The road to evil is a quick and easy one. That’s the message of the sixth collection of the hit Vertigo series Fables. In this book, the identity of the Adversary, the being who chases all the fairy tale creatures out of their homelands, is revealed. I won’t spoil it if you somehow have ignored the Internet threads on it, but I will tell you that the pages where we find out how our man became so evil are very spooky: evil simply rises, inexorably, one step at a time. Our villain is successful once, so he does the same thing again. Success follows success until it becomes inevitable. “There was always another neighboring count, or duke, or the king himself who made life difficult for his subjects. Soon enough, every major ruling official for a hundred miles around was one of my replacements.” In the guise of saving people, the Adversary destroys them.
Unfortunately, this tale has its parallels with real world history. The Diaspora of the Fables parallels the Diaspora of the Jews in the 20th century. This subtext gives the story a rich and realistic feel, a dark and thoughtful tone that resonates still today. Writer Bill Willingham masterfully captures the power of the fables by showing that the things that motivate and subjugate and inspire them are much the same as those we deal with today. People never really change, Willingham suggests. Instead, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes that our hubris brings. Even in a story with Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio and Mowgli the Jungle Boy as characters, there is a depth of theme here that’s inspiring.
The art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha complements the story well. I especially like the clever page borders, showing the bluebird of happiness caged up. Their art is a nice mix, with a heroic veneer masking a shadowy world behind it.
This volume actually features three distinct stories. It starts with a clever two-parter about fable Jack Sprat making it big in Hollywood, very big. Willingham delivers a cute parody of Hollywood life, a bit clichéd but fun, and with some wonderful clean line art by David Hahn that looks like a cross between Kevin Nowlan and Jaime Hernandez.
The better of the two shorter pieces tells the story of a fable whose true nature forces him to do the unthinkable. No matter how much he tries, this character can’t escape who he is and what his personality motivates him to be. I thought this story was very clever and interesting, with a kind of mythological underpinning to it.
This series seldom disappoints. I’m happy to have a shelf of Fables TPBs.