Sunday, August 23, 2015
Fables Vol. 20: Camelot
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2014
Artist: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Russ Braun, Barry Kitson, Anrew Pepoy, Gary Erskine
Writer: Bill Willingham
Collects: Fables # 130-140
With Fables closing in on its 150th and final issue, creator Bill Willingham has been slowly moving toward what looks to be an epic, and potentially disastrous conclusion to Vertigo's long-running series.
Fortunately, Willingham is aware that before you lay waste to a fictional universe, it's helpful to give your audience a breather of sorts. And so it is with Camelot, the penultimate storyline now collected in the 20th Fables trade paperback. Mainly serving to move critical pieces into position for the finale, readers are thankfully spared the bloodbath that has steadily removed beloved characters from the series like an outbreak of Spanish flu. Instead, the story focuses on the relationship that has arguably defined Fables from the very beginning: the Cain and Abel-style conflict between Snow White and her sister, Rose Red.
But the absence of devastating character deaths or a specific disaster by no means makes Camelot a filler episode. Big, challenging ideas are chewed over, among them redemption, whether or not one can fight fate, the nature of evil, the idea of just what 'home' actually means. But perhaps most important of all is one that in some ways is a radical departure from the series' manichean struggle between good and evil: the idea that two people on opposite sides of a conflict can both be right.
Opening in the aftermath of Snow White's victorious duel with Prince Brandish (who had just murdered Bigby Wolf), Camelot primarily follows Rose Red, now finally beginning to fulfill her destiny as a servant of the anthropomorphic spirit of Hope. Having spent the previous two storylines dithering, Rose Red has at last decided that she'll be the embodiment of the hope of redemption, and to that end, she sets about establishing a new order of knighthood. This new round table (and yes, the connection to King Arthur is explicit) is intended to champion the cause of second chances, and thus will be comprised of knights who themselves are in desperate need of their own.
Unfortunately, a serious and perhaps intractable conflict with Snow is provoked when Rose decides to make Brandish, (who survived his duel thanks to what amounts to the Fables equivalent of a horcrux), her personal redemption project. Taking him under her wing for what she describes as a crash course in how to be a decent person, Rose is told by an outraged Snow that if she doesn't relent and allow Snow to finish off Brandish once and for all, their relationship - which has been slowly and steadily improving throughout the series - is done. But Rose, who has come a long way from the selfish and self-serving wastrel she once was, is now devoted to principle, and a cause she believes in. Her decision severs the two with apparent finality, and sets in motion Fables's endgame.