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Fables:

Final Third

This final third of Fables, running from issues #101-150, begins in the wake of Mister Dark’s apparent defeat in issue #100. In fact, Mister Dark was only imprisoned on the Farm, and he’s actually defeated in issue #106. Essentially, the conflict wasn’t settled in issue #100. His presence continues to hang over much of the remainder of the series, particularly in his acolyte, who becomes an antagonist towards the end of the series.

Thereafter, the title’s major storylines focus on Bigby and Snow White, albeit with several B-plots that embrace the ensemble cast. “Inherit the Wind” focuses on which of Bigby and Snow’s children will succeed his father as the North Wind. The brilliant and moving “Cubs in Toyland” focuses on Therese and Darien. “Snow White” focuses on Snow White, when Prince Brandish returns to claim her as his wife, and ends with Bigby’s death. “Camelot” focuses on Rose Red, as she attempts to create a second Camelot, which includes Prince Brandish, in defiance of her sister’s wishes. This leads into “Happily Ever After,” in which Bigby returns, Rose Red learns the truth about her and Snow White’s family history. Everything seems to be building towards war between Snow White and Rose Red, in the final issue.

Along the way, the status quo is changed several times. In the wake of issue #100, Mister Dark is imprisoned on the abandoned Farm, while Fabletown has been destroyed. After an abortive search for a new Fabletown, Mister Dark’s castle in Manhattan is chosen as the new Fabletown, and in the wake of Mister Dark’s defeat, Fables return to the Farm. In the final storyline, Fables begin to abandon Fabletown — a sort of delayed effect of the end of the war with the Adversary, since Fabletown was always a refuge from that war. But the biggest change to the status quo, during this final storyline, is that humans become aware of Fabletown. In the final issue, we get a glimpse of an Earth that is aware of its own magic, and in which humans can visit fairytale lands as tourists.

The main title was augmented, during this period of its history, by spin-offs. The first was a second Cinderella mini-series, subtitled Fables are Forever. A second ongoing title, entitled Fairest, ostensibly focused on female characters, with storylines written by Willingham and by others. While this series only made it through five storylines of varying quality, it was more enjoyable than Jack of Fables and did a better job of tying into the main title. In fact, some Fairest stories are indispensible to the main title. Fables also published a second original graphic novel, subtitled Werewolves of the Heartland. Also, Fairest got its own original graphic novel, titled Fairest in All the Land, which resolved several plots from Fables. Finally, the digital-first Fables: The Wolf Among Us adapted the video game of the same title, serving as another prequel to the series. It lasted 48 issues (each about half as long as a standard issue) and did not conclude until after both Fables and Fairest had ceased publication.

Fables wasn’t cancelled due to low sales. Bill Willingham had long said he didn’t have an endpoint in mind for the series and that it was truly ongoing. But over a year before it concluded, he announced that he intended to end the series with issue #150, with Fairest coming to an end at around the same time. This allowed him — and series artist Mark Buckingham, who also wrote the final extended Fairest storyline — enough time to plan the ending. During the final storyline, back-up features jumped forward in time to offer final stories to several characters. And in the same way that issue #100 was 100 pages long, issue #150 was 150 pages long, with the main story followed by several short stories, in the mold of the previous back-ups. In fact, the final issue was long enough that it was published as the final Fables trade paperback, thus effectively uniting the standard issues and the paperback collection series. (Technically, the final regular issue was #149, and the final paperback volume was an original graphic novel, rather than a collection.)

To some critics, Fables lost steam in its second half, especially since the resolution of the war with the Adversary, which admittedly was the backdrop for the entire series. And there’s no denying that fans most remember stories and situations from the first half of the series. But Willingham showed that he was willing to take chances, break the mold, and find new stories to tell. In super-hero comics — and most serialized fiction, if we’re honest — often seem incapable of finding narrative possibilities in their protagonists, after they have married. Yet Fables saw Bigby and Snow marry and have children, then wove compelling stories about them as parents. Above all, “Cubs in Toyland” is a brilliant work of fantasy writing on par with the best storylines of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. But other major storylines are thoroughly enjoyable as well, and Mark Buckingham’s fine work is always a joy to read.

