Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Mark Buckingham (p), Leialoha, Buckingham, Depoy (i)
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Plot: It’s Christmas, and Santa is a Fable, too.
Comments: This is a charming seasonal story, one that finds the holiday visiting itself upon our ongoing characters. As they’re all in the midst of their own stories, it impacts them in differing ways. For new readers the particular nature of these players, updated through Willingham’s trademark mixture of maturity and magic, might need a reference guide because these are pretty unusual and specific versions of Snow White, Rose Red, the Wolf Man, Jack Horner, and of course Kris Kringle himself.
It’s not that they’re just “mature” (though horrific violence does play its role in these Fables), but more that their stories have progressed so that Snow and the Wolf now have a family of children; that Jack Horner is planning to steal Santa’s precious lists of children (and sell the information for profit); and that Santa himself has some rather loaded lumps of coal to give various of the Fables, especially those who might be soldiers in a coming magic war.
The mixture of whimsy and dead seriousness is a hard one to pull off, though it’s perfect for the Vertigo imprint. Sandman used to do it, especially with stories that involved Thessaly. It may all be a bit too goofy and surreal for some readers; imagine if your childhood toys had enemies, and psychological problems, and mortgage payments. But Willingham is an ideal writer for worlds of magic; he can stage charming visitations of fairies and lost princesses as easily as he sets up the vile deeds of corrupt magicians who traffic with demons to get their way. And yet his main characters are all too human, beset by foibles and fears.
Willingham is of course aided and abetted wonderfully in this project by the detailed cartoons of Buckingham, and the sea of inkers preserves his light touch.
I usually find this book a bit lightweight myself, preferring the more traditional superheroics in Willingham’s DC-universe title Shadowpact. But in its way this issue celebrates Christmas far more poignantly (and a bit more economically) than the current Infinite Holiday Special.
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