Absolutely difficult to put down, "Fables" #117 is a superbly engaging fantasy adventure filled with memorable characters from folklore and literature. A desperate father searches for his missing children, who are stranded in the magical kingdom of lost toys.
What's absolutely terrific about this issue is how carefully and skillfully constructed the narrative is. Bill Willingham presents three intertwining subplots, each running at the same time. The reader totally becomes invested in all three, because no plotline attempts to outshine the other. As each story progresses, Willingham is able to develop the protagonists with their own arc.
Willingham clearly wants the reader to focus on the emotional journey of the three protagonists. Each character has their own story, which will eventually change them. The writer captures the essence of childhood memories through giant teddy bears and talking toy soldiers. Toyland is a dream for Therese and Darien, Bigby's children, who fantasize about being someone they are not, whether it be a princess or a hero.
Armed with a wooden shield and sword in his hands, Darien rides across the desert on top of the clockwork tiger, presented as the so-called knight in shining armor. Readers will find it difficult not to root for the naive Darien because of his rebellious and adventurous spirit. Willingham slowly sets up the passage for Darien to become a natural leader, essentially a hero.
While taking elements from children's literature, Willingham cleverly uses the landscape of lost toys to represent youthful dreams and earnest wishes. It's clear Darien and Therese want to fulfill a part of themselves that is missing -- whether it's the little girl who wants to be a queen or the boy who wants to be a fighter. Bigby, the only adult in the narrative, presents two sides of himself; the concerned, loving father and the always vigilant detective. For the grown-up, Bigby is too old to be a hero, but is more than ready to be a parent.
There is so much attention to detail in the artwork by Mark Buckingham. On the left and right side of the pages, Buckingham illustrates two vertical and thin panels to serve as metaphors for the narratives. These particular panels specifically tell the reader which subplot they are following. During Therese's arc, the panels showcase many different toy figures drowning in murky water. Throughout Bigby's investigation, the panels are drawn with ticking clocks. As Bigby wanders into a snowy field, the panels also change, depicting snow-covered mountains. The search for Therese suddenly widens for Bigby, because she is lost in the outside world.
With each page of "Fables" #117, readers will find themselves enjoying Buckingham's grand-scale imagery and Willingham's epic storytelling. Trapped in Toyland, Therese is stuck inside a magical castle, anxiously waiting to be rescued. As Bigby attempts to find clues for his daughter's whereabouts, Darien truly believes he's Therese's only hope, rushing headfirst into action. This is definitely a comic book you should be holding in your hands.