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Graphic Novel Review: Fables Volume Five – The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

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The fifth installment of Fables serves as a restful pause in-between two climactic volumes: the previous volume, where the exiled Fables made first contact (and also first battle) with the Adversary’s agents, and the next volume in which we’ll go into the magical (and occupied) Homelands, and finally learn the true identity of the Adversary. But first, we need to traverse this current lukewarm volume.

The volume opens with two short background stories, concerning the secretive endeavors of my favorite character, Bigby Wolf, the Sheriff of Fabletown. For the stories themselves, though, I didn’t care so much, and here’s why.

In the first story called “Cinderella Libertine,” we learn that Cinderella, Prince Charming’s third wife, is actually one of Bigby’s top-secret operatives. While all other Fables are busy in their mundaily routine, Bigby and Cindy take care of the real dirty work. So dirty a work it is, they even obscure it from Snow White and King Cole — the bosses of Fabletown. Cindy’s secret task entails a trip to Paris, where she is to uncover Ichavod Crane as a traitor. Using all the regular methods of seduction — insinuated wealth and non-insinuated sex – she gets Ichavod to sign a fake allegiance contract with the despicable Adversary. In the final moment, Bigby comes into the picture and makes good riddance of poor corrupt Icky Crane.

I didn’t like this story, not one bit for two reasons. First, Bigby should not be soliciting Cinderella in such ways — not even for the greater good (on the other hand, she’s a big fable-girl and can decide for herself). Also, even though Ichavod Crane is indeed a truly sordid character, he was actually tricked by Cindy (on the other hand I’m thinking, he was willing to betray Fabletown for all sorts of greed). Anyway, I didn’t like this story, so I’ll just pass on it as a one-time glitch.

In the second short story called “War Stories” we find out – quite surprisingly — that Bigby has a mundane friend, who is aware of his magical wolfie nature. This mundy friend is an old brother-in-arms of Bigby’s from WW2. What was an otherworldly Fable like Bigby doing in WW2, you might ask yourselves? Well, having inhabiting the new world for centuries long, and also being the loyal canine that he is, Bigby feels he should partake in mundy affairs: team Good Guys, fighting the good fight.

The story is narrated in the form of diary memoirs by Bigby’s friend, Shawn Duffy. It tells the story of how a special unit of American soldiers, deep behind enemy lines in Europe, were joined by Bigby in a top-secret mission to dismember a notorious Fable character, who had been revived by the Nazis in an old scary Castle somewhere.

The story started and ended very nicely (I liked the reunion of Bigby and his old friend), though I’m not much into war stories of any kind – especially if they’re modern time horrid wars. The dark atmosphere of the story was very well created, much thanks to guest artist Tony Akins (who also created the art for the previous Cinderella story) who maintains the typical style of the series.

The third and longest story of the volume, continues the regular Fables plot line with familiar lovely art by Buckingham and Leialhola. Snow White gives birth to a bunch of magical cubs that turn out to be part human, part wolf, and part North Wind. They are as mischievous, joyful and cute as newly-born cubs could be. They can fly (they are part North Wind, remember?) and shape-shift (that’s the North Wind side of the family again), but one overlooked cub holds much darker traits, and Snow is bound to make a very tough decision.

Along with the newly born cubs, a new political era arrives to Fabletown, as Prince Charming becomes Mayor. Lord Beast and his wife Beauty take over the jobs of Snow and Bigby. Ruling the community seems to be tricky as Prince Charming finds it hard to keep all the empty promises he made so abundantly while campaigning for mayor.

Keeping the Fable community together also becomes a challenge, as key characters leave Fabletown: Jack of the Fables goes to Hollywood, as we’ll find out in the next volume. Fly Catcher disappears and so does Boy Blue, along with his magical cape and Pinocchio’s body (he reverted to wood after being killed in the previous volume).

Bigby Wolf also takes off – destination unknown — as he’s not allowed to visit his own cubs in the Animal Farm. While all these characters are leaving, one very interesting character arrives. Mister North, Bigby’s father and the cubs’ grandfather, pays a visit to the animal farm.

Where did Bigby, Boy Blue and Flycatcher go? Can Mister North teach Snow’s cubs new tricks? and who is the Adversary? I guess I’ll just find out in the next volume.

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