Fables is an ongoing series from Vertigo Comics.
It's partially about sullying renowned fairy tale characters, by setting them in our modern world - Manhattan, to be more accurate.
It's also about the evasive meaning of these ancient stories.
Doesn't Prince Charming from the stories of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty seem like the same person to you? Do you feel like you know a mischievous wise guy like Jack of the Beanstalk?
Fables has sex, misdeeds, fighting and bravery. It's witty and original, and it keeps the old fairy tale magic going.
I just loved how the life-story of Shepherd Book was structured - starting from the moment of his death (on planet Haven, as we well know from the movie Serenity) and going backwards to the unknown parts of his life, unto his childhood...
The fifth volume of Buffy Season Eight is patched up from several different short stories, collated together to illustrate a world where vampires are the latest-hottest trend, all thanks to the most clueless...
Picture the following: A thick white winter covers the Northlands wilderness once again, with unbearable cold...
Here's another slightly incoherent, nevertheless endearing volume of Buffy Season Eight...
So, what have we got in Fables so far? The first two volumes were introductory, familiarizing us with the secret community of the immortal fables living in modern-day Manhattan (well, some of the fables live in an enchanted farm upstate New York).
Will the third volume get the story going full speed already? I was really hoping that it would, now that our contemporary fairytale had been placed on tracks so nicely in previous volumes. Despite my hopes, I had to be patient still. The third volume turned out to be a transitional volume, patched up from four different stories, tying up loose ends and providing more character background.
The first story, "Bag O'bones", is actually the retelling of the famous folklore tale known as "Soldier Jack". It just so happens that our unredeemable trickster - Jack of all possible tales - had arrived to the new world just early enough to participate in the American Civil War, Confederacy side. Equipped with excessive faux old-south accent, Jack hopes to scheme himself into marrying a southern belle. He ends up catching death in a sack, though.
"Bag O'bones" is illustrated by guest artist Bryan Talbot, with thick shaky inking as if to convey the screechy-rattling-bones theme of this tale. The regular and pleasant style of Fables is occasionally shaken up like so by guest artists - no complaints there - but I gladly reverted back to the harmonious native style for the rest of the volume.
"A Sharp Operation" Is a somewhat darker little story, spanning two chapters and taking place sometime during Manhattan's snowy winter nights. A Pulitzer-hungry mundy-journalist ("mundy" as in a non-fable regular person) threatens to uncover the fables community as the immortal vampires he thinks they are. The men of Fabletown devise a plan to take care of this imminent and undesirable publicity, by exploiting Briar Rose's - she's also known as the Sleeping Beauty - ability to make a whole building fall asleep. Plan A proves to be too mild for silencing a journalist in the information age. Plan B proves to be dirtier (and smellier) with one black hearted fable who ends up doing something really bad.
The lovely and detailed art by Lan Medina graces this tale in traditional pencil-like drawings with thin inked lines used for shading. Muted colors bestow regular-mundane and wintery-cozy atmosphere.
"Storybook Love" is the third and longest story of this volume. It picks up the remnants from the previous volume and closes standing issues between Snow and Goldilocks (who keeps killing cute animal fables to my own dismay). Bluebeard is secretly housing fugitive and promiscuous Goldy. They both plot to kill Bigby Wolf and Snow by enchanting them to feel an inexplicable urge to go camping together - a vacation of which they will not remember anything - or better yet not survive. As inhibitions disappear thanks to the enchantment, old wolf get's his metaphorical bone (from Snow...) and the not so metaphorical hatchet is buried in someone's head.
The art by Mark Buckingham is much the same as Medina's since the two artists maintain a uniform style for the series; but if you look carefully Mark Buckingham's drawings are slightly less detailed but more rounded and flowy.
The last story, "Barleycorn Brides", is another background tale. Where did the Lilliputian women of the fables community come from? The answer is - who needs dating when you can plant, grow and pluck the miniature woman of your dreams? Art by Linda Medly is a strange hybrid between childish storybook images to medieval glass paintings.
To sum things up, the third volume may not have been the eventful volume I expected it to be, but it was an enjoyable bridge to the next volume, where action really starts to stir - guaranteed.