January 25, 2009

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Fables Volume 7

Written by Bill Willingham
Illustrated by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Jim Fern, Jimmy Palmiotti and Andrew Pepoy
Vertigo

Every series is bound to have the "story arc you absolutely hate" and for me, that's the one contained here in volume 7, a racist, anti-Arab screed thinly veiled as a fictional story.

The Fables of the Arabian world are here--and they can't speak English! It's funny to have them mangle the native tongue of all good Fables! Ha! Ha! Ha! It makes sense to condemn them for having slaves but pretend like there's never been any slavery in the euro centric culture of Fabletown. That way, when the good Fables triumph over their evil counterparts and their, I shit you not, "Weapons of Magical Destruction," you know that the Right, er, I mean right, side has won.

Now I know politics fall into comics. Frank Miller's a radical libertarian, and when that shows in his comics, I laugh at it. Erik Larsen is blatantly liberal, and if/when I read his comics with Obama in them, I bet I find them to be rather ham-handed but probably more enjoyable than this, because, being bluntly honest, I agree with his politics more than Willingham.

But to take and make the story this obviously anti-Muslim I find problematic--it's just not needed. As with pseudo-porn, I'd rather you just say what you mean, rather than try to couch it in something acceptable, like pretending we should root for Prince Charming and company because they're "our Fables" and not because they're cast as Bush's liberators, right down to a desire to grant freedom to any Arabian Fables who desire it. "Fabletown East" is nothing more than a show to try and claim the "democritization" of Iraq and Afghanistan as spritual brothers. (I wonder if Willingham will show it blowing up in the face of the Fabletown government. My bet is on no.)

I will give the plot points for a clever resolution to the problem of the Geenie and for setting up trouble in the Charming Administration, but those could easily have been handled in a far more agreeable manner. There's just not a need to take Fables down the right-wing road, and I am worried for my future enjoyment of the series. There's also the practical problem of the fact that one of the established points of the series--they can't go home again--is challenged by the resolution of this story, since Willingham refuses to have the Arabian Fables deal with the reality of the Iraq situation. It's a moment of "wait a minute..." in a series that's been very tightly constructed so far.

I blame the politics.

The second story arc is not much better. Two of the Adversary's wooden soldiers fall in love, and long to get the Pinoccio treatment. What might have been an okay subplot is dragged out for two full issues, as we learn that there are sleeper agents among us. Normally, I'd give that a pass, but now I think it's an attempt to warn of domestic terror threats. Regardless, it's needless padding that I hope goes somewhere.

I'm gonna give Willingham and Co. a mulligan for this one, as I really do like this series. I just hope the next trade puts it back on track.