Fables Vol. 12: The Dark Ages
Oh, yes, baby! Fables took us before through a wonderful, wild, delicious ride that introduced characters, locations (the farm, the homelands, Fabletown) and took us through a terrible, fascinating war between evil Gepetto and his magic-fueled armies in the homelands and the force from Fabletown. Now, we're in the aftermath. The Peace after the War. And things are getting ugly, event by incident. Dark Ages refers, no doubt in great part, to the fact that dark powers are being released into the chaos that is the Homelands (now no longer kept in check by the tyranny of Gepetto and his sorcerers and armies), where mercenaries are looting and no one is in charge; and dark power released as well in the Fables' NYC town, where Gepetto is still vicious and bitter over his powerless situation post-amnesty.
In the first secton, a sort of establishing one, an interlude, "Around the Town", we get interesting (different from what we're used to, too) art by Michael Allred--very two-D, darkly outlined, thick areas of color. A sort of retro art look, but I liked it. Pinocchio is showing his toxic maker around Fabletown, where most don't wish him well at all. He gets an opportunity to spout his menacing philosophy, and there's nothing likable about this still-menacing (if momentarily neutered magically) puppetmaker. I like how Pinocchio is drawn in a very boy-like way, unlike the original/usual Pinocchio who has a huge head and square jaw, as if he were a dwarf rather than a boy. I also liked seeing Bigby and Snow's brood taking in the city. (Bigby looks like a young Marlon Brando in this chapter.)
After that, we are in familiar visual ground with Buckingham's style as we move into a series of chapters that toggle between Fabletown in the city and parts of the homeland, where things are happening that not everyone is yet aware of--very dangerous things that bode ill for the residents of all fabley places. One is Mr. Dark (and yes, that connects to the title) and the other is Baba Yaga, who you may recall is imprisoned way down there in Fabletown's dungeons. There is a short, but hilarious, section with Bufkin, the flying monkey, and his digestive event. Bad things are also happening to our dear Boy Blue, whose wounds post-Wartime are not healing well at all.
The darkness in this Dark Age refers not just that of the sorcerous villains that are revived/released, but the darkness within the hearts of characters--from the first pages showing us the wasteland of Gepetto's heart and mind, to the darkness in the looting mercernaries, to the surprising revelation of the darkness in Rose Red.
A new romance, a visit to Mowgli's jungle, a terrible loss, and some insight into the emotional dysfunction of one of the main female Fables--a very good scene that's sad and insightful.
As usual, you get so me glorious cover pages reproduced inside (non-glossy) for those of us who prefer the bound volume to the individual issues. It's totally worth taking a pause to enjoy each of the covers, including the bound volume's glossy one that gives a Fables version of a Madonna and dead Christ.
I've never been let down by the FABLES series, and I look forward to seeing what's up next.