Bill Willingham’s wonderfully developed series about fairy tales living among us today extends two more volumes with Homelands and Arabian Nights (And Days).
Homelands, which contains issues 34-41, opens with “Jack Be Nimble,” wherein Jack, ever the Trickster, lands in Hollywood with a car full of money and a Plan. He develops a movie empire centered around a trio of autobiographical movies called: “The Jack Tales.” Of course, no one knows they’re about him. In fact, other than his elite staff, no one knows who is behind Nimble Productions. Jack knows better than to completely cross Fabletown. Though there’s one tiny palm Jack forgets to grease, and he finds himself party to a hostile takeover one day. . . .
Let’s skip ahead a moment to the third section of the book, “Meanwhile,” which takes place during the middle of the larger arc made up of parts two and four, “Homelands.” In “Meanwhile,” a traitor is discovered in Fabletown (and put to a quick death), and Jungle Book’s Mowgli (who’s all grown up, and grown up quite nicely, I might add) is given an interesting task, its reward panther Bagheera’s freedom: tracking down Bigby for Prince Charming.
The bulk of Homelands is the eponymous story, wherein Boy Blue proves himself a true action hero. Traveling through a portal to the Homelands, and armed only with the vorpal blade and the witching cloak (two of Fabletown’s prized possessions), he battles goblins, knights, one particularly nasty dragon, the Snow Queen and assorted other evildoers to meet the Adversary face-to-face. For those who have been paying attention, who the Adversary is probably won’t come as a surprise, but we do get the full story of how the Adversary came to power – and why. As the tale closes, an old friend comes back to life – but not back to Fabletown – and Blue finally meets the true Red Riding Hood (it seems he has always met replicas that the Adversary has made), returning to Fabletown with her. Though Fabletown is grateful for the information he bears about the Adversary, they’re not quite so thrilled at the theft of two precious objects, so he finds himself being led off to a cell in the final panel.
Arabian Nights (and Days), spanning issues 42-47, unsurprisingly, introduces new characters from The Arabian Nights, most notably Sinbad and a djinn of unknown name, but immeasurable powers. The actual Arabian Nights story is itself somewhat disappointing, as it falls back on a trite stereotype (vengeful underling unleashes djinn to do his bidding), though it does have some nice touches. Who knew former Mayor Cole knew Arabic, or that Frau Totenkinder (think Hansel, Gretel and a supposedly toasty witch) really isn’t one to cross? Or that the Adversary hasn’t actually taken the Arabic Fables just yet?
We also learn a startling revelation about Bigby’s father. Or rather, the extent of his power, which does beg the question how powerful the son and grandchildren are. . . . And speaking of Bigby, we learn that Mowgli is on his trail, but is still a few months behind him.
Closing the volume is a story of one of the Adversary’s wooden soldiers, Rodney, who falls in love with another of his companions, the beautiful and talented June. Desiring to be human, they travel long and far to reach the Adversary and plead their case. He grants their wish, but at a price. A high price. Definitely a case of “be careful what you ask for, you may well get it.” I am certain we will hear more from Rodney, June and their soon to be born daughter in Fabletown’s future.
Though not as compelling as earlier volumes, Arabian Nights still has significant details that further the overall story and reveal teasing hints about various characters.
The Fables series continues to be one of the finest graphic novel series out there, and deservedly so.