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Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland (Fables (Graphic Novels)) Kindle & comiXology
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|Length: 192 pages|
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There's enough exposition in here such that it might work for those who haven't read the comic, but you are probably better off being familiar with that in order to get the most out of this.
For the uninitiated, Fables tells of various famous characters from fairy tales and the like, who have had to relocate to our world after theirs fell to an evil empire.
As with the comic, it's strictly for grown up readers, thanks to strong violence, language, and adult moments.
Set somewhen not long after the events of issues 87-91 of the comic, with the Fables having to relocate after Fabletown was lost to the evil Mr. Dark. Bigby is off searching for a possible new location for a new Fabletown. And is going to check out a place called Story City. Where the deceased fable Bluebeard had a lot of interests.
Bigby gets a few suprises in Story City. Meeting a face from his past. And finding the inhabitants are all Werewolves. Who all revere him.
But as he digs deeper into the secrets of Story City, things start to get dark and dangerous..
The book is divided into nine chapters, one of which retells the events of issues twenty eight to twenty nine of the comic, which saw Bigby on a mission in Nazi territory in World War Two.
The focus is largely on him throughout, and this is a pretty good solid character drama, looking at a man who is constantly struggling between various parts of his nature. And some of the folk of the city are doing the same. This results in a pretty memorable story as many are forced into making some hard moral choices. Bigby most of all. Like all good fiction, it makes the reader think as to what they might do in similar circumstances.
But whilst the writing is good the artwork can be a bit distracting. It has one artist on layouts. Two on pencils. And four on inks. Thus the look of it can change drastically from page to page. Some of them are very good indeed. Some of them not so strong. And the latter do rather distract.
This is still worth four stars even despite that problem, because it's a very well written and memorable story, and well worth a look for any fan of the comic.
There's a short afterword at the end from the writer which talks about how the story came to be. And the real Story City. It's worth a read.
The other tale is one of those standalone pieces tangentially linked to the Fables plot. It is narrated by Ambrose giving a story within a story. There is little need for this technique other than to mark it as a Fables work and make us curious about the fate of the Wolf family.
Buckingham draws the main part expertly which has some wonderful colouration too. Gene Ha steps in to do the second story giving a very different feeling and some really dense tones. Special mention must go to the lettering as the small but clever choices add to both works.
The cubs, once an amorphous unit, a high-energy bundle of wolfy, childish glee and mischief, are starting to come out of their shell. In Fables 17 we learned more about Winter and Ambrose, here other cubs are highlighted. Therese is tricked into going on a magical adventure with terrible consequences, out of which she eventually fashions her redemption.
I don't know whether it's because I have my own children that I found this book particularly troublesome, but the idea of 8 year olds being lost to their families and having to make unbearably hard, adult decisions upset me to the core. But don't let that put you off. I don't know if this book signals a turn towards darker, more real-life themes and conundrums (real-life in the sense of problems being grey and knotty rather than black and white and easy to solve), or if it's a one-off. Either way, Willingham's superb imagination, pacing and turn of phrase, coupled with excellent art, mean that Fables remains the stand-out comics series at the moment.
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