20 February 2012

Review 15: Fables Vol. 16 - Super Team by Bill Willingham

"Evil stalks the borders of Haven. Fed by fear and driven by darkness, Mister Dark has risen, more powerful than ever! Soon, the Fables' defenses will fall, and the day of doom will be upon them. But lo, there shall come... the F-Men! Assembled by the great and powerful Ozma and the wise and wheelchair-bound Pinnocchio (don't worry, his legs work fine - he just wants to look the part), these fabulous Fables will combine their powers to form a team-up to end all team-ups! Every super-heroic personality will be represented: Big strong guys! Guys in cool armour! Miniature people who can bounce around inside the bad guy's ear canal! That one girl who can fly! Even a roguish, hairy anti-hero with claws: Bigby Wolf himself! Together, they will overcome their fear and defeat Mister Dark once and for all! Or maybe they'll all die horribly within seconds. What do you think this is, a super-hero comic?"

A strong entry into a wonderful series. I absolutely love Fables and this was a relatively short but creative entry that manages to resolve some stories, prolong others and create new ones in an organic and exciting way. I finish each volume frustrated the next isn't available yet. The central element of the 'super team' is very tongue in cheek, but the series' ability to merge the humourous stuff with the darker, more serious stuff is one of its key strengths. This won't be a disappointment for fans of Fables.There are spoilers aplenty in the rest of the review so be warned.

First Line: 'The Ascent: In which we take a moment to see what's been happening in the Business Office lately.'

I'm a little torn on whether I was frustrated by the superhero element in a series heretofore blissfully free of superheroes and lycra or whether I liked the nod towards something that is so prevalent in the graphic novel world. Ultimately, whilst I wouldn't want Fables to go down this route again, I liked Willingham having a play with it as a short story arc but I imagine my patience with it wouldn't last long if it extended much past this volume. The reason behind the formation of a 'super group' is the ongoing threat from Mister Dark. For some reason, Pinocchio and Ozma have decided the way to defeat him is to assemble their strongest thinkers and fighters to assail him. Bigby is on board but convinced the idea will be the death of them but no one can think of any other way to defeat him after Frau Totenkinder's attempt failed in the last volume. There is a tongue in cheek section as the various fables parade in front of Pinocchio complete with costumes and superhero names in an X Factor style audition.

Bigby is also dealing with his father, the North Wind, who feels he has to destroy Bigby and Snow's zephyr child, Ghost, which Bigby is obviously rather against. We also find out what is going on with Bufkin the monkey who is trapped in the Business Office but after climbing up a magical tree he ends up back in Oz. I really enjoyed this side story as I was a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz books when I was a child. Return to Oz was a book I re-read many times and it thoroughly creeped me out so I really enjoyed the nods to that and the characters that Bufkin meets and I hope this story is developed more and is given plenty of 'pagetime' and other characters are introduced.

I was wondering how they would tackle the ongoing problem of Mister Dark as the last volume ended with a huge climactic fight that was very dramatic and I wasn't keen to read a rehashing of this with different characters, I also wasn't keen on seeing any of my favourites be killed off. I won't give away how this volume ends but I wasn't expecting it at all and I really liked being surprised. Willingham manages to create a satisfying conclusion to an arc without reusing past ideas but also without being anticlimactic (although some readers have criticised it as being this, I found it a creative way of dealing the story).

For me, this isn't my favourite volume (which probably has to be the ones from the climax of the Adversary storyline) but I really enjoyed it and along with the last volume, are my favourites of the Mister Dark story arc. I also intrigued by the vignette at the end which took us back to Sleeping Beauty and I am keen to see where that goes. One of the reasons Fables is so good is the way that Willingham manages to maintain story threads, concluded them, picking up old ones and introducing new ones in a natural way that is woven through the series as a whole.

2 comments:

  1. OOH, love this series and can't wait to get to Vol. 16! :D

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  2. Hi Anna, I have recently discovered your blog and let me tell you that I love it. I especially like your comic book reviews. I'm a fan of Willingham and I buy Vertigo's Unwritten too. You can check out my blog here: www.artbyarion.blogspot.com

    Bye and keep up the good work.

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