Again, the stepsisters are the real stars of this party. Well. And the dresses XD.
It’s difficult saying goodbye to a series you’ve been off and on reading for years at a time. It’s going on a journey with a cast of characters you’ve loved and then being told you’ve got to go back to work in the real world, thankyouverymuch (which, to be honest, is my general outlook in life, hah!). Fables was pretty much that journey, and it was sad to see the series actually, truly “end.”
To preface: this isn’t a typical review. I’ve finished 150 issues in 22 volumes, spanning thousands of dialogue and illustrations, panels and pages, and I’m finding it impossible to judge a series by its final volume. Farewell does a good job tying some loose ends, but leaves many things to the imagination, and encompassed several problematic elements that deterred it from being the penultimate volume of Fables volumes. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
Those who haven’t read Fables and are interested in delving into fractured fairy tales and modern retellings should really give this Willingham series a try. I must have pushed this series to a number of my reader friends (and my not-so-reader sister and best friend) because at the time I was:
- A) in a Vertigo Comics reading spree (owing to my love of Sandman by Neil Gaiman) and
- B) always on the lookout for fairy tale comics.
The Fables series follows the story of the Fable community, a group of fairy tale, folktale, legendary, and mythological characters and their struggles to live in the Mundy (mundane, magic-less) world. After their defeat against the infamous Adversary, most of the Fable worlds have been subsumed into the Adversary’s empire, and many are forced to retreat to the mundane world of Manhattan and its surrounding areas. The first volume title, Legends in Exile–as well as the first cover, an illustration of Fables characters running and cramming themselves into Manhattan’s subway train–pretty much gives an accurate portrayal of how they’ve been living for hundreds of years.
In Legends in Exile, we encounter the prominent figures of Fabletown, and interestingly enough, the story begins with Snow White and Rose Red. I point this out because Willingham returns to the rivalry between the two sisters one final time in Farewell, and it becomes a rivalry of epic proportions. To be honest, this wasn’t the bit that endeared me to the series.
It was this particular panel that did.
I adore Bigby Wolf, and the fact that much of the first half of the series pits Bigby as a prominent character–and important member of Fabletown–is most definitely why I kept reading. Ever since my entry into urban fantasy and the were-creatures that litter the genre’s pages, I’ve always kept a fondness for werewolves, and Bigby is not only THE Big Bad Wolf of stories, but he’s a REFORMED Big Bad Wolf. By this point in the Fables series, he’d even been appointed as the Fables’ town sheriff, a character you would not have typically visualized as someone who would uphold the law.
But Bigby does in his own way, and it is easy to see later on why.
The first volume did its job introducing a colorful cast, but it was Vol. 2, Animal Farm, and Vol. 3, Storybook Love, that cemented my love for the series. By the end of Vol. 11, War and Pieces, I thought this series was the bees’ knees. And it continued to be, though to be honest, once the Adversary Arc came to a resolution, nothing came quite close to the magic that the first 11 volumes held in their pages.
The series comprises of a few major storylines:
The Adversary (Vols. 1-11) – Wherein the Fables community try to find a life within the Mundy world, at the same time that many of them attempt to retake their Homeworlds from their enemies. Pretty epic stuff, especially considering who the Adversary is revealed to be, and how each of the Fables characters played a part in taking the evil kneevil down.
Mister Dark (Vols. 12-17) – After the fall of the Adversary, a new villain comes into town in the hopes of wreaking destruction to a newly-recovering Fable community. This arc was difficult to get through because the antagonists were arbitrary and highly annoying, but the arc also gave us Ghost, the North Wind, and Frau Totenkinder, and they are worth the waste of space that is Mister Dark.
The Werewolf Cubs (Vol. 18) – A prophecy comes to light upon the birth of Bigby’s seven children, and each are tied to their fates. This includes the spinoff volume Werewolves of the Heartland, which I considered as part of Vol. 18, to be honest.
Snow White and Rose Red (Vols. 19-22) – The finale pits us back to the rivalry between the two sisters and a curse revealed that explains it all. Or, well, tries to explain it all. It failed in my book, but Vol. 19, Snow White was well worth the read because it pretty much delves into Snow’s past and shines a light to how truly badass she is (although, if I’m going to be honest, I totally skipped everything about the damn flying monkey). Vol. 20, Camelot, follows in Snow’s wake by highlighting her sister Rose Red, and it is still one of my favorite covers in the series, even though Rose Red is quite possibly my least favorite lead.
