Fables, Volume 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers

Reviewed: March 12, 2006
By: Bill Willingham - art by Mark Buckingham, Craig Hamilton, Steve Leialoha and P. Craig Russell
Publisher: Vertigo
239 pages, $27.95

Somewhere in New York City there’s area of several city blocks bounded by streets with the names of famous authors of fantasy. There live the Fables, the refugees from the worlds of fantasy who were exiled when the Adversary began his systematic conquest of all lands of the imagination. The more human-like Fables live in the city while the non-humans who have not chosen to love under the glamour of transformation live on a farm upstate.

We haven’t learned a lot about the war with the Adversary. So far Willingham’s delightful mind has offered us story arcs which have included a murder mystery/con game, a revolution and a love story, with a few references to life before the exile.

The first story in this collected volume adds to the background. It is told from the viewpoint of Boy Blue (not so little), the trumpeter at the Last Battle. It is a war story and a love story, and a prelude to the longer tale which fills the rest of this book.

Among the fables who escaped to New York is the flesh and blood Pinocchio, who has always wondered what happened to his “father”, the carver Geppetto. The answer to that question and to Boy Blue’s pining after the love of his life are both provided when Red Riding Hood (also no longer so little) turns up in Fabletown, followed shortly after by an advance force of wooden soldiers that make Arnold’s Terminator look like a wuss.

The Adversary is testing the waters, preparing to invade other worlds, and he wants the artifacts of power that the Exiles managed to take with them when they fled. To this end, his carvers have been preparing an invasion force of loquacious automatons whose relish at the thought of massacring “meatheads” is exceeded only by their delight in exercising their extensive vocabularies.

So it’s war in New York, a war that has to be carried out without the mundane population knowing a thing about it, and one in which the leader of the invading force is exposed as an ancient evil which it takes another evil to counter.

It’s quite a tale. The creators have pulled out all the stops and done a fine job. Need I add, as they often say on television, that this tale contains violence, nudity and coarse language and is not suitable for young children.