One of the things I’ve alternately enjoyed and found frustrating about “Fables” is its ability to shift tone at the drop of a hat. Sometimes it’s silly when you want serious or vice versa. In “Fables” #115, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham are bringing in the creepy and this sudden shift is most welcome right about now.
The bulk of the issue follows Therese, one of Snow White and Bigby Wolf’s cubs as she’s lured into the realm of Toyland. While that may sound joyful and wonderful, the fact that other names for the world are Discardia and Madland does not bode well for Therese. Willingham tips his hand to the reader but not to the young cub; we know right from the start Therese being lured into by the toy boat known as Mr. Steampuddle is not a good thing at all. As you watch Therese interact with the discarded and ruined toys of Toyland, it’s hard to keep from seeing how their plaintive request to be accompanied by Therese won’t work. They’re preying on her vulnerability and the Raggedy Andy doll’s “Are you my mama?” is both heartbreaking and chilling.
It helps that Buckingham and colorist Lee Loughridge portray Toyland as a gray and brown muddy wasteland. This is a place unsettling in part by its lack of feature; this is truly the land of the discarded and Willingham and Buckingham are making it live up to its name. The image of Therese standing up to her ankles in water with scraps of toy around her and the castle off in the distance is a wonderfully eerie moment; even before you know the name of where she is, the instant visual impression you get is of someone lost.
The rest of the issue’s stories are also compelling in their own way. The reintroduction of the traitorous Mrs. Spratt into the Fable community is handled well and in a way that doesn’t make the rest of the Fables appear stupid. While the “Revolution in Oz” storyline is slow-moving due to having just three pages an issue, Shawn McManus’ art looks gorgeous and for that alone I’m on board with it continuing at its own pace.
“Fables” is clearly moving towards a big shift in the status quo of the series (especially with Mister Dark gone), but it’s to the credit of Willingham, Buckingham and company that I can’t figure out what it will be. If this current storyline is any indication, we’re in for a strong ride. This is an excellent installment, and my attention is firmly grabbed.