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Bill Willingham – Fables, Vol 12: The Dark Ages

September 14, 2009

108. The Dark Ages by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn (2009)
Fables, Volume 12 (Issues #76-82 of the original comic)

Read My Review of Volume:
0. 1001 Nights of Snowfall
1. Legends in Exile
2. Animal Farm
3. Storybook Love
4. March of the Wooden Soldiers
5. The Mean Seasons
6. Homelands
7. Arabian Nights (and Days)
8. Wolves
9. Sons of Empire
10. The Good Prince
11. War and Pieces

Length: 192 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel; Fantasy

Started: 04 September 2009
Finished: 04 September 2009

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Holy crap, has it really been since *January* since I’ve had new Fables to read? It was about time for another fix.

Little Boy Blue, come
blow your… Oh. Oh wait. Well, that’s
super depressing.

Summary: The Dark Ages is very much a transitional volume, both for the characters and for the series itself. The war is over, the Adversary is defeated, and everyone must deal with the fallout. In the first story, “Around the Town”, the Adversary is having some problems readjusting to life in Fabletown, and many of the other Fables aren’t ready to forgive and forget, general amnesty or no. In the main story arc, “The Dark Ages”, we start to find out that defeating the Adversary may have caused just as many problems as it solved. Specifically, powerful forces that were kept in check during the Empire’s reign are now loosed upon the worlds, and one of them is unravelling the magics that keep Fabletown together. Meanwhile, Boy Blue, erstwhile war hero, is still hospitalized when a war injury refuses to heal. Finally, in “Return to the Jungle Book”, we find out about Mowgli’s trip (with Bigby’s brothers in tow) to see if his homeland can be recolonized.

Review: I’ve got mixed feelings about this volume. On the on hand, it was fantastic to get back into the Fables universe. Eight months is too long to go with no Fables, and Jack of Fables doesn’t quite fill the gap. Seriously, every time another familiar character showed up, I gave a little internal cheer… which was about the only cheering I was doing, because holy yikes, the main story arc in this one is sad… and dark. It didn’t quite make me sniffly the way Mean Seasons or The Good Prince did, but Willingham’s certainly not pulling any punches with terrible things happening to favorite characters, either.

On the other hand, though, it was a transitional volume, setting up the next big story arc, and as such it was a little unsatisfying, with plenty of little snippets of what’s coming but nothing it felt like I could really sink my teeth into. Plus, I feel like if you’re going to do another Big Bad, he needs to be worse than the previous Big Bad… and while Mister Dark is thoroughly creepy, I’m not yet convinced he’s that powerful. Hopefully that’s still coming, though – you don’t want your bad guy to show all his cards at the beginning. So, while not the series at its best, even a so-so Fables is still a compelling read, and I’m still looking forward to seeing what comes next. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: For folks like me who’ve been jonesing for another Fables hit, this one isn’t completely satisfying but is enough to tide you over. For those who have taken a bit of a break after the main storyline wrapped up in War and Pieces, though, that’s a good place to stop and wait for this new story to build up some steam.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Casual Dread
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Ready to go, pops?”

Cover Thoughts: Definitely in the upper ranks of my favorite Fables covers, although I don’t think it’s number one. I don’t entirely understand all of the little toys/icons around the pair, but the rest of the image is very striking, and sets an appropriately somber mood.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 4:41 am

    I’ve read this one and like you wasn’t completely satisfied. Surely there are more out now since the last time I read any…

    • September 14, 2009 8:54 am

      Ladytink – They’re out in single-issue form, for sure, but this is the newest trade paperback.

  2. September 14, 2009 6:26 am

    I only skimmed your review because my copy is on its way. I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t completely satisfying, though!

    • September 14, 2009 8:55 am

      Nymeth – Ah, well, since it’s the first volume of a new arc, I wasn’t really expecting a blockbuster. Any new Fables is a good Fables, though. :)

  3. September 14, 2009 8:59 am

    I’m pleased it’s back too – but I was unsatisfied. For me, it wasn’t just that I am unconvinced about Mr. Dark (although I am); I also didn’t think there were enough character moments, if that makes sense. You know, he’s got this big cast of characters, and he’s not giving them much to do. (alas)

    • September 14, 2009 9:18 am

      Jenny – I know what you mean about the character moments. It seemed like there was plenty of opportunity for them, but they just didn’t seem to shine they way they have in the past.

  4. September 14, 2009 12:27 pm

    I agree. Any new Fables is a good Fables, but this didn’t blow me away either. It will be NEXT year before there is another new one. :(

    • September 18, 2009 9:12 am

      Kailana – Oh no! For real? I might have to break down and just start reading the monthly issues.

  5. September 14, 2009 9:35 pm

    I am so, so envious of people who have libraries with graphic novels. I can’t imagine our library ever acquiring them. The biggest readers, around here, appear to be retirees. We have a huge large-type section. Kids are doomed.

    • September 18, 2009 9:15 am

      Nancy – I am so very spoiled by my library, which is one of the best in the country, and has huge selections of just about everything. One day I’m going to have to move, and that’s going to be a very, very sad day.

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