More Like It
With one extended story plus one stand-alone issue (anachronistically placed first, though it is actually an improvement), this deluxe collection is the best so far. This is partly because of the familiarity we have now with the characters, especially Willingham's twist on them, and the fact it is mostly one extended story. As nice as the shorter, discrete tales and "where are they now?" issues are in Book 2 (and they are good in their way), this is more enjoyable for its focused, intense story. Not everyone will necessarily like what happens to every character in this extended story, but Willingham's willingness to do what he does is a trait that separates the good authors from the not-so-good authors - not everything always turns out all right, even for people we care about (even if they are fictional). The stand-alone Cinderella is an interesting notion, especially with the Ichabod Crane component, but it doesn't seem to be the big revelation or twist it supposes itself to be: we haven't seen Cinderella all that much to really be surprised by this issue. Perhaps if her character had been featured earlier in the series, especially with all of those vignettes in the second deluxe collection, it may have been more of a revelation. The twists and turns of the main story, March of the Wooden Soldiers, are numerous without being excessive, a challenging balance to achieve. The pacing is well done for an 8-part story, which is necessary to maintain interest. While it may seem like things are always going wrong for the Fables, and they never have much time to themselves, close reading of the dialogue reveals quite a lot of time passes throughout many issues. Willingham shows us what we need to see, and hints at what we would like to see. Fortunately, the series is only getting started.