The first couple of volumes of the definitive collection laid things out well, dropping us into a world of hard boiled detectives taking on homicide cases involving super heroes. In spite of the cartoonish art style, the main characters in particular were among the more three-dimensional, well-rounded people in comics. Pilgrim, the female newbie of the pair, has pretty much no background but a whole lot of anger. Walker, on the other hand, has a hellacious back story complete with mysteriously lost powers and connections with nearly every super hero in the world.
And then it all comes together in the Forever storyline from volume 3.
Bendis killed this storyline, absolutely killed it in one of the best story arcs that I've seen, tying together the entire history of our species back to monkeys around a watering hole and linking back to an interview from the first issue of this series. When Bendis brings back the same exact page, presenting it without any changes whatsoever, the entire page reads radically differently in the new light. Bendis takes the identity of our main character and rewrites it in a masterstroke.
And then Bendis starts telling even better stories from there.
This isn't where you should come into the series. This isn't a friendly jumping on point. This one needs background and context - and I'm guessing it would have been infuriating to read a month at a time - but it's an killer...all killer no filler what so ever.
- A few volumes have gone missing from the library catalog. Volumes 6 and 9, specifically, are gone. So I probably won't be re-reading those. Lane and Middletown don't have those, either...because they suck.
- Some other jerks apparently are also reading the volumes, so I can't get all of the that I want at the instant I want them.
- The library doesn't seem to understand my project, so they're letting other people check out the books before I do. AKA The library is staffed by jerks.
- Vol 1 - Fables in Exile - It's a whole lot of character introduction and paints Red and Jack as a lot less interesting than they would eventually become. I do like the initial strains of relationship between Bigby and Snow. This one's worth reading but mostly just as table setter.
- Vol 2 - Animal Farm - A lot like the first volume in that it's mostly table setting. Red does step up and take leadership, but we barely get into the real story of the series - taking back the Homelands.
- Vol 3 - Storybook Love - Here we start to get closer to the story. Bluebeard gets his comeuppance and the more violent tone of the series begins to reveal itself. There's also a great backup story of the Barylcorn Brides, one of the first stand alone issues that stand up to the high quality of those that will come later in the story. As we learn much later, however, this standalone issue comes back to importance when Baba Yaga needs to be taken care of finally.
- Vol 4 - March of the Wooden Soldiers - Here comes the plot. The Adversary sends his wooden soldiers to take down Fabletown and take Pinocchio back to the Homelands, and Fabletown steps up the game to defend itself. War is afoot, and the main plotline that will dominate the series for the next eight or so volumes is coming alive.
- Vol 5 - The Mean Seasons - Snow's given birth to her seven children and has left Fabletown for the farm where Bigby can't go. We get to see Cinderella's true nature (which comes into important play later in the series), and we see what Bigby and capable of. Rose continues to grow as a character, and everything is taking a little break before full on war preparations take place.
- Vol 7 - Arabian Nights (and Days) - Brilliant work bringing the Arabian fables into the fold and giving King Cole something to do since he lost his office. The two issue "Ballad of Rodney and June" is striking and emotional (and again comes back to mean so much more than we could ever imagine from the two issues here.) "Rodney and June" is a real knockout. It's brilliant and touching and emotional and perfect, especially because I know where they come back to the story in a few volumes.
- Vol 8 - Wolves - It's time for Bigby to come back into the fold and to attack the Adversary on his own turf. We get the first open mention of Isreal, a nation whose existence have been paralleled through the Fables storyline and that I'm impressed Willingham has the chutzpah to openly explain. And again Cinderella comes back - this time as a somewhat less happy diplomatic mission. And Bigby and Snow get married. The marriage is surprisingly touching for a couple of figures that we've been following for forty or so issues.The war is on at this point, and tension is building. Good stuff...
- Vol 11 - War and Pieces - The invasion is on. After two volumes of planning (one of which the library doesn't have any more and the other which is checked out), the battle is on, and the Fables are taking the battle to the Homelands. In original reading this would have taken nearly half a year and been painfully slow. Here, however, the war seems too brief, with a campaign taken only to take out the Adversary, himself, with little aim for taking out his entire army spread across the entirety of the Homelands. The plan is excellently well thought out and marvelously well achieved, but after seeing the build up to the war take nearly ten volumes, I wanted more war than we got.
- Vol 14 - Witches - Vol 12 is the Fables dealing with trying to win the peace after they've won the war. Vol 13 is the worst collection yet as Fables crosses-over with what was an initially interesting and later horrible Jack of Hearts spin-off. Vol 14, however, returns to the hardness of the Fables struggling both internally - as Ozma openly challenges Totenkinder for leadership of the 13th floor - and externally - as the Dark Man has taken down the entirety of Fabletown, forcing the Fables out to the Farm. I wondered whether the post-wartime drama would be lost from the series, but the Dark Man seems a reasonable stand-in. We get a brilliant background story from the Dark Man that ties, as all of the stand-alone stories seem to, into the coming battle. Great return to form for the series. And the tale of Bufkin taking Baba Yaga out of the pictures - seemingly for good - is a marvelous highlight for what had been a very minor character. All great stuff here.
- Vol 15 - Rose Red - Finally Rose gets her head out of her backside and returns to Farm leadership, Totenkinder takes on the Dark Man, and we get a chance to see Rose and Snow as sisters - all the messiness that entails. Another great read, especially Totenkinder's preparations and eventual battle with the Dark Man. We're back in the high life again, folks.
Willow - This is a stupid movie. Seriously, why do I remember it fondly?
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour by Asteroids Galaxy Tour - It's fun stuff. Give it a listen.