It’s that time of year again! Here we’ve compiled our list of the ten best books we’ve read in 2018, and their consequent reviews, in no particular order. Enjoy!
Okay, I’ve put it off long enough. I procrastinated and procrastinated, never wanting this series to end. So finally I made myself sit down and finish it.
Rose Red and Snow White have never been the best of sisters. But Rose Red made an unforgivable choice, and Snow is going in full defense mode to protect her family. Soon the big players of Fabletown, for better or worse, are picking sides. Most of the normal citizens want nothing to do with the conflict that is quickly escalating into a civil war. What’s more, a big bad ghost from all their pasts is back to haunt – and kill – every one of them. In the end, who will be left standing? Will Fabletown even be left?
… I am left speechless after the ending to this phenomenal and epic story. Once again, Bill Willingham pulled a sucker punch on us. Of course, I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but rest assured that the ending is fitting for the series.
So instead, I will talk about the series as a whole. Fables is a prime, if not the best, example of a graphic novel series that is not a superhero story. Because it’s not, it’s not constrained by a lot of the writing tropes and pitfalls that plague superhero comics. I found that this is especially true as far as characterization went. Though superhero stories have come a long way in creating more morally ambiguous characters, the writing still clearly separates “good” and “evil” characters. Throughout the Fables series, many more characters are on the morally grey spectrum, and some swing more towards the “good” and “evil” side as the series goes on. Not only is it just more skillful writing, it makes for much more interesting character development, especially over a long series such as this one.
The art – guys, the art is some of the best I have ever seen. It’s a small pet peeve of mine in superhero comics when they switch artists too fast, to the point where you get 4 different artists, and by extension, art styles, in one trade paperback. For the most part, the penciling is done by Mark Buckingham for the main series. The Deluxe Editions have spin-off issues and one-shots that are done by guest writers and artists, who are all very talented, but Mark Buckingham’s artwork is really what made the series come to life for me. His ability to create intricate detail to distinguish many, many characters from one another is no small feat. One of my very favorite things about the art in this book are the borders that line the edges of each page. I’d never seen it’s like in a graphic novel before, and it really gave the books a “fairytale storybook” feel. Many times over the course of this series, I caught myself studying the art more than reading!
Much love, time, and creative energy went into this series, and it shows. This fascinating mix of fairy tales, noir, high fantasy, and adventure, with excellent characterization and suspenseful writing, has already and will appeal to a wide range of readers. Because there is some gore, strong language, and adult content (never gratuitous), I would save it for older teenagers and adults. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for??? As for me, I’ll be starting it over =P
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, and Dan Green. Fables (The Deluxe Edition): Book 15. 2017.
Rose Red has finally decided what kind of hope she inspires in people. As a paladin of the goddess Hope, Rose inspires the hope of second chances. Taking her cue from her niece Therese, she orders a Round Table built at the Farm. She is rebuilding Camelot and recruiting knights who are in dire need of second chances. One such recruit, Brandish, is going to be her pet case. Snow White is outraged after what Brandish did to her and her family. If Rose Red sets Brandish free and recruits him to her cause – they’re done. No longer sisters, and Rose will no longer be an aunt to the cubs. Can Rose reconcile her calling with her only remaining family’s wishes?
Rose stepping up to the plate is really exciting! It’s fun to see that even in the Fable world, stories are recycled and refreshed. Different characters take on different roles in Rose’s new Camelot, including characters who were in the original! The extra stories were kinda “meh” in this one. They didn’t add much or elaborate on anything from the main story. The real action, as ever, is in Fabletown – and new Camelot! I don’t want to pick up the next volume – I don’t want it to end!!! 😭
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Russ Braun, and Barry Kitson. Fables: The Deluxe Edition (Book 14). 2017.
Bufkin finds himself the leader of the revolution in Oz to overthrow the Nome King. Fabletown is moving into the ruins of Castle Dark, and they find quite a few surprises. In Haven, Beast is working around the clock to try to get around the deal he made with the Blue Fairy. Snow and Bigby’s children are starting to scatter according to Ozma’s prophecy: Winter at the Palace of the North Wind, Therese gone missing, and pack leader Darien setting out to bring her home. She was last seen carrying the toy boat she got for Christmas into the woods to play with it. It took her to the shores of what they call Toyland, but really is Discardia, a land of broken toys, and they are sure she can restore them…
Make sure you have a warm drink at the ready while reading this one. You’re going to need it when you’re done! It’s great to see the story shift to center a little more on the next generation of Fabletown, but it’s not without a price. The “Cubs in Toyland” arc is truly chilling. It’s amazing how GOOD the writing still is after all this time! The story still keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing; nothing goes how you expect it to. Very near the end now – oh, how I hate to think of it!!!
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Shawn McManus, Gene Ha, and Andrew Pepoy. Fables: The Deluxe Edition (Book 13). 2016.
Fabletown is gearing up for one last stand against the Dark Man. Pinocchio is assembling a team of the strongest Fables and, in what is seen as a hare-brained scheme by many other Fables, giving them costumes and superhero names reminiscent of those found in the comic books he loves to read. Meanwhile, at the Fortress of the North Wind, a motion to choose a new North Wind is underway. The North Wind has gone missing, leaving Bigby, Snow, and their children confused and hurt. The other Cardinal Winds move in, hoping to choose a child who’ll serve their own ends. The children think it’s obvious who the new king will be, but who ends up being chosen surprises all of them. Will the child step up to the challenge? Will Bigby and Snow be able to do what all parents must do at some point – let go?
