(2005) Bill Willingham, Titan Books, £9.99, trdpbk, 166 pp, ISBN 1-84576-032-8
This fifth volume of Fables collects issues 22 and 28-33 of the ongoing title. Issue 22 was a stand alone tale from the background continuity left out of the previous volume, partly to keep the size down and partly not to impinge on the story arc featured in that volume. This is followed by a two-parter featuring Bigby Wolf's wartime exploits in Germany, and a run-in with a certain mad scientist's creature. These three episodes were drawn by Tony Akins and Jimmy Palmiotti in the semi-cartoony style established by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha who draw the four-part 'Mean Seasons' story arc. This deals with the birth of Bigby and Snow White's children. All six of them (or is it seven...?). It also features Bigby's father, the North Wind, as a doting grandparent; doting, that is, within the confines of Fables' established tone. Meanwhile, Fabletown's Mayoral election comes to its expected conclusion, while others seek knowledge of The Adversary from captured prisoners.
I have to say that it is one of the surprises of recent comic book history that this title has actually lasted. OK, there's The Sandman and Hellblazer and Books of Magic and Lucifer as fantasy forerunners, but they are all, one way or another, tied properly into DC continuity, at least to its supernatural/magical characters and often beyond. Fables, on the other hand strikes me as a highly unlikely title - I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall during any of the pitch sessions for it: "You want to do what! Goldilocks is a terrorist who's makin' it with the Three Bears..." If you see what I mean. It is a tribute, therefore, to Bill Willingham's genius that Fables exists. Mark Buckingham too has made a wonderful contribution, and it's always a pleasure to see Steve Leialoha's work. Back when I first picked this title up I wouldn't have laid odds on my even liking it; now it's one of my favourite comic books and I eagerly await the next volume. Recommended, of course.
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