Fables #100: Review!

9 Dec

It’s been a long-time coming, and now, finally, the 100th issue of Fables has come out.  Boy, does it not pull any punches!

First off, your main story is 60+ pages long and features one of the largest battles to ever grace the series.  The final confrontation between Mister Dark (Duladan) and Bellflower (Frau Totenkinder) carries the large brunt of the story.  And, for the most part, it’s very inventive.  Unfortunately, for me, I feel like Buckingham’s pencils are more convincing during the quieter moments of the series rather than the action parts.  Nevertheless, he still delivers a very inventive fight scene.  My favorite part was watching Mister Dark’s body become more and more primal and shapeshift as he became weaker and weaker.  Plus, the losing of the teeth was nothing short of classic and a great nod to Frau’s past.

There are a couple of stops throughout the issue as we occasionally take a glance back at the Farm where Beauty begins going into labor early while Beast freaks out (naturally, of course). By the end, you’re set up with a new status quo and a very interesting direction.  It seems like with issue #101, new readers will find it not too difficult to jump on.

My two primary concerns with the main story both rely on the representation of women.  First off, Mrs. Spratt, the balloon-shaped nurse who has a chip on her shoulder comes off as rather flat.  Yet, by the end of the comic, she seems to suddenly don a gigantic role in the future of the Fabletown folk (for good or bad).  Her characterization is just flawed throughout, and Snow’s reasoning with her isn’t very believable and kind of generally insulting.  Snow admits to being a bitch in the past… as she’s being a bitch.  That just doesn’t make sense.

Secondly, I know Kelly Thompson (here’s her latest post that has absolutely nothing to do with Fables) has had issue with the representation of Frau Totenkinder.  The character began as an old lady who knit a lot and just happened to be secretly the strongest and most powerful character in the entire series.  However, in order for her to become even more powerful, she had to shed her exterior and return to her true form… which just happened to be a young, beautiful woman.  Now, in this issue, she continues to mention her plans to move away to never return to the Fable heroes because, well, because she has FOUND THE BLISS OF MARRIAGE.  It’s the typical move in which a character becomes satisfied by simply being married off.  On one hand, you can argue that this happened to Snow (although, I still believe that she’s just as powerful of a character but the focus has shifted).  However, it’s still a disappointing turn.  Now, for that to actually happen or be seen, you have to read the actual comic.

So, that was the main part of the story.  However, this comic cost $10 and is large enough to earn a place on my bookshelf, and that’s because of all of the extra content.  You have a prose story written by Mark Buckingham (the usual artist of the series) and drawn by Bill Willingham (the writer of the series) that’s kind of a nice departure.  Then some short stories.  And then a “Burning Questions” section that’s been seen in the series before.  However, these burning questions come from celebrities and they’re not particularly interesting.  I would have preferred for them to come from actual fans.  Nevertheless, they get some big talent (Adam Hughes and J.H. Williams III) to illustrate some of them.

Overall, you get paper doll cut out figures, a board game, some short stories, and a gigantic lead story all for $10.  For that price, it’s definitely worth it even with my little qualms.

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4 Responses to “Fables #100: Review!”

  1. 1979semifinalist December 9, 2010 at 8:21 PM #

    Yeah, I read this tonight and had some serious problems with it – both of which you hit on exactly. I’m still trying to let it marinate but my knee jerk reaction is that other than loving Mark Buckingham…this was a massive let down.

    One of the things that has comforted me about Snow’s “banishment” upon being pregnant and married off is just that this is an ensemble cast book and it was time to shift focus. I didn’t see, contextually, that happening frequently in the book to other ladies, so I took it as a more natural ebb and flow of where Willingham wanted the story to go…but to now have it happen again (and even more obviously and abruptly and without the character finishing what she started) it contextually changes everything…and I…well, I dislike it intensely. I’m going to let it sit for another day or so before making my mind up for certain…but these things usually only worsen upon marination. 😦

    Great post!

  2. srichey December 9, 2010 at 9:01 PM #

    Enjoyable issue. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Bellflower; she’s one of the more interesting characters in the series.

