Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham (p), Steve Leialoha (i)
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
After looking in of the Farm where we see they are having some difficulty with their magical spells, we look in on the Fable community in the city as they start to realize that there's something very wrong, and when Bigby Wolf calls up to deliver disturbing news about the Canada Gate, we see the community prepares to evacuate. However, before they can get all their ducks in a row, the agents of the Adversary arrive in the community to deliver a message, and it's not a very pleasant one.
I like the idea that the Adversary is presented more as a disappointed parent dealing with their wayward children rather than a heartless monster. The fact that he/she is willing to make an offer to the gathered Fables that they would be welcomed back to their old lands brings a new wrinkle to the table, as if nothing else I'm sure the fables that are forced to stay on the Farm would be willing to listen to this offer, as previous stories have made it clear that there is an underlying current is discontentment, and as such an offer to return home would be enticing, even if it meant living under the grip of the Adversary. There's also a great little exchange between the wooden agents and the woman posing as Red Riding Hood, as we see a hatred that the wooden men hold for normal Fables surfaces, and they have to be physically reminded of the place they hold in the power structure. There's also a wonderfully creepy moment where we discover something about the fake Red Riding Hood's preferred cuisine that makes it quite clear that she's a outright villain. I also enjoyed the scene where the Fable community reacts to the news that they're in crash mode, as one has to love Old King Cole's first comments on the situation, and the scene also allows Snow White to step forward and project a sense of authority, as she works to get everyone back on the same page. There's also a wonderful secondary plot involving Pinocchio that I have to say caught me off guard with its final page revelation. In fact Pinocchio's story looks promising enough to support an entire arc of its own.
If I had to pick one artist that I'd love to see as this book's regular artist it would have to be Mark Buckingham, as of all the artists who have worked on this title, his art is the one that I feel is a perfect match for the writing. I mean he perfectly captures the fairy tale elements of the story, as there's a great double-page spread in this issue where the various Fables have gathered together, and the art does a wonderful job capturing the various personalities of the characters that have gathered. There's also a great shot where the fake Red Riding Hood lashes out at the wooden men when they start to get a little too vocal in their dislike of her ordering them about. I also love the way that the art uses the panel layouts to tell the story, as there's something to be said about an artist who puts in the extra effort to use the very panels themselves to help sell the ideas of the story. I love the cover visuals on this series as well, even if they do on occasion spoil some of the surprises that play out inside the book.
Since the title of this arc is the "March of the Wooden Soldiers" I feel I have some leeway when it comes to discussing the big, bad threat that the final pages of this arc brings to the table. To tell the truth it's difficult to get too worked up by the notion of an army of wooden soldiers, as all one has to do is break out axes, and the various flame-based weaponry, all the ominous suggestions that they are facing a relentless, unstoppable force that need no food, or sleep goes out the window. I mean one of the reasons why "Pinocchio" was one of my all-time favorite Disney films when I was a kid was because there were moments that played off the idea that the character was made off wood, and as such he was vulnerable to the specific attacks like fire, and sharp objects that were designed to chop big pieces of wood into smaller pieces. It also doesn't help to sell the threat that these wooden agents would be able to pose much of an insurmountable threat when the book give us a general idea of how many of them were able to pass through the gate before Bigby was able to seal the entrance, as three truckloads makes for a sizeable number, but it's not one that instills a sense of dread, as even if they were able to stack these wooden soldiers like cord wood inside these trucks, it'd be difficult to believe they could've massed a force that would be able to overrun the Fables community. The story also hasn't exactly done that good a job of selling the idea that these wooden agents are much of a threat, as Jack was able to able to hold his own against three of them.
Operation Woody Woodpecker:
This issue kicks this story into gear as the Adversary makes his/her first real step in to the lives that Fables have built for themselves in this new world, and his/her letter to them nicely spells out the idea that the Adversary hasn't forgotten about them, nor is he/she likely to as long as they are in possession of the various magical items that they took with them when they fled the Fablelands. The issue also manages to nicely present the idea that the Fables are woefully unprepared to face the return of the Adversary into their lives as they clearly have become complacent, and the adversary became little more than an evil bogeyman that they had left behind them. This issue also manages to make it clear that there are going to be characters who are going to emerge as the leaders that will rise to the occasion, as Snow White gets a great little moment in this issue where it's clear she's going to be at the front of the line when it comes to standing against the Adversary's current plans. One also has to love the idea that the Fables lives are going to be fundamentally altered by this arc, as they look to be on the verge of abandoning the comfortable community they've built.
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