The Five-Minute Recap: Fables

Getting into a comic book mid-way through its run is hard! So we’ve made it easy for you: in just five short minutes (or less), we’ll get you caught up on a comic book you need to pick up tomorrow… Today! Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear: spoilers on.

Fables should be one of the easier titles we’ve had to cover for the Five-Minute Recap. Sure, Vertigo is releasing its one hundred and third issue this Wednesday, but the central premise is simple to explain: every character from every story ever lived together in a fantastical land, until driven out by the Adversary, a terrifying being who forced them to live in our non-magical world with regular people, (also know as “Mundies.”)

Though this is still true, writer Bill Willingham made a seismic change to the series in issue seventy-five, when the Fables finally beat the Adversary, revealed to be a bitter, angry Geppeto (yup, the carpenter from Pinocchio) and regained control of their Homelands. Rather than end the series here – the original plan – Willingham decided to see what would happen next… Which turned out to be very, very bad for our fantastical friends. With the Adversary out of power, magical items that were previously protected were left without guards, and various beasties got loose.

The worst of these is Mr. Dark, an actual, physical representation of the fear of the dark given life. Mr. Dark sucks the life essence from Mundies, and likes to eat their teeth, which is gross. And though he was beaten in combat by the Fables once before, he wasn’t beaten down for good. Teaming up with the bitter, angry wife of Jack Sprat, Mr. Dark has gone on a journey back to the Homelands to take revenge on the Fables who still live there.

Meanwhile! Jack Sprat’s wife is in New York City, which has been turned into a smoke filled, grey wasteland filled with stumbling zombies who go about their days ignoring each other, doing nothing but their sad little jobs. So in other words: every day in new York. Just kidding! Sort of.

The rest of the Fables are split between two locations. One is The Farm, a secret place upstate for Fables who can’t mingle with human society (Snow White can hang out in Times Square, but the Three Little Pigs might have a problem). The other is Haven, a kingdom in the Homelands where refugee Fables, and goblins who defected from the Adversary’s army live together in harmony, protected by the magic of their king, Flycatcher (long story).

Given that Mr. Dark is on the loose, the Fables have decided to flee from The Farm until it’s safe, when things start to heat up in Haven… It turns out that Mr. Dark is outside the magical protective barrier of Haven, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets in. Enter the Fables first team of superheroes!


Gepetto’s favorite “son,” the boy formerly made out of wood has hatched a plan to use the power of stories – particularly superhero stories – to turn the tide against Mr. Dark in their favor. Pinocchio has taken the role of the group’s Professor X, running around in a wheelchair, and smoking a bubble pipe. Pinocchio has added the caveat that, like in a comic book, the super-team will probably lose the first time, before eventually winning.


One of the most powerful witches from Oz, Ozma is in the form of a little blond girl. After Frau Tottenkinder – the witch from Hansel & Gretel, among other stories – gave everything to defeat Mr. Dark, Ozma is now the leader of the Fables’ coven of witches. She’s doubtful of Pinocchio’s plan, but is going along anyway.

Bigby Wolf:

The Big Bad Wolf is the scruffy, grumpy, sometimes leader of the Fables community, and is married to Snow White. They have several children together who can fly, change into wolves, and one who is a Zephyr – an invisible ghost child who no one knows about. Bigby has been called to Haven to join the super-team, and help stop Mr. Dark for good.

There are a lot of other characters in Fables, and Willingham is always balancing several storylines, so we don’t honestly know which ones he’ll touch on in the next issue. However, we think this brings you up to speed with the main storyline.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Bigby’s father is the North Wind, and he, way back in the day, said that Zephyrs were an abomination of nature, and should not be suffered to live. Now that he knows about his grandchild, he’s in a bit of a bind. Will this side storyline culminate while Bigby is away, trapped in Haven fighting Mr. Dark? It’s a fair guess that it will.

Fables is always a good mix of light humor, fantastical situations, great character drama, and with this new Mr. Dark storyline, horror as well. There’s really nothing like it, and fans have responded, leading to multiple spin-offs, Fables novels, and even table games. There’s a lot of material to get through, but Willingham’s light, affable writing and the often gorgeous storybook art makes it worth it. But if you don’t want to go back right now, you should have no problem jumping into tomorrow’s issue. And that’s your Five-Minute Recap!

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