What I like about this series is that nothing goes the way you expect it to – this volume was no exception. They could have titled this volume “Fables: Plot Twist Central”! I loved the arc about Pinocchio and his superhero scheme. This series isn’t afraid to poke fun at classic comic book tropes, and the end result is always hilarious. The cubs, thus far, have been more of a side story, and it’s fun to finally see them get more of the spotlight. Not much has gone on in Fabletown as far as “the next generation” goes, and it only adds a new element of intrigue to the story. I can’t wait to see where the story of the kids especially goes from here!
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Erick Shanower, Terry Moore, and Andrew Pepoy. Fables: The Deluxe Edition (Vol. 12). 2016.
The threat of the Dark One is rising in New York, in the ruins of old Fabletown. He’s gathering Mundy minions to build him a castle. He’s the biggest threat Fabletown faces yet, but their forces are split. In the old Business Office, Bufkin, the Magic Mirror, and Frankenstein’s head are all trapped with the escaped Baba Yaga. The coven of witches up at the Farm are in the middle of a power struggle. King Cole, Beast, and Beauty are doing all they can to hold both human and animal citizens together, but with Rose Red still bedridden, there’s little hope of pacifying either side. Flycatcher, King of Haven, is struggling with his first ever court case. Does the divided Fabletown stand a chance against the Dark One, or will the divide make it easier for them to be destroyed?
This volume packed a lot of emotional punch. Snow White and Rose Red’s backstory is finally revealed, and drove me to tears at the end of their issue. Though we know some of Frau Totenkinder’s story already, we see her return to her roots to try to banish the Dark One. Beauty and Beast also find great happiness! Their character development has been among the best in the series. The art was pretty consistent throughout this book, with Mark Buckingham appearing most frequently. His whimsical, highly detailed art is most suited to this series, and he has such a way of capturing facial expressions to evoke exactly the emotion the story is supposed to. As ever, looking forward to more!
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Jim Fern, David Lapham, and Inaki Miranda. Fables: The Deluxe Edition (Book 11). 2015.
It comes to the attention of Snow and Bigby that there is a villain out there who has the power to wipe away the entire universe – and rewrite it as he sees fit! The source of their information, is of course, unreliable… it’s Jack we’re talking about, after all. But for once, he isn’t playing around. He’s got backup to prove it too. They call themselves the Literals, and they are the embodiment of the literary devices. Kevin Thorn, the embodiment of storytelling, is the one causing trouble. The Fables, the Literals, and the Page sisters (the three embodiments of library sciences) have to find a way to stop him before he erases them all out of existence! Meanwhile, Jack makes his way back to the Farm. He has some unfinished business with Rose Red, and someone has some unfinished business with Jack himself…
This arc is called “The Great Fables Crossover” because it crosses over with Jack’s spin-off comic. This one didn’t do much for me. Mostly, I was confused on the characters outside of Fabletown. The Literals are many, and they weren’t well-introduced. They finally gave a cast of characters spread in part 8 – of 9. By that time I was almost through and didn’t bother going back to see who had said what or done what. Besides, just like Nancy said in her review of Jack of the Fables, Jack really is a huge jerk!
The next arc contained in this book, “Werewolves of the Heartland” was back to just Fables: a story about Bigby and an old friend from his WWII days. The art was really cool in this one! It looked almost like woodcutting or hatching. A good, spooky read for a cold and cloudy day ;D
Willingham, Bill, Matthew Sturges, Mark Buckingham, Russ Braun, Tony Akins, Jim Fern, and Craig Hamilton. Fables (The Deluxe Edition): Book Ten. 2015.
Working together, the Western and Arabian Fables, led by Prince Charming and Sinbad, have finally figured out a way to strike back against the Adversary and take back the Homelands. They’ve combined magic with Mundy technology, and the results are devastating to the Adversary and his forces. But the Adversary has one more trick up his sleeve, and he’s sure as hell not going down without a fight. Who will come out on top? And what kind of repercussions will this war have… on both Homeland and Fable territory?
As ever, there is much more packed into this volume than my short summary… I don’t want to give anything too important away =P The suspense of seeing how the war was going to turn out keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time – and even after, once the smoke clears and things start hitting the fan again. There were some issues drawn by other artists that I think missed the mark of the subject matter. Strange, because all others have been wonderful so far! Not a big deal, though. As always, I eagerly await the next volume.
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon, Michael Allred, Peter Gross, and David Hahn. Fables (The Deluxe Edition): Vol. 9. 2014.
Sooo… remember a few issues back when I mentioned Flycatcher got turned back into a frog for some reason? Well, he’s human again, but he’s got a glorious purpose! With the help of Lancelot’s ghost, Flycatcher dons Lance’s sacred armor and sets out to stake a claim in the Homelands – a claim that is his right as a prince. Meanwhile, Mayor Charming and Beast are working with Hansel, the Adversary’s ambassador from the Homelands. Each party has something the other desperately wants – but can they exchange goods without starting an all-out war?
This volume! Was so!! Good!!! Everyone loves a good underdog story, and boy is Flycatcher the ultimate underdog. To watch him struggle for his birthright after knowing his backstory, you can’t help but cheer for him. Since it was mostly one story, the art was consistent throughout, which was a bonus! A few new revelations from side characters made this volume pretty juicy and moving along at a fast clip. As always, can’t wait for the next volume!!!
Willingham, Bill, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Andre Pepoy. Fables (The Deluxe Edition): Book 8. 2007.