by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (pencils), Steve Leialoha & Daniel Green (inks), Lee Loughridge (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Geppetto makes a bid for power while Bufkin wages his final battle with Baba Yaga.

What’s Good: This was just an absolutely fantastic issue that shows that all those readers who claim that the series lost its heart after “War & Pieces” simply have no idea what they’re talking about.  This was engaging, intelligent, humorous, action-packed, fun, and generally everything you expect out of a quality comic.

Seeing Geppetto back in action and the closest we’ve ever seen him to his old posture was great.  The guy’s got charisma that leaps off of the page.  Willingham’s play on history was also quite good: Geppetto sounded like more or less every dictator in modern history to make a bid for power.  His call for unity, his protests against the inefficacy and corruption of the current regime, and his promises of security all felt very real.  It’s weird to see a comic so rooted in fancy give such an honest and close approximation to actual political history.

Geppetto’s rise also causes Ozma to step-up in a big way, and finally, Willingham has sold me on the character.  I’ve been on the fence about her, but this month, Willingham finally gives her the necessary appeal.

Then there’s Bufkin.  From his innocent bumbling, to his quoting of obscure passages, the character is simply adorable.  If you dislike Bufkin, you have no soul.  The fact that his one, and only, hand to hand combat technique is basically derived from his own penchant for clumsiness and pratfalls was simply golden, as was the unfolding of his manifold trap, which basically felt like a kid’s board game gone horribly wrong.

Best of all, though, was Baba Yaga’s dialogue throughout the scene, which had me laughing out loud.  Her arrogance causes her to be acutely aware of the ridiculousness of her situation (she’s being assailed by a flying monkey and wooden heads!), and her eventual loss for words is absolutely hilarious.  All told, the scene is a perfect mixture of undiluted awesomeness, while being utterly ludicrous in more or less every way.  The always fun disembodied head of Frankenstein’s monster has his best issue yet as well; his continual misquotes are wonderful.

And, of course, what would a great comic be without a cliffhanger?  In a huge shocker, the last page sees a big return by a minor, yet very powerful character, I’m sure most everyone has forgotten about.  Willingham had seemingly abandoned this angle/character for so long that it came from nowhere, yet was perfectly timed and paced.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone by Willingham, Buckingham puts out some of his best work in months.  The entire fight scene between Baba Yaga and Bufkin is simply glorious, fiery, mayhem that borders on reaching cosmic proportions.

What’s Not-so-Good: This is a very, very dense issue.  A lot happens and a lot of characters are visited.  This also means a ton of transitions, with many scenes lasting a mere page.  While this does make things feel jam-packed, the fact remains that all of it is great stuff, and not a single page is guilty of being dry or a mere update.  Still, be warned, you’re in for a ride that’ll take you over a lot of ground in 22 pages.

Also, Geppetto’s finding the only source of magic in the mundy world and its being that close to the Farm is a bit convenient, but I’m nit-picking.

Conclusion: As far as Fables goes, it doesn’t get any better.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans