In volume 4 of his Fables series, Bill Willingham takes a bit of darker turn than he did in the first novels. March of the Wooden Soldiers, includes much less humor and much more sorrow.
The book begins with Boy Blue's telling of the last days of life in the fable Homelands. A few hundred years ago, the Adversary's army finally breached the last fortress of the fable beings. The remaining characters either stayed to fight to the death or were given leave to flee. The survivors narrowly escaped to the mundy (our own) world before the last gates were locked, presumably forever.
Unfortunately, in modern-day Fabletown, Snow White (the deputy mayor) and Bigby Wolf (the sheriff) learn that at least one of those gates has been unlocked. Apparently, the Adversary's wooden army has been ordered to kill the fable beings and bring all the magical artifacts back to the occupied Homelands. A major battle ensues, and Willingham doesn't necessarily save all of our beloved characters.
The action is intense, bloody, and deadly. In the course of battle, some of the fable beings are revealed in their true state and with their full power--an awe-inspiring sight. This novel includes almost none of the art humor that made the first three volumes such fun to read. Joking would be inappropriate in these dire times.
March of the Wooden Soldiers demonstrates Willingham's versatility. The plot is intense, and the art matches the mood. Most of the panels are rendered in black, browns, and purples to match the story line. The page embedded here is one of the few done in brighter colors, but it shows no spoilers. Pinocchio and the Frog Prince are consoling Boy Blue. The three are on the stoop of their building in Fabletown. Note that Willingham, the writer of the Fables series, works with a team of illustrators.
As always, Willingham ties up the immediate plot lines by the end of the novel. At the same time, he moves the larger story arcs forward and teases us with clues of what's to come.
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Published by Vertigo, 2004
Source: Bought (see review policy)
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