True, not everything comes together at the end. At the time of Bigby’s death, the story prophesied his return, years later — a timetable that seems to have been accelerated, given Willingham’s decision to end the series. Multiple issues teased Geppetto as a future renewed threat, only to have this never materialize outside of the very brief “last” stories. And although Rose Red’s final arc and origin story was compelling, I personally preferred her reconciled with and hugging her sister, as they were when this final third of the series was beginning. And personally, I would have liked a lot more focus on the revelation of the Fables’ existence (and of the reality of magic) to humans. But these kinds of complaints are common to long-running series, whether in comics, on TV, or in movies. And Fables represents a titanic accomplishment, beyond its length. As “Cubs in Toyland” attests, the series was capable of genius long after it had broken its own mold and forced itself to find new pastures.

Fables are Forever

Cinderella: Fables are Forever #1

“Part One”

  • written by Chris Roberson; art by Shawn McManus
  • flashes back to the recent evacuation of the Farm (during the main story of Fables #100)

first issue; published by Vertigo

Cinderella: Fables are Forever #2

“Part Two”

  • written by Chris Roberson; art by Shawn McManus

published by Vertigo
Cinderella: Fables are Forever #3

“Part Three”

  • written by Chris Roberson; art by Shawn McManus

published by Vertigo
Cinderella: Fables are Forever #4

“Part Four”

  • written by Chris Roberson; art by Shawn McManus

published by Vertigo
Cinderella: Fables are Forever #5

“Part Five”

  • written by Chris Roberson; art by Shawn McManus

published by Vertigo
Cinderella: Fables are Forever #6

“Part Six”

  • written by Chris Roberson; art by Shawn McManus

final issue; published by Vertigo

Werewolves of the Heartland

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

only issue; occurs between Fables #100 and #102; published by Vertigo

Super Team

Fables #102
published by Vertigo
Fables #103
published by Vertigo
Fables #104
published by Vertigo
Fables #105
published by Vertigo
Fables #106
the North Wind defeats Mister Dark; published by Vertigo

Inherit the Wind

Fables #101
continues directly into “Inherit the Wind,” where the Oz plot is the B-plot; published by Vertigo
Fables #108
published by Vertigo
Fables #109
published by Vertigo
Fables #110
published by Vertigo
Fables #111
ends on a cliffhanger that continues directly into “A Revolution in Oz”; published by Vertigo
Fables #124
published by Vertigo

Various Stories

Fables #107
Briar is moved; leads into Fairest #1-6; published by Vertigo
Fables #112
Snow and Bigby return home, shortly after “Inherit the Wind”; published by Vertigo
Fables #113
published by Vertigo
Fables #122
published by Vertigo
Fables #123
reveals that Lake wound up married to Ambrose, who’s narrating the story in the future; published by Vertigo

Wide Awake

Fairest #1

first issue; occurs after Fables #107; Briar wakes up; published by Vertigo

Fairest #2
published by Vertigo
Fairest #3
published by Vertigo
Fairest #4
published by Vertigo
Fairest #5
published by Vertigo
Fairest #6
Briar departs (and is next seen in Fables #125, suggesting this storyline takes place around or during “Cubs in Toyland”); published by Vertigo

Cubs in Toyland

Fables #114
published by Vertigo
Fables #115
Beast raises the possibility of staying in Haven (as he does in Fairest #7); published by Vertigo
Fables #116
published by Vertigo
Fables #117
published by Vertigo
Fables #118
published by Vertigo
Fables #119
contains the final (brief) appearance of Snow and Bigby, prior to the story’s conclusion; published by Vertigo
Fables #120
published by Vertigo
Fables #121
published by Vertigo

Snow White

Fairest #7
on the final page, Beast argues for staying in Haven (following up on Fables #115) and mentions he could be head of security (leading into his appearance in Fables #126); published by Vertigo
Fables #125
occurs during “Cubs in Toyland” (between Snow and Bigby’s appearance in Fables #119 and the conclusion in Fables #121), so this should be placed as soon as possible after Fables #121; Briar appears, following the events of Fairest #1-6; Prince Brandish arrives in Fabletown, claiming he is Snow’s real husband; published by Vertigo
Fables #126
Beast has been appointed sheriff of Haven (apparently since advocating that he stay there in Fables #115 and Fairest #7); published by Vertigo
Fables #127
published by Vertigo
Fables #128
Bigby is turned into crystal by Brandish; published by Vertigo
Fables #129
Bigby is shattered and killed; Brandish is killed; Therese, absent since “Cubs in Toyland,” returns; this storyline occurs parallel to the end of “Cubs in Toyland” and ends with the same scene; published by Vertigo
Fables #134
follows Bigby in the afterlife; Boy Blue appears; despite being labeled a “Camelot” interlude, this is really a follow-up to “Snow White”; note that Bigby’s return, in “Happily Ever After,” bears no relationship to this story, so there’s no need to set this story closer to that one; published by Vertigo
Fairest #14
Reynard tries to date; Geppetto appears in the final page on the Farm with his potted plant (which he’s also seen with, in Haven, in Fables #126); published by Vertigo; cover-dated June 2013
Fables #138
focuses on Geppetto and reveals why he was carrying a plant during Fables #126 and Fairest #14; Geppetto comes to the Farm (where he’s seen in Fairest #14); published by Vertigo; cover-dated Apr 2014

