I am on some kind of FABLES kick right now, as I rapidly tear thru the trade paperbacks. FABLES Vol. 6: HOMELANDS collects issues #34-41, opening with Jack Horner's departure of Fabletown and his dubious Hollywood adventures, which span several years (but only two issues). If you like the kind of protagonist Jack is (self-absorbed, scheming, a tad shady), then you might see how Hollywood is a perfect fit for him. It's a fun story arc, and Willingham manages a couple of wicked digs at Tinseltown. Jack does get his comeuppance at the end, and nobody really gets hurt except for several Hollywood low-lifes (but, then again, they're Hollywood low-lifes). Oh, and Jack turns out to be pretty mean to tiny, pocket-sized Jill, who left the Farm and went with Jack to see the world, only to find the world not as comforting as the Farm (and there's always that bit about having to stay out of sight of the humans). But Jill, in the end, is able to orchestrate her own measure of get-back at Jack.
As writer Bill Willingham puts it, "...Jack was never seen in Fabletown again, unto the very end of days." But for fans of this inept trickster, this two-part "Jack Be Nimble" storyline only paves the way for his own series JACK OF FABLES (see Jack of Fables Vol. 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape). From what I hear, it's not half-bad.
And then we get into the meat of this trade, the all-important five-part "Homelands," the central figure of which is the surprising Boy Blue, who one day simply left Fabletown.
But, hey, a segue: FABLES first introduced Boy Blue as the unassuming but efficient office clerk to Fabletown's administrative offices, and as someone, it seemed, doomed to be perenially relegated to mere background character status. Occasionally, he likes to play moody jazz on his horn. But, hold up. We eventually find out that Boy Blue has had a tragic, bloody past. And, not one to toot his own horn (hah!), but Boy Blue, in truth, is quite the accomplished warrior. Last featured in Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers, we learned of his part in the fables' last stand in the Homelands and his ill-fated romance with Red Riding Hood. We then learned of how Baby Yaga posed as Red Riding Hood and attempted to invade Fabletown, and how she caught and tortured Boy Blue for days. The invasion was fought off successfully. Boy Blue, in time, fully recovered.
"Homelands" is about Boy Blue getting his vengeance on, of an assassination in mind and the quest for the real Red Riding Hood. Armed with the powerful Witching Cloak and the fabulous Vorpal Sword of the Jabberwocky fame (and with his best friend Pinocchio's wooden corpse in tow), Boy Blue cuts a gory swath thru the Homelands, as he goes thru the magical back-alley gateways, each time getting closer to the Adversary's homeworld. It's very neat seeing Boy Blue in this light, as he cooly braves the dangers of the Adversary's conquered kingdoms. Man, there's plenty of bloody snicker-snack! action for those craving sword & sorcery derring-do. And, finally, finally, we find out the identity of the mysterious Adversary, who, after more than a millennium, has only now accomplished the total take-over of the European fable worlds (the Arabian fables are next!).
Then, for Boy Blue, there's one final bit of tragedy.
Issue #39 is appropriately titled "Meanwhile" as it cuts in the middle of the "Homelands" story arc to catch us up with current doings in Fabletown. In "Meanwhile" Mowgli, one of the Tourists (Fabletown's secret agents sent out into the mundy world), returns to Fabletown on mayor Prince Charming's behest. Charming has a proposition for Mowgli, who, having just discovered that his friend and mentor, Bagheera, is being kept caged for past acts of rebellion (see Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm), is eager to broker a deal to free the proud panther.
Also, a traitor is unearthed in the confines of Fabletown.
As usual, writer Bill Willingham invests layers of realism and grit and twisted humor into these stories. His "Jack Be Nimble" stretch is particularly snarky. "Homelands" actually comes close to being a throwback to classic heroic fantasy, although Willingham throws in enough of a contemporary perspective to skew the traditional fantasy elements. Again, Boy Blue proves to be a sympathetic lead character and very impressive with the Witching Cloak and the Vorpal blade. David Hahn pencils and inks "Jack Be Nimble," and he shows off his simple, clean lines. But, predictably, it's Mark Buckingham, with inks by Steve Leialoha, who makes you sit up and take notice. His rendering of "Heartlands" is flawless. And, of course, James Jean's covers are worthy of long, long looks.
FABLES is hands down one of the best comic books currently going on. If you haven't yet checked this series out, you're in for hours of terrific reading. The good news is that it doesn't look like Bill Willingham's run of creativity will dry out any time soon. Hopefully, "happily ever after" is a long ways away.
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: DC COMICS; 1 edition (1 August 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401205003
- ISBN-13: 978-1401205003
- Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.2 x 25.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 299 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)