This is another strong, consistent series that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves. Just because Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham have been doing it for so long, it is easy to forget how riveting this title can be. I’m guilty of it myself. I let a few trades stack up and didn’t get around to them for a long time. I took the book for granted. Thank goodness this trade is so strong that it reminds me of what I’m missing.
The majority of the trade tells the story of Therese, one of Bigby Wolf and Snow White’s cubs. She seems like a normal kid, except that her toy boat has started talking to her in the middle of the night. Eventually, the boat whisks her away to the titular Toyland, where things are a lot direr than they seem. It’s pretty easy to get a Blaine the Mono vibe from the boat specifically, and Toyland generally. This is a place where discarded, forgotten toys pine away for a queen to save them. Therese is just the latest in a line of possible royalty.
After her disappearance, Darien (another cub) and the tiger Mountbatten stage a rescue, ably assisted by some of Darien’s favorite toys. Things just get darker and darker as Therese’s justifiable hunger keeps her from recognizing those who are trying to help. I felt so bad for most of the cast that even after I closed the book, I found myself thinking about the characters in the story and the trials they faced. Willingham has always been a master at this sort of thing; the warping of the childlike fables into something horrifying and fascinating. This is a great example of the heights this book can reach.
There is a two-parter at the end showing Bigby Wolf discovering his fate through the hand of fate, but I wasn’t as enthralled as I was in the first story. It’s a good thing; the first arc is so depressing it would be hard to move forward without a palate cleanser. There are also plenty of one-page tosses to keep the greater Fabletown story moving forward.
Mark Buckingham’s broken toys are fascinating. Their damage makes them horrific, but you can still see how they were meant to be cute at one time. It’s a perfect manifestation of the characters. Even the broken toys aren’t quite as irredeemable as it seems. Gene Ha’s art is gorgeous, as always, in the backup. I would have liked to have seen him draw more of the main cast, though.
Clearly, this is still an EXCELLENT read, and lapsed readers need to take note and get back on board. I know I certainly am.