But as far as it ended? I’m of two minds on that. In some ways, I appreciated Willingham trying to tie in loose ends in Farewell. It was a better volume than what came before, but it was also a bit of an anticlimactic disappointment. It also begged the question of “Who can truly come back to life?” Early on, it was established that the more famous Fables are able to return from death because hell, they are legendary in the mundy world. But then by the end of the series, even the popular fables don’t come back, and yet…some of the not-so-famous do. It bothered me to no end, almost as much as Rose Red’s lack of character development did.
In fact, if it weren’t for this magnificent four-panel foldout, I wouldn’t have rated Farewell as high as I did.
That all said, I’d still highly recommend this series. Heck, I’d highly recommend its spinoffs, too, especially Fairest and Telltale Games’ A Wolf Among Us (which also has a graphic novelization out). I wouldn’t so far as recommend the Jack of Fables spinoff, mostly because I effing HATED Jack and his Literal friends (and gods, AVOID Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover if you can, it really doesn’t add shmat to the story), but hey, who knows, it is probably enjoyable to others.
Alright, there. I’m done tooting the Fables horn.
Have you read the series? What did you think?
Here’s a little early return to our regular programming! Episode 1 of Season 2 is now up on Fableulous Retellings, and for the next few weeks, we’ll be all up on some Arabian Nights love. Here’s a fun (okay, semi-fun) fact about me: the framework tale of the 1001 Nights has been a personal favorite tale of mine. There’s nothing more badass than a female who saves lives and kicks ass with the use of her words and her abundance of stories.
Check out our first episode now!
Meg and Mari are back a little sooner than you would expect! They have started up season 2 and didn’t take it easy as they tackled the original 1001 Nights in their opening episode. Here’s a quick peak at some of the things discussed in this episode:
Why did we pick 1001 Nights?
- Richard Francis Burton
- The over-arching Arabian Nights’ story
- How Eunuchs became Eunuchs
- A Man gets embarrassed by farts
- What the heck is vermicelli cake? (Seriously about half an hour of us talking about vermicelli cake has been cut) and so much more!
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Join us every Tuesday for a new episode!
Whoo! Catching up on more light reading before hunkering down to the big stuff (although, yes, snort at the fact that “light reading” encompasses a partial re-read of a 1,000-page tome…). In any case, I’ve got some book mini reviews for you!
I will say that my sub-par rating for Arabian Nights is not on the stories themselves. This was mostly a skim-read, with a focus on a few stories, so it still stands to date that I have NOT read the entire translated work of Richard F. Burton. It’s also likely that I won’t, because my problem lay not in the stories, but in the archaic translation. It would be nice to have a more reader-friendly copy, if only to keep my attention span from sputtering from lack of paragraphs and the random times people broke into verse within the pages.
As for The Wicked + The Divine, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to start reading this series! Very enjoyable, albeit somewhat confusing as a first volume. I’m hoping many of my questions gets answered later on, though.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think?
Oh, blog. I know I have neglected you. Come to think of it, I’ve been neglecting many things lately. In lieu of the end of the year shenanigans, I’ve been generally swamped with grading, exam writing, teaching, and more grading. I’m behind on my Goodreads goal, I’ve not written a blog post since the end of May, and I’ve completely dropped off the face of the editing and short story writing circuit.
I needed to get out of this slump/hiatus. And it’s ALMOST the end of the school year. And I have a ton of catching up blogging-wise, so hang onto your, uh, figurative hats, yeah?
Anyway, got a few blog posts I need to write for the next few weeks, I just need the actual time to write it now!
So first, a couple of graphic novel reviews. I went back to reading some Fables goodness because it was high time I finish reading this series once and for all. My goal this year is to at least finish a couple of completed series, novels and graphic novels included!
** Note: These two graphic novels are Volumes 19 and 20 of the Fables series by Bill Willingham, so while I do attempt not to spoil the story so far, there is a bit of a jump.