dark, and the usurper to her seat of power, Ozma, summoning a power who is sure to divide the Fables loyalties.

Fables continues to be the best long running series there is, whilst The Walking Dead and DMZ seem to have waylaid some of their early promise, Fables continues at a very high standard, massively enjoyable and showing no sings of stalling, long may Fables continue.

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