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

The Story: Beast makes a deal with the Blue Fairy, while Rose Red reunites with an old friend.  And no, it’s not Boy Blue.

What’s Good: Continuing its recovery, Fables offers up another solid outing that asks questions and opens doors.  As the first issue of a new arc, this does its job.

What will no doubt catch eyes are the very intriguing developments regarding the ghost of Colin the Pig.  We get strong suggestions that Colin may not really be Colin at all.  Rather, he seems to be some sort of shapeshifter.  The identity of this figure has already gotten me incredibly interested, and it’s only been one issue.  It really is quite the mystery and I hope that it ultimately pays off.

However, I’m sure most Fables readers are curious about how the Blue Fairy is handled after the cliffhanger that the “Witches” arc ended on.  While I wasn’t a fan of how the situation was resolved, the character herself was well done.  Her claiming to be Pinocchio’s mother was certainly a nice little twist; it was unexpected, but it made perfect sense.  Then there’s the fact that Pinocchio actually physically attacks her.  Yes, it looks as funny as it sounds.  The image of Pinocchio repeatedly punting her in the gut was something I felt that I shouldn’t find funny, but just couldn’t help smiling at.

This is also a strong outing for Mister Dark, as Willingham reveals a new level of evil and magical deviance in the character.  Apparently, the villain’s has powers we didn’t know about which are much more subtle, and malevolent, than what we’ve seen before.  The scene is very well-executed and very creepy, essentially acting as a slice of horror comic in this otherwise standard issue of Fables.

Oh, and Mark Buckingham is back.  I liked David Lapham’s work, but this is Buckingham’s book, and he asserts that here.  His depictions of the Blue Fairy’s powers in particular were pleasing, and the ridiculous brawl between her and her “son” was done with enough slapstick and mischief to steer it away from poor taste.

What’s Not So Good: Willingham is guilty of some clumsy writing this month.  For instance, the Frau Totenkinder scene couldn’t have been more blunt.  Totenkinder just about comes out and says to Dunster that she’s going to have sex with him for information. The whole thing just felt a bit too rushed and not at all subtle.  When a character works his or her seductive charms, I expect it to be a little more gradual and to have a lot more finesse.  This was really abrupt and way too obvious.  As a result, Totenkinder’s usual intelligence didn’t come through quite as much as it should.

The resolution of the Blue Fairy’s conflict with Geppetto is similarly ham-fisted on Willingham’s part.  Again, there’s no subtlety on the writer’s part in positioning his narrative.  He essentially creates a situation that is so obviously the planting of a seed for later use and so obviously a postponement.  Basically, Beast’s deal just amounts to their not having to deal with the Blue Fairy until later, once the whole Mister Dark conflict is over and done with and Willingham needs his next big story.  The writer’s logic was just far too transparent here for my liking and this “deal” was a definite groaner because of that.

Conclusion: A couple of bits of sloppy writing, but this was generally a good set-up for the story-arc to come.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans