Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love
Rebecca Toennessen — 06-Nov-10
Bill Willingham’s Fables series skillfully crafts out-of-copyright characters from traditional fairy tales and archetypes and sets them in a new world of possibilities. In the six issue spin-off special Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love, writer Chris Roberson and artist Shawn McManus continue the character development that rips apart every Disney princess ideal we’ve ever seen. It also welcomes several new characters from non-European fairy tales.
When we are first introduced to Cindy in Fables, she’s enjoying a bitch session with her friends Snow White, Rose Red, and Sleeping Beauty regarding the idiocy of their mututal ex-husband, Prince Charming. But far from being another dumb blonde, Cindy is a badass spy. Seemingly on a whim, she rushes off to Europe for a change of pace, but for what is actually a honeytrap sting set by Fabletown sheriff Bigby Wolf.
Cindy’s current mission revolves around the trafficking of magical items from Fabletown back to the the Homelands. As such items are strictly controlled, the sheriff is concerned that there may be another attack on Fabletown. As with most missions, Cindy’s begins with a visit to Frau Totenkinder for advice and charms – though the payment darkly hinted at will probably not measure up.
Along the way, she meets up with Aladdin, a character recently new to Fabletown, and grudgingly works with him to get to the bottom of the trafficking ring. Across the series, secrets are spilled, characters are double and triple-crossed, and naturally Cindy kicks some serious ass. The crux of the trafficking ring takes her right back to her days in the cinders, and Frau Totenkinder’s real purpose is revealed.
What makes this series so compelling isn’t the originality of the plot – the fairy godmothers vs witches / good witch vs bad witch struck me at first as being skimmed right off Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad. But what works so well about using archetypes is that we have heard this story before, except this time we expect surprises. Witches Abroad itself is a running retelling of the Cinderella story (but with more puns). So it seems fitting that this series echoes the Discworld in many of its plot threads.
The stories that we tell over and over are given a new twist in Fabletown. Roberson uses the unique world of fairytale meets reality based on Willingham’s established plot and character development. The result is that old characters show new sides to their complicated personalities, and new characters bed in to continue the Fables plotline.
The series works well both read in conjuntion with the Fables series, but it also stands out alone as a graphic novel it its own right. McManus continues the tradition of past Fables artists – bright colours, fantastic and often grotesque characters, and evocative splash pages. Of all the Fables spin-offs, this is maybe the most accessible, as it uses beloved characters and gives them a sassy, modern edge. I strongly suspect those who haven’t read Fables will want to catch up after reading Cinderella, while current readers will enjoy a rolicking good magical tale of betrayal, revenge and espionage that allows a popular but minor character to take centre stage.