Fairest in All the Land

Fairest in All the Land
Stinky returns (after “Snow White”) from searching for the two missing cubs and finds Bigby dead; focuses on Cinderella solving a murder mystery; Rose Red talks about building Camelot; the Blue Fairy is killed (and stays dead), ending the marriage plot in “Snow White”; the business office is finally found; published by Vertigo
Fairest #33

final issue; a prequel to Fairest in All the Land (but because this story reveals the mystery culprits of Fairest in All the Land, this story ought to be read after that tale); published by Vertigo; cover-dated Mar 2015

The Return of the Maharaja

Fairest #15
published by Vertigo; cover-dated July 2013
Fairest #16
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Aug 2013
Fairest #17
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Sept 2013
Fairest #18
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Oct 2013
Fairest #19
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Nov 2013
Fairest #20
Prince Charming seems to be heading to Fabletown at the end (although he is never is shown arriving); published by Vertigo; cover-dated Dec 2013

Camelot

Fables #130

“Junebug”

  • Bigby is being reassembled (clearly setting this story between Fables #129 and #131)

published by Vertigo; cover-dated Aug 2013
Fables #131
Brandish returns to life; published by Vertigo; cover-dated Sept 2013
Fables #132
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Oct 2013
Fables #133
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Nov 2013
Fables #135
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Jan 2014
Fables #136
Lake briefly meets young Ambrose and recoils (which we know, from Fables #123, is because she sees he will be her husband); published by Vertigo; cover-dated Feb 2014
Fables #137
Leigh is shown to be evil and in possession of a ring forged with party of Bigby; Bigby’s reassembled body vanishes (setting up his reappearance in Fables #141); published by Vertigo; cover-dated Mar 2014

Of Men and Mice

Fairest #21
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Feb 2014
Fairest #22
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Mar 2014
Fairest #23
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Apr 2014
Fairest #24
published by Vertigo; cover-dated May 2014
Fairest #25
published by Vertigo; cover-dated June 2014
Fairest #26
published by Vertigo; cover-dated July 2014
Fables #139
published by Vertigo
Fables #140
while there’s no reason this 2-part story could not be placed earlier, it reflects the demise of Fabletown by introducing the idea that Fabletown, created as a refuge, doesn’t need to exist anymore; published by Vertigo

Happily Ever After

Fables #141
Bigby returns as a kind of zombie; published by Vertigo
Fables #142
published by Vertigo
Fables #143
spells drop, allowing humans to see Fabletown; published by Vertigo
Fables #144
Bigby kills Ozma and Beast; published by Vertigo
Fables #145
published by Vertigo
Fables #146
published by Vertigo
Fables #147
on the final page, the origin of Snow White and Rose Red’s parentage begins; published by Vertigo
Fables #148
the origin of Snow White and Rose Red continues; published by Vertigo
Fables #149
the origin of Snow White and Rose Red concludes; Brandish kills Lancelot; published by Vertigo
Fables #150

final issue; published by Vertigo

The Clamour for Glamour

Fairest #27
published by Vertigo
Fairest #28
published by Vertigo
Fairest #29
published by Vertigo
Fairest #30
published by Vertigo
Fairest #31
published by Vertigo
Fairest #32
published by Vertigo; cover-dated Feb 2015

Prequel #1: The Hidden Kingdom

Fairest #8
published by Vertigo
Fairest #9
published by Vertigo
Fairest #10
published by Vertigo
Fairest #11
published by Vertigo
Fairest #12
published by Vertigo
Fairest #13
published by Vertigo

Prequel #2: The Wolf Among Us

Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1-48
released digitally; based on the video game of the same name; published by Vertigo

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