  3. Dartfin December 14, 2010 at 3:55 PM #

    I’m assuming a lot of you who have complaints about Totekinder’s reasoning didn’t read 1001 Nights of Snowfall in which we learn her complete origin and why she is the way she is. It all stems initially from her falling for a tribal leader who is promised to another, and is then left pregnant by him. She sacrifices the child for power and turns bitter and after a series of slights begins to become who she is known to be. It jives with her origin that when she meets a truly decent man, and has completed what she set out to do, that she’d leave. Remember, every leader of the 13th floor has a great task and then relinquishes the reigns. Totenkinder said that when she was done fighting, she’d leave. She COULDN’T BEAT Duladan, thusly, her job is done. She said win or lose she was leaving, she just happened to meet a good man in the course of researching a way to defeat him, and therefore left WITH him. It was always her intention to leave. So, she didn’t leave before the job was completed as she couldn’t do it and therefor held up her end of the bargain and left. You’re reading far too much into this.

    As for Spratt, she’s always been portrayed as unpleasant, we’re just finally given a reason. And I know many people who judge people solely on how they look, even if they’re incredibly attractive (Oh, she’s a bitch, oh she’s shallow). The logic is far from ridiculous.

  4. 1979semifinalist December 15, 2010 at 8:55 AM #

    @Dartfin. I did read 1001 Nights of Snowfall. My issue with Totenkinder leaving is one of context. Totenkinder’s story of falling in love is not problematic in and of itself (though it was mishandled in my opinion and came out of left field)…the issue is that this continually seems to happen to female characters in Fables. They get married or have children and suddenly disappear off the book and out of the world. When it happened with Snow I tried to chalk it up as Willingham dealing with an ensemble cast and that he was just ready to move on to a new character/arc and that the fact that Snow was now a married woman and a mother was just an unfortunate coincidence. But now it’s happening all over again, and to one of my favorite characters after she has been de-aged (another plot point I’m not wild about).

    So yeah, I’m seeing a pattern here that I don’t like. One in which female Fables are married off (and perhaps given children) and then the spotlight is shifted away from them…they no longer star in their stories. It’s a pretty obvious shout out to the stereotype – and too often unfortunate reality – of women doing something they are good at and passionate about and then dropping it all to “be a wife” and “have a family”. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things, or characters making those choices, but when I start to see a pattern of it happening repeatedly to major female Fables it concerns and frustrates me.

    As for Totenkinder not being able to beat Duladan…the problem for me is that I didn’t actually feel that in the pages – whether that’s a failing of Willingham’s story or Buckingham’s art (which is otherwise beautiful) – I felt none of HER defeat. I was shown only his defeat and her triumph and then his quick return and her quick surrender. It didn’t track for me. The battle was definitely cool, but I didn’t FEEL that Totenkinder was beat in the end…it felt more that she didn’t have the passion for it and gave up. I’m sure what Willingham intended was for me to feel/understand that she was beaten…but it didn’t translate that way to me. It felt like “oh, this is hard, I’m done.” I can admire that Totenkinder knows her limits…but can you imagine leaving something like that unfinished after all that work and preparation? She was very cavalier about moving on and it didn’t track for me…at all. Think of all the stories – books, movies, tv, etc. – of a character on a quest – do they ever just give up and go home because they can’t win? No, they fight to the death, or they win. Part of me wants to give Willingham credit for going another way and just letting a character give up and go off to be happy, as there’s something interesting in that, but the way it was done is not effective or satisfying for me.

    The Spratt thing is just lazy. Oh, a fat and therefore “ugly” woman who is surrounded by perfect beautiful princesses and so she is hateful and mean and bitter because she’s not “pretty”? Please. It’s completely weak. Perhaps if we had known Spratt better as a character prior to this it could have worked, but as presented it was simply lazy and more than a little bit ridiculous. As a double bonus, at the same time it made Snow out to be the worst of mean girls…I’ve never liked Snow less than in that scene. If she really was trying to get Spratt away from Beast…there were many other ways.

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