I’ve been putting off writing about the Fables 114 – 121 Cubs in Toyland while I sorted out how I felt about this powerful arc. It’s another arc centered on Bigby Wolf and Snow White’s cubs. This answers more questions related to the San Diego Comic Con 2009 One Page Fable‘s predictions. We saw that Winter became the North Wind to succeed her grandfather as ruler. We think that she’ is the first child – the one to be king. Now with this arc the fate of two more of the cubs is established. In the back of each issue my beloved Bifkin continues his revolt in Oz. It provides a light comical relief to the heaviness of the story.
First the legal disclaimer: All images are the property of their owners I reproduce them here under the Fair Use Doctrine of the copyright law for commentary and critique. No more than three pages total from any one issue is reproduced.
Now to give credit to the wonderful creative team that brought us this powerful arc. Cubs In Toyland credits are as follows: Bill Willingham, Writer/Creator; Mark Buckingham, Pencils; Steve Leialoha, Inks; Lee Loughridge, Colors; Todd Klein, Letters; Gregory Lockard, Assistant Editor; and Shelly Bond, Editor. The credits for A Revolution In Oz Chapters 2-8 are: Bill Willingham, Writer/Creator; Shawn McManus, Artist; Todd Klein, Letters; Gregory Lockard, Assistant Editor; and Shelly Bond, Editor.
Normally I talk story first but this time I’m going to talk art. As always with major arcs the art is wonderful. It was in this arc I remembered what Fables art reminded me of… Classics Illustrated Comics from my childhood. The comic books that told the classic stories like Black Beauty (my favorite at the time) or Pinocchio (not Disneyified version) ore Rumpelstiltskin and such. I loved those so much. Probably why I enjoy Fables art so much. This is used in the telling of the main arc – Cubs In Toyland. The secondary arc, or comic relief arc, is more cartoony. I enjoyed it and smiled at the story being an Oz fan and all. However, it’s light fodder compared to the main one as it should be.
The A Revolution In Oz arc continues to follow our Bifkin former librarian now Revolutionary Leader in Oz. His Barleycorn girlfriend rescues him from the noose. He rejoins the revolt and becomes its leader again. He plans a bloodless coup but this is Oz and things never work out as planned. I enjoyed the characters and the parody of revolutions – the various stages. It’s a fun but serious arc that moves Oz forward down the path of Revolution that Bifkin has set. Only will there be regrets?
Now for the main arc – I’ve put it off long enough. I had to do some soul searching about why I liked but cringed at this arc. I know why – it places children in positions a loving adult never wants to see a child placed. Children having to make adult decisions about things without having the benefit of adult experiences. It wrenches my gut much like Torchwood: Children of Earth did. This hits the same emotional notes that were struck in X-Men that drove Wolverine to found his own school. We in the modern “first” world countries think children should have time to be children and not face adult burdens. We want to protect them but in this arc as much as Snow and Bigby want to and are capable of protecting their children they can’t.
That brings me to another aspect of the story that made it very hard for me. Good parents who have lost their child/ren to circumstances beyond their control. As I’ve said before I like crime shows. Often it is a gut punch – the thought they did everything they good but evil still befell them. That’s Snow and Bigby as parents in this arc, they are good parents but evil befell Darien and Therese. As Snow and Bigby looked first for one child then for two my heart broke for them. I’m a mom I get it. I am so relieved that Aaron made to being an adult without tragedy. It’s a risk every parent takes but does their best to minimize.
The story centers on Therese. She receives a boat for Christmas. Here it plays upon her vanity, her wanting to be better than others. She’s taken away to Toyland and made Queen. Only there are a few things young Therese doesn’t get – there is a weight/price to ruling a heavy mantle to being Queen and these toys hold a dark secret, one she only discovers too late after she too is drawn into their dark fraternity.
At home Darien the cub who feels the responsibility of leadership of the pack sets out to find his sister. Lord Mountbatten helps him and they both wind up in Toyland. We learn the true dual nature of the clockwork tiger in the process. Darien becomes a true hero in Toyland taking care of his sister in the bleak land. He uses his brother Ambrose’s interests in ancient magic to pull off this feat. Despite never seeming to pay attention to Ambrose’s ramblings Darien has absorbed the deep meanings so much he can use them. His story draws heavily from the Fisher King legends. It’s well written and tragically beautiful while wrenching your gut every step of the way.
Therese now fully gains the weight of the Queen’s mantle. She’s learned there is a price to decisions, sometimes prices we didn’t see. With her new insight she takes command of her position and sets out to save her land, her subjects, and herself as best she can. However the hardest lesson of all is that the past can’t be undone we can only learn, change, and atone for our errors even grave ones made in youth. Once she is strong enough she returns home only to tell her mother of Darien, herself, and assume responsibility for all that has transpired. Finally Therese is mature she’s taken responsibility for herself and her actions. Unlike her siblings She is now an adult both physically and emotionally as time moved differently there from here.
There are many levels to the story. It’s well written. Like all good tragedies when you are finished it is satisfying but sad. Hat’s off to Fable for using all mediums of the comic book to bring a powerful story to the page.
***** WARNING SCANNED PAGES BELOW MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOILERY BY SOME*** You have been warned.
Here Snow discovers one of her cubs is missing. The heartbreaking start to the tragedy that plays out for seven more issues. I like this page as it shows the wonderful themed boarders Fables uses on the pages of main arcs. Also all seven cubs are accounted for including Ghost the zephyr.
Therese assumes her throne as promised by her boat. The first clue that this Toyland isn’t as it seems is noted. Also is that a Yoda doll there in front of her?
Ahh Bigby I do adore you and the lengths you’ll go to for those you love. Facing all the other winds and telling them if I have to threaten you I’ll do it and find a way to make good on them if need be takes guts. Then again what father searching for their two missing children wouldn’t face down the elements themselves to find the kids. I get it and feel his pain.
Like father, like son – here Darien battered from trying to save his sister take on the plan of old magic. He’s talking to his delusion of his brother Ambrose. He’s only a kid but he performs as heroically as his father has in any issue. So small but so powerful… he assumes the adult role of Pack Leader to help his Queen sister.
Let’s end on a happy note – Bufkin’s return after being rescued from the gallows by his Barleycorn Bride! The lighter art and silly characters were perfect to pick up the reader after such a wonderfully heavy tale about the cubs.
Until next time!