by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges (writers), Mark Buckingham (pencils), Andrew Pepoy (inks), Lee Loughridge (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: The Page sisters battle the Genres, Old Sam and Hansel finally get sick of one another, and Kevin Thorn tries to get around his brother, Writer’s Block.

The Good: Not that it’s saying much, but this is easily the best issue of the Fables Crossover this month and possibly the whole crossover. Why? Because the plot actually moves! Things stay centered on the world-ending threat of Thorn, our heroes close in on him, and there’s actually plot development that sees not one but two characters getting killed (probably). In the process, we get to see the grumpy little girl Bigby in action, and more metafictional wit and self-lampooning from the Genres. With a little forward movement of the plot, everything else just feels a bit more enjoyable.

Another result of this is that Willingham actually manages to remind us of Thorn’s vicious, evil side; something that has been frequently lost behind his affable exterior in spite of his apocalyptic intentions. Strangely, the last comic to actually make Thorn feel at all menacing was last month’s issue of the Literals. This second go-around only ups the ante, reminding us that Thorn really is a mean little bastard that’s capable of horrible things.

Lastly, praise be to Mark Buckingham!  After two Fables-related comics in the past two weeks drawn by Akins and Braun, respectively, Buckingham reminds us why he is the best and how he’s on a totally different level. Akins and Braun are no slouches, but by comparison, Buckingham just outclasses them. It really felt great to have him behind the pencils again.

The Not-so-Good: As refreshing as it is to see some plot movement, we shouldn’t get too excited. Fact is that while it moves, that movement isn’t very interesting, shocking, or inventive. The heroes are literally just physically closer to the final battle.  Thorn’s decision over Writer’s Block also isn’t particularly creative, it was seen a mile away, and it makes you wonder why the hell it didn’t happen sooner (barring Willingham’s need to stretch out this crossover and tread water).

While the plot develops and things improve, it still feels like Willingham is just going through the motions. While funny and reasonably enjoyable, there aren’t any surprises, twists, or anything particularly creative going on story-wise.  Things just happen exactly as you’d expect they would without any nuance or subtlety.

I guess this all leads me to a troubling conclusion after this comic: this story can now all easily be wrapped up in one more issue. It’s unfortunate that Willingham’s got three to go.

Conclusion: Nothing earth-shattering that will change your mind about this crossover, but at least it isn’t hideously bad or outright frustrating like the past issues.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans