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Fables #24
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Mark Buckingham

There's an old anecdote Orson Welles told to Peter Bogdanovich that goes something like "I was in a play once, doing the Star Part. You know what a Star Part is? I did one called "Mr. Woo", and, maybe for the first forty five minutes, everyone kept saying "Yes, but I wonder what will happen when Mr. Woo gets here?" and "Oh, what'll Mr. Woo say about this?" and, just before the end of the first act, the small figure of Mr. Woo crosses a bridge in the background and everybody says "Ahhhhh… Mr. Woo!" and the curtain comes down and the audience goes out and says "Wow! Isn't that actor playing Mr. Woo great?!""

Some people may not realize it, but this is the exact thing that makes Fables such an addictive book. We have the love, lust, hatred, betrayal, greed, fear, and compassion, but, more than anything, we have The Adversary; the most enthralling unknown villain in recent comic history.

And now, after two years of mystery, some more clues are tossed our way…

Rose Red is tending to her morning duties on the Fabletown Farm Annex when word comes to her that Baba Yaga's chicken legged hut has been on the rampage all night and nobody can stop it. The strange part is that the hut is loaded with enchantments to prevent it from doing this exact thing, so what's making it try to escape the farm?

Meanwhile, in Fabletown, Boy Blue is still in the clutches of the counterfeit Red Riding Hood and her three Wooden Soldiers. Bruised and bleeding, it's unclear what Blue may have revealed concerning the relics remaining in the Fables' possession. However, it seems to be enough to satisfy Red, who, after chastising her servants, is herself reminded that they are "True sons of the Emperor… Carved in his image". Unimpressed, Red tosses them across the room with her spooky mind powers before deciding to return Blue to the Fables, getting one last use out of him in the process…

Unfortunately for her, Bigby Wolf has already found the Fable garrison at the Canadian gate between worlds dead and the gate itself opened from the other side. Knowing an attack is imminent, he has Snow White order the immediate lockdown of Fabletown, but will it be enough, now that so many soldiers of The Adversary have come through?

After the Fables special "The Last Castle" came out, the tone of the book changed forever. The Adversary was no longer just some remote threat spoken of in old tales; he was real. Still unseen, his forces had become more than just spectres or forgotten monsters, and, sure enough, Willingham didn't wait long to finally bring that threat into the present… and the result has been great.

Can Willingham keep up this tension forever? Probably not, but when you consider that it's been two years and we STILL don't really know anything about our big villain, it doesn't look like he much cares about wrapping up the main conflict. We've seen Fables do turns as a murder mystery, a war of secession story, a caper, a love story amidst a tale of political intrigue, and any number of other things. Anything but an epic battle of good and evil, that's for sure. Now that Bigby's set out to collapse the Canadian gate, it's anybody's guess if that battle is ever coming.

But on that note, Fables makes a keen observation: people just don't want to go to war. It may only seem like common sense, but consider all the stories you've ever read where someone took out an enemy they had no reason to fight, aside from past quarrels and the possibility of future strife. Now, try to resolve that with the way the average person thinks; we, as societies, just aren't wired like that (though certain individuals may run against the herd).

The Fables, despite all their powers and outlandish origins, are no different than us, hiding for centuries from a foe they knew to be out there, but never making any plans to amass an army to take back the Fablelands, much less any kind of force to defend themselves. Simply put, they thought their fight was behind them and they settled in to the quiet life, content that The Adversary had forgotten about them.

But will that change now that The Adversary has finally broken through? Will the Fables choose to fight? Is The Adversary really some kind of non-living being in human form like his Wooden Soldiers suggest? Why does he press the Fables for their relics so much when he's never shown the slightest interest in crossing over to our mundane world before? Is the war finally coming to Earth?

Hell if I know, but isn't it exciting?!


Jason Schachat

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