Spoilers in this review for events happening in the first and second collections.
This third collection of Fables begins with a one-off story about Jack’s experiences during the American Civil War, and how he obtained and used a sack in which even Death could be caught. As usual with Jack it also contains scheming gone awry and a beautiful woman, though it’s apparently ‘freely adapted’ from the ‘American Jack’ tales, according to Willingham.
Then comes the story proper. The Fables are threatened with exposure by a reporter, who, however, thinks they are vampires. In order to prevent him publishing, Bigby Wolf enlists the help of Boy Blue, Flycatcher, Prince Charming, Briar Rose, Jack and Bluebeard to enter the reporter’s apartment and steal all his notes. Although Bluebeard is all for killing the man, particularly when Jack discovers that the reporter saved all his notes also on an online server to which the Fables don’t have access, they use Pinocchio (turned into a real boy) to blackmail the man into leaving them alone.
The enmity between Bluebeard and Bigby, always simmering, comes to a head – Bluebeard often threatens action against Bigby’s authority, but when it comes down to it, he is afraid of the wolf – and so he plots against him and Snow White. He puts Bigby and Snow under an enchantment, and sends Goldilocks, who has been wanted since the events of Animal Farm, after them to kill them both.
While running from their camp site in the far west of the US, trying to avoid their hunter, Snow and Bigby talk about his feelings for her which were first voiced in Legends in Exile. Snow is reluctant to think about their relationship, or even how she might feel about Bigby, since her previous relationships have not led her to trust men readily.
Willingham, as usual, uses the fairy tale tropes to amusing effect, especially in the attempt to burgle the reporter: the old curse still operates on Briar Rose – when she pricks her finger, she goes to sleep, so does everyone round her, and thorns start growing – until she’s awoken by a prince who loves her. Prince Charming, formerly her husband, can’t waken her any more, and it’s left to Flycatcher to kiss her awake after her sleep. The artwork is lovely – though I can’t help preferring Lan Medina’s conception of the characters to Mark Buckingham’s, since it’s more detailed and realistic – with panels imaginatively linked together by framing devices. In the duel scene between Prince Charming and Bluebeard, and the later scenes in which Charming features, the panels very cleverly form a shield-shape – very fitting for his talk of honour (though he does also have ulterior motives for wanting to fight Bluebeard).
Events and characters are more nuanced and complicated than they first appear: for example, Charming’s still a selfish man, out for himself, but she does show other sides to his character that are more admirable; and Boy Blue is more than just Snow’s competent assistant, but someone who is powerful and charismatic on his own behalf.
Another very entertaining collection, though with an ending which promises more in subsequent issues.