Fables, one of Vertigo’s most well-loved series, ends this month. The series, written by Bill Willingham, started in 2002, spawned three spin-off series, a crossover with Unwritten, a novel, and a video game. It has been a gateway drug to non-superhero comic books and a catalyst for change in the comic book industry. Willingham and Mark Buckingham, the series’ main artist, chose to end Fables with a giant last issue, Fables 150, or Volume 22, for those of you who read the trade paperbacks.
The book is two different entities: the end of the story currently unfolding and the last stories of a plethora of beloved characters. In Volume 21, readers started to get a few of these, “The last story of…” pages, and it was the perfect way to wrap up the series.
Finishing this series was very personal for me. In the Afterword for Fables 150, Bill Willingham states that, “Fables seems to be one of the rare series to have more readers than copies sold.” I can’t say I disagree with him. I first started reading Fables in 2008, when a co-worker at Borders suggested it’d be a great book to help get me into comics. I proceeded to buy everything that had been published to date, and then lend them out to everyone I know. In college, I had a chain of friends who would borrow one volume and then lend it to the next person waiting to read it. My volumes are falling apart because of how much they’ve been loved.
Fables 150 was everything a fan could have possibly hoped for. There isn’t a main character whose story does not wrap up in one way or another. There are quite a few gaps, which I assume Willingham and Buckingham expect readers to fill in for themselves. Many a fanfiction will be inspired by this volume.
As the volume is really two separate entities, my review will be as well. The first half of the book, the end of the war between Rose Red and Snow White concludes in an unexpected manner. The ending to that section was exactly what readers would hope for from all the build up in Volume 21. The casualties to reach that ending were devastating. However, there are still questions from this storyline that don’t get answered.
The second half of Fables 150 made me cry. Seeing “The last story of…” over and over again, regardless of how the stories played out, was heartbreaking. The series couldn’t end until each and every fable had his or her say. I expected a big group goodbye, but with the end of Fabletown and everyone spread out across various worlds, this was the only way to do it. What surprised me were the stories I really got choked up about. King Cole’s for instance. He’s always been there, but was a minimal source of drama. To see his “last story” played out made me realize that the stability he offered to the Fabletown community, and in turn the stability offered to me by this series as a constant source of something to look forward to, really made the end of Fables hit home for me.
The artistic choices made by Mark Buckingham, as well as a host of other artists who worked on this book, were perfect. Fables has always been home to a variety of art styles, and it is perfectly represented in Fables 150. There is one moment with Winter, The North Wind, where Buckingham chose a more impressionistic style than I’ve ever seen him create before, and it worked beautifully.
Fables has had a major impact on the comic book industry. It allowed for books like Saga and The Wicked + The Divine to have a readership willing to explore comic books without superheroes. It also played a huge part in drawing women to the comic book world. On The Big Bang Theory, the women decide they’re going to read comics and Stuart, their local comic book guy, gives them Fables’s first issue. This series provides an amazing cast of strong women under all kinds of circumstances–from heartbreak to war general–persevering, kicking butt, and demanding equality.
I hope that Fables 150: Farewell is everything you could hope for, Fables fans. Happy reading! Make sure you have a box of tissues at hand!