~written by Bill Willingham
Storybook Love is the third trade paperback in the Fables comic series, collecting issues eleven through eighteen. Unlike the first two collected volumes (Legends in Exile and Animal Farm) which only had on story-arc each, Storybook Love actually contains several. And while I already knew I liked the series, the third volume only helped to cement that fact.
The book begins with "Bag 'o Bones," a short, rather humorous one-issue story that follows some of Jack's exploits with Old Nick, women, and Death during the American Civil War. This is followed by a two-issue story appropriately titled "A Two-Part Caper" in which a human investigative reporter is getting too close to the truth about the fables and Fabletown. The animosity between Bluebeard and Bigby also begins to come to a head, which segues nicely into the volume's primary arc, "Storybook Love." Bluebeard is working closely with the renegade Goldilocks to not only remove Bigby from the picture, but Snow White as well. Partially as a result of this plot, the Big Bad Wolf and Snow must confront their feelings for one another while simply trying to survive the whole situation. The volume ends with "Barlycorn Brides," a separate one-issue story about a Lilliputian tradition as told by Bigby to Flycatcher.
A slightly different style of artwork is used for the last issue in the book. The style is quite fun and a little more "cartoony" than what is usually used for the series. I really like the slightly realistic style that is more commonly used for Fables, although some characters (especially Snow and Bigby) aren't as consistently portrayed within a story-arc as I would like to see. But other than those consistency issues, the artwork is really quite good and I enjoy it immensely.
Storybook Love is a terrific addition to the Fables series. Jack's story was great fun as was the Lilliputian tale. I was particularly glad to see the return of Bigby as a primary character (he was more or less a side-note in Animal Farm), even if he does like Snow more than me. While Storybook Love is longer than the first two volumes, it doesn't have any "extras" like Animal Farm and Legends in Exile did. Fables is a wonderful series so far--each collected volume builds off of and is even better than the last. If the trend continues, I suspect that the next trade collection, March of the Wooden Soldiers, will be fantastic.