“If they pull a knife, you pull a gun.”

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Vertigo has known for some time that it has something special with Bill Willingham’s Fables. And I’m sure Bill Willingham knows he has something special with Fables too. And even though some of the story arcs these past couple of years have been hit and miss at times, Willingham continues to deliver interesting tales of the struggles between the fables and the villains of the home world, and this issue is no exception.

fables73.jpgFables #73
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha
Cover by James Jean

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m a huge Willingham fan. And that man-crush love is easily justified when you can see he loves and understands characters he’s writing about, thus weaving tales that are some of the best out there. Even though he may have stumbled with other titles like Salvation Run, the care and feeding he has done with Fables make it one of the better titles Vertigo is shipping at the moment.

The big buildup over the last couple of years was the reveal of the emperor Geppetto, the attack on Fabletown, and the decision to take the war to the home world. In Fables #73, the war is in full force, and the secret behind the scenes decisions readers have not been privy to are finally revealed. The three pronged attack is very well thought out; first, working with the Arabian fables, a huge flying fortress (with a nice nod to C.S. Lewis) flying across the kingdom bunker bombing the gateways to the various worlds, a last ditch escape route to the cloud kingdom when things go bad, and an underground faction embedded in the kingdom city waiting to put all the big players to sleep at once when the moment arises.

The Sky Treader looks like something out of early Buck Rogers serials, but instead of being powered by rocket engines or the like, it floats silently through the skies thanks to thousands of flying carpets embedded in the hull. And like Sean Connery’s famous lines from The Untouchables, the fables have realized that fighting fantastic adversaries shouldn’t be done old school – they’re bringing guns to wizard fights. That famous sword/gun fight from Raiders of the Lost Ark is not lost on Willingham.

And it makes perfect sense for the fables to take this approach if they are to win. With their mundy weapons, they bring down dragons, wizards and everything the Adversary throws at them. The joy and excitement everyone on the ship experiences with every dragon takedown and gateway destroyed actually gets the reader hoping this will be a successful campaign. While a single ship against a single dragon might favor our heroes, when the puppet emperor unleashes every remaining dragon and flying creature on the ship at once, things go from great to OH SHIT! in an instant.

This is a big war with freedom from oppression and death at stake for every refugee living in the mundy world. While the final page attack is something that readers can somewhat anticipate (since when has any war gone off without a hitch?), Willingham does an excellent job of leading us through the plan of attack. The narrative is told through the eyes of Boy Blue, who, thanks to his magic cloak, has become the messenger between all the points involved in the battle. He jumps from the ship, to point Bravo (the escape route) to secret locations, and the preparations on the home front. Since Blue has seen many a war, it makes perfect sense for us to experience the war through his eyes.

The story has everything found in a good war movie; a great rally moment by Bigby, the “navel” battle, love and romance, an appropriate use of humor, the enemy plotting, and a little back up plan should things go down the drain. And let’s not forget that OH SHIT! moment.

Since Mark Buckingham joined the team, the art has been very good, but more importantly, it has been consistent. I think art consistency makes it easier for the reader to become attached the heroes (and villains) and really get into the story, without constantly asking, “now who is this guy? S/He doesn’t look familiar. Oh man, is that who that is!?” The gutter art is once again enjoyable, and the colors and ink by Buckingham, Leialoha, Pepoy, and Loughridge tie everything together.

And let’s not forget another great cover by James Jean.

If you stepped away from Fables because you thought the stories were becoming a bit drawn out, Fables #73 cranks the action up to 12 – yes 12 – and delivers a tale that totally rocks. Willingham and team once again prove that great comic tales with epic battles can be told in a way that is exciting and engaging. I’m giving Fables #73 a solid 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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1 Comment

  1. Cory
    June 4, 2008 at 3:36 pm — Reply

    Yes, a great issue and a great series. I generally detest Bill Willingham’s work. But, Fables is clearly Willingham’s magnum orifice crapping out great story after great story.

    Fables has been on my pull list for many years and will continue to be so.

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