Comics and Cosplay
Good Intentions & The Road To Hell: Fables "Camelot" Review

Stew Shearer | 18 Sep 2014 17:00
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As dour as all of this sounds the book still contains a lot of positive moments. The formation of Rose's round table and the resultant tryouts, for instance, are tempered with a sense of good humor that's more than a bit similar to the Super Team arc from several trades back. Whereas the super team concept petered out and wound up serving as a framing device for another character's fateful decision, the formation of the round table does equally well at both providing a few laughs and also showcasing Rose's ascension into a position of power and self-actualization.

Having her rise up and take hold of her fate in such a firm, tangible way is, in turn, just incredibly satisfying. Up until now, Rose Red's role has been largely limited to that of the perpetual disappointment. There have been persistent hints of her having the inner potential to be much more, but her greatness has manifested far less frequently than her tendencies to give into impulse and despair. Put shortly, the Rose Red in Camelot is a much more vibrant and determined character than she's been throughout much of Fables long run.

Granted, there is still the downbeat of her conflict with Snow to consider, but even that's a blessing of sorts. Fables has been an excellent read through and through, but it's still had its high and low points. The conflict with the Dark Man, for instance, was interesting and tense, but it still arguably came across as something Willingham injected into the plot artificially to make sure the main cast had someone to struggle against. He was never as compelling as the conflicts that developed naturally as a byproduct of the relationships between the main cast. Snow White and Rose Red's new opposition to each other comparatively feels like a natural (if negative) evolution of their relationship. They love each other, but it makes sense that Snow would go full wolf matriarch on Rose Red over the issue of Prince Brandish. Likewise, it feels appropriate for Rose to hold her ground even if it means losing her family in the process. It never feels like something out of left field and, rather, comes across like more of a reward for readers who have spent years investing their emotions in these two women.

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There is, of course, more going on in Volume 20 than just the conflict with Rose Red and Snow White. The book also touches on the fate of the "deceased" Bigby Wolf and gives us a taste of the difficult road ahead for him. This section was especially interesting in the ways that it further explored things like the idea of there being larger forces governing the world and how Bigby's turn away from evil could have been an even larger wrench in the machine of fate than anyone could have guessed. We're also given a glimpse at the continued machinations of Gepetto and Nurse Spratt (forgive me, "Ms. Duglas"), both of whom look to be setting themselves up for moments of wickedness that will likely pay off handsomely as the series draws closer to its finale.

The only thing I would call a misstep in Camelot is a brief is a side story brief story involving Briar Rose as she and the feline fencer Puss in Boots accompany a band of Fables on a quest of righteous revolution to the fairytale version of Scotland. While this section gave a glimpse at one of the more subtle ways that Fabletown might eventually dissipate, the artwork in this section was decidedly less attractive than the rest of the book's gorgeous illustrations. It was a minor flaw to be certain and it's not so bad as to being grating on the eyes, but it was a definite low moment for an otherwise fantastic trade collection.

Taken altogether, Camelot exemplifies the qualities that make Fables the required reading that it is. It has countless moving parts, but Willingham uses them in the service of storytelling that's lofty and complex, but ultimately human and relate-able. Those qualities are at their best here and if you had any doubts as to whether or not Fables twentieth collection was worth reading, you can lay them to rest. Camelot is sublime and well worth the price of admission.

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