After setting up his readers' expectations, there doesn't seem to be anything Willingham enjoys more than taking a character in whole new direction. The selfish Prince Charming turns out to be an able leader. The musical youth, Little Boy Blue, transforms into a powerful warrior. Now its time for Flycatcher, the Frog Prince of nursery tale fame.
Until recently we knew very little about the man. He was in perpetual trouble for a never ending series of misdemeanors, which kept him in an orange jumpsuit and doing minor janitorial tasks around city hall. He was a likable character who ran errands for more important characters. Then Little Red Riding Hood came to town. The real one (a long story). And, as they developed feelings for each other, he became nervous and did what he always did when he is nervous. He turned back into a frog. This was the first time since leaving his Homelands and no one was sure how to change him back. No one except Santa.
Santa brought his long dead wife back to kiss her Frog Prince one more time, turning him back into Ambrose (his actual name). But Ambrose was horrified. Along with his transformation, his long suppressed memories came back: when the Adversary had invaded his kingdom and the trolls stormed his house, true to his curse, he first became nervous and then became a frog. And as a frog he was helpless and could do nothing to save his family from a brutal death. He stole a kiss from his dead wife and left a broken man. He refused to believe what he saw and went off in search of his family. It got to the point that, as long as he stayed sober, he could convince himself that his wife and children were still out there, somewhere, and that he hadn't lost his nerve and watched their deaths as he sat under the bed. But now he can't pretend. Santa told him, 'A great war is coming, and when it does many full worlds will die, perhaps including this one. Unless you alone have the strength and will to do the hard and terrible things that need to be done. Can can save them all. Or most. Or some. Maybe.'
And that's where this volume takes up. A heartbroken man has to raise himself up, march an army through Hades and back to the Homelands, destroy legion after legion of the Adversary's best, and provide the oppressed with a beacon of hope and liberty. You'd think it a bit much for a fly eating janitor, but Willingham works his magic again and Ambrose doesn't seem changed so much as finally fleshed out. And, in spite of the violence and battles, the story maintains a feeling of easygoing sweetness you'd expect from our hero. No small feat. There is an incredible amount of first rate storytelling here, with everyone working at their peak. Fables is a series that goes from strength to strength.
Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince: Words by Bill Willingham, Pictures by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Aaron Alexovich and Andrew Pepoy, Colour by Lee Loughridge, Letters by Todd Klein, and Cover by James Jean.