Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

09 October 2006

Fables, v. 7: Arabian Days (and Nights)

Collects: Fables #42-7 (2005-6)

Released: June 2006 (DC)

Format: 144 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 1401210007

Having revealed the identity of the mastermind villain in the sixth volume of Fables, writer Bill Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham take a step to the side in Fables, v. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days). Instead of dealing with the Adversary, the Fables have their first contact with the fables of another culture.

The Arabian Fables show up in the form of Sinbad and his retinue, and as one might expect, certain characteristics of the American / Iraqi relationship appear. And that’s where Arabian Nights falls down.

Sinbad’s retinue contains two sore spots for the Fables: slaves, for the obvious reasons, and a djinn, because it is an incredibly destructive weapon (and of course, the back cover of the TPB compares the djinn to a WMD). Both of these problems are dealt with ridiculously easily, and the resulting conflict is swept under the flying carpet much too easily. Imprisonment, torture, and nation building are shuffled off the stage as quickly as they occur. Perhaps it will be dealt with in future issues; Willingham has left the probability it will.

It doesn’t matter whether Willingham’s story is critical of the failures or supportive of the successes that have occurred in Iraq. It’s just that the story calls up these echoes of the present conflict, then dismisses them without saying anything.

The volume ends with a long story of Rodney and June, wooden soldiers who wish to become human to express their love. The wooden-creatures-wanting-to-be-human story doesn’t resonate with me, and although it is well done, there is no deep message or twist ending to redeem the story for me.

That aside, the established characters do continue to grow and change. Mayor Prince Charming shows his true colors and gets a pair of dressings down for it; Old King Cole gets to show why he was mayor for so long; Red Riding Hood begins to develop a personality; and Beauty and the Best start to slip out from under their predecessors’ shadows. Snow’s cubs continue to grow, and Frau Totenkinder shows why you don’t mess with Frau Totenkinder.

Something I take for granted is Buckingham’s art. Not only is the art pretty to look at, with a smooth line that can exaggerate when need be, but there are also small touches that make it enjoyable: small cartoons at the top of each page and background art along the margins. The art has life; it is vivid. The story of Rodney and June, on the other hand, is by Jim Fern, and although it’s competent, it just seems bland and stiff (appropriate, that latter characteristic) compared to Buckingham’s work.

This is probably my least favorite volume of Fables. If you’re reading the series already, though, you’re going to read Arabian Nights anyway. And if you’re not, you definitely are not going to start here.

Rating: Vertigo logo Vertigo logo Half vertigo logo (2.5 of 5)

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