by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges (writers), Russ Braun (pencils), Jose Marzan Jr. (inks), Daniel Vozzo (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Bigby continues to feel Kevin Thorn’s wrath, Thorn continues to grapple with writer’s block, and the Page sisters decide to get in on the action.

The Good: After a lacking Fables issue last week, I was more than a little worried regarding this comic. Thankfully, this issue was a definite improvement.

The humor of seeing Bigby transform from one awful thing to another was great, all the funnier thanks to Braun’s artwork. The forlorn looking Bigby-chimp is a real laugh.

One of the true strengths of this issue though, was the dynamic of this group of characters. As Bigby got angrier and angrier, Mr. Revise served as a deadpan foil while Gary held the role of the cheerful irritant. It was a fantastic crew. Meanwhile, I continued to love Kevin’s “good angel/ bad angel” in Old Sam and Hansel.  I thought it was really promising in the Literals #1, and this issue started to show me why I was right. I expect even more from this in future issues. The sequences with Thorn and the genres continued to be strong intellectually and comically as well, especially with us finally seeing the characters recognize Writer’s Block and the little info on Thorn’s “brother.”

I also enjoyed the fact that Willingham has not left the Page sisters in the dust. I’ve always liked the sisters, and seeing them in an action-packed journey with a crapload of guns was just a damn special treat. I’m glad to see that they will factor into the final outcome of this crossover.

The biggest thing with this issue though is that it actually delivers on the “crossover,” unlike last week. There is one, central adversary in Kevin Thorn and one united goal to stop him which features characters from both comics. There aren’t multiple opponents or side-issues. The comic is focused on the issue that brought on this crossover to begin with, and as a result, I actually felt like there was actually  a strong sense of direction.  There’s no Jack Frost, Boy Blue cult, or Mister Dark to worry about, which is refreshing. Also, I do have to say that I love Bigby’s final transformation at the end of the issue.  It has a ton of comedic potential and I wouldn’t mind seeing him stuck in that form for most of the rest of the crossover.

What’s Not-so-Good: Despite what I said about direction, there really isn’t a lot of plot progression in that direction in this issue. The book literally ends with our characters on the exact same patch of grass that we left them on last month, not having made any major discoveries, as Bigby continually transforms into different creatures. That’s a little distressing considering that we’re at 5/9 on the crossover now. There just isn’t a lot of forward momentum here, especially considering where we’re at in the crossover. I will admit that as funny as it was, the fact that plot progression was being sacrificed in favor of jokes was a little worrisome.

At this point, it feels as if this “Great” crossover has been treading water for several issues now. There’s just not a lot going on here. And while it’s all good and humorous, it’s also getting a bit frustrating. We’ve got great characters and great comedy and the pieces are in motion, so move them! There is some development in this issue in the main conflict (unlike last week), with the Page sisters hitting the road and Kevin discovering Writer’s Block, but these sound like “beginnings” that could have occurred in issue 3 rather than 5.  At five of nine, we should be further along and we certainly shouldn’t be moving at the speed of molasses.  I feel as though Willingham is trying to keep me from noticing the fact that not a whole lot happened in this issue.

I guess the criminal thing is that while this issue had more direction, I’m honestly not sure if you’d really miss anything if you didn’t pick it up.

Conclusion: A better issue in what has thus far been a lackluster crossover. It’s focused, smart, and the comedy is definitely a high point. I just wish that we’d see a bit more forward momentum.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans

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