As the last review indicates, this is a stellar collection of stories from one of the true masters of the artform still working today. The basic premise of the series has been covered by the previous reviewer, so I'll focus some quick comments on the contents of this volume. In "March of the Wooden Soldiers," an ally long thought dead with a strong romantic attachment to one of our more likeable characters makes a miraculous escape from the Homelands to seek sanctuary in Fabletown. Unbeknownst to the community, a group of dangerous minions of the "Adversary" have also escaped, and are heading straight for Fabletown, intent on its destruction.
Bigby Wolf, our suspicious and intrepid sheriff, senses something is amiss and goes on a dangerous mission to seek answers. In his absence, the Adversary's unbeatable army launches an all out assault, while our beloved heroes seem powerless to stop it, and are betrayed from within.
On its face, it would be easy to assume that the conceit of Fables - mythical characters living in the real world - would be so ridiculous as to be easily dismissed. You'd be very wrong. The writing by Bill Willingham here is some of the strongest he's ever done in his long, distinguished career, and the characters leap off the page in a way that, surprisingly, makes them seem quite flesh and blood indeed. One of the more intriguing aspects of the series is the way Willingham's writing inverts traditional expectations normally associated with fairytales on their head, by having the characters display or discuss very human, sometimes crass, sometimes enobling, and sometimes quite mundane traits and issues. The contrast between the 'reality" of the so called 'real' or mundane world and our magical creatures, is often surprising and hilarious, while also grounding the series in a way that makes it incredibly relevant.
The artwork by Mark Buckingham is pitch perfect for the series, although a warning should be sounded for anyone looking for fine comic art. Bunckinham's pencils are competent and serve the series extremely well, managing to bring both a comic and realistic sensibility to the characters in just the right doses. In fact, the art is pretty good, but anyone expecting the fine and delicate pencils of traditional fantasy artists should leave those expectations at the door. Buckingham is creating a distinct visual language for Fables, and while I wouldn't want him anywhere near traditional superhero fare, I would probably be very sad indeed if he departed Fables for other shores. Together with Willingham, Buckingham is producing some of the finest comics currently being published today. In doing so, they are managing to make a sly if perhaps unintentional(?) post-modern commentary on the loss of innocence and general cynicism of western societies.
The quality of these deluxe editions are just right for the price, and are actually pretty good. My major complaint with them is that they should offer more issues per volume, and DC should publish them more frequently. Prior to this year, the good people at Dumb Company (DC) comics were only releasing one deluxe Fables volume per year. But considering how vital and strong this work is, I would think they would be anxious to release them at least twice yearly, as they smartly did with Ex Machina and Y The Last Man, two other excellent series. I see that volume 4 is already listed at being scheduled for February, so perhaps the folks at Dumb Company have come to their senses and realized that you can't keep a good series back and when you're producing good product, you need to highlight it properly.
I can't recommend Fables enough. I think anyone interested in good mature comics, Sandman, Starman, Y, Ex Machina, fantasy, who has fond memories of Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman, (lol), or is looking for non-superhero fare with a mature quality, should check Fables out. The tpbs will bring you up to date if you aren't too concerned about format, but the deluxe editions are worth the wait if you want something sturdier.