Fables Volume 4 – March of the Wooden Soldiers
So far we have seen Fabletown suffer through a violent, but-not-quite-catastrophic insurrection up at the Farm, as well as internal dissent on the part of Goldilocks and Bluebeard, but with this fourth volume, March of the Wooden Soldiers, Fabletown gets its first real threat: an attack from the Adversary himself! Still unsure of who, or what exactly, the Adversary is, the residents of Fabletown are about to find out the hard way.
Volume 4 begins with the triple-long one-shot The Last Castle, which is a great back-story tale told from the point of view of Boy Blue, as he recites his part in the final (known) standoff with the Adversary before Bluebeard’s last ship sailed to the new world of America. It shows a few familiar faces, including Robin of Locksley, and explains how the Last Castle stood as long as it did against the Adversary’s armies. Boy Blue also finds love in the form of Red Riding Hood, but of course not all that is well ends well. After recounting this tragic tale, one can understand why Boy Blue only ever plays the blues on his horn.
The rest of the volume is the 5-part story March of the Wooden Soldiers. On a personal note, this is one of my favourite Fables arcs to date. It’s got espionage, intrigue and a ton of action. Amidst Snow White’s pregnancy and the impending Mayoral elections between Prince Charming and King Cole, a whole slew of commotion arrives to Fabletown in the form of: Red Riding Hood! The first survivor from the homelands in over a century, and Boy Blue can’t believe his eyes! Though neither can Bigby, and if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Meanwhile, Jack is up to his old tricks again when he tries to convince Bigby and Snow that he was mugged by three seedy-looking trenchcoat-clad men. They dismiss his story, but maybe this is a case of the boy that cried wolf (who, as Jack points out, lives up on the 7th floor), and trouble really has come.
The Sheriff doesn’t buy Red’s story, and sets off to further investigate the logistics of her arrival, whilst the rest of Fabletown discovers that the trenchcoat men aren’t ‘real’ men at all, and they’re not alone; if they’re made of wood, what does that mean for Pinnochio?
Once again, Willingham dishes out an amazing story that draws us further into his darkly charming fairytale world. Is this attack the end of Fabletown? Of course it isn’t, but damage will be caused and not everyone is going to be left standing. Volume 4 sets large groundwork for some of the main characters that has lasted through the series to this day, and is a stupendous story to boot.