Fables, Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Willingham's exploration of fables wouldn't have been complete without a look at the Arabian Nights. The folklore of the Middle East fits into this series very well, especially as the Adversary is expanding his takeover of the Fable lands into the Middle Eastern worlds now.
I think that it would be impossible to integrate all of the encompassing Arabian Nights lore into one volume, and I don't think Willingham ever intended to try. Instead, he uses this story as an introductory volume, and it has some elements that really stand out in the 1001 Nights lore. One well done example was the Jinn that the Arabian delegation brings alone with them. I think that perhaps that shows you the powerful motifs of the Arabian Nights in one large sort of concentrated burst at the audience. And of course, the Fables of Fabletown have to account for the power of such a force of nature, and counter-attack or at least attempt to neutralize it, much as one would consider taking on a nation with a stockpile of nuclear weapon that you want to maintain peaceful negotiations with. Never fear, Fabletown has some potent tools in their own toolkit.
Another effective aspect of this volume was the addressing of cultural differences that the Middle Eastern worlds had from what I would consider the European Fableworlds. Prince Charming is a big buffoon, and is completely unequipped to handy any diplomatic relations, thus his predecessor King Cole is called in to do this important job. I did find myself agreeing with Charming on one aspect of the Middle Eastern Fablelands culture though. Sinbad is a diplomatic leader of the Middle Eastern contingent, with a very wicked advisor who might open a few cans of worms that need to be dealt with.
Not related so much to the Arabian Nights storyline but to the overall Fables arc was a story about two wooden creations of Geppetto who fall in love for each other and wish to be human, but will have to pay a hard price. This story reveals Willingham's wonderful storytelling skills and the bittersweet tone and content of this volume in a nutshell. He shows that the opposite side has players that can also evoke the sympathy of the readers, even though their acts and methods might be reprehensible or just neutral morally in the scheme of things.
I'm sure there are some heavy underlying themes in this graphic novel, and I have only scratched the surface. I feel that I would love to reread all of these and revisit the whole series at my leisure, which is why I definitely want to get copies of these for my collection one day.
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