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Graphic Novel Review: Fables: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Linda Medley

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In the third volume of Bill Willingham’s excellent series Fables, the writer presents readers with four stories instead of one. The last two graphic novel collects have each covered on arc, a murder mystery and a threat of war. Storybook Love presents three stories that spin entirely around love – lustful and temporary and troubled – and one that fits into the category with a little shoving.

The first offering is about Jack, the one who climbed the Beanstalk and seems forever determined to get himself into trouble. Set during the troubled years of the Civil War and shortly thereafter, “Bag O’ Bones” is a wonderfully American tale of Death being bested – and of the morbid yet hilarious consequences of the grim specter being taken off the playing field. Especially at a time of war. This was never an actual fairy tale, but it should have been. Willingham just has that wonderful touch of making the things he does seem real.

“A Two-Part Caper” is a caper story that involves Sleeping Beauty. It seems that every time she pricks her finger in the mortal world, everybody around her goes to sleep and thorn bushes start growing everywhere. That has become a problem because the Fables have to keep a low profile and away from the prying eyes of the mortals. However, just letting readers know that these obstacles remain in the way of the Fables is awesome when you start thinking about all the problems some of the characters in storybook legend had.

Things spin out of control in this story when a human reporters confronts Bigby Wolf, the Fables’ one-man police unit, and tells him he’s about to go public with a story about the Fables. Apparently he’s noticed that the Fables live several hundred years. Of course, being human, the man is convinced they’re all vampires. Although that isn’t the truth, Bigby knows that he can’t allow the man to start a stampede of attention.

The resulting cover-up and frame job on the reporter is simply amazing and shows Willingham’s versatility as a writer. I was in stitches when I read the lengths everyone went to in order to preserve their secret, and I loved the tension that built up between Bigby and Bluebeard, which only foreshadowed the graphic novel’s next arc.

“Storybook Love” concentrates on the coup that Bluebeard and returning fave villain Goldilocks initiate to get Bigby and Snow White out of the way so they can take over. The back-and-forth play throughout the plot is a perfect thriller and perfect escapism. Readers get a broader look at the whole world, and the fact that much of the interest focuses on the emerging relationship between Bigby and Snow, though no one knows for sure which path that’s going to take.

The action sequences in the story are very well drawn and accentuate the pacing. The fact that Bigby’s father was the North Wind and that he can still blow down houses (and forests) came out of nowhere but fits perfectly with what we’ve learned about the character. I loved the Mouse Police (Mounted Police) and would love to see them in action again (though there was a significant loss in this story). And Bluebeard’s fight with Prince Charming is wonderful, although it sets up more shenanigans that will be shortly forthcoming.

The final story “Barleycorn Bride” is different. The art is markedly different but suited the tale well enough. And again Willingham shows his remarkable chameleon writing gifts as he crafts a story that truly could have been a fairy tale.

I’m loving this series. I only regret that I discovered it so late, but at least now there are a lot of graphic novels at the local library to catch up with.

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