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

The Story: Rose Red gets out of bed, clandestine meeting for control of the Farm take place, and Rose’s sabotage of Snow’s first marriage is illuminated.

What’s Good: I’ve been somewhat aggravated by Fables over the last couple of months.  After the fantastic “Witches” arc, Fables had regained it’s momentum and the sky seemed to be the limit.  Then Willingham inexplicably squandered this through spending two straight issues in a flashback that was only tangentially relevant and a thematic left turn.  I’m happy to say that this month, Fables is righting itself and taking a big step back in the right direction.

Of course, a big part of this is simply due to the fact that halfway through the issue, the flashback ends.  Suffice it to say, this alone was enough to have me overjoyed.  When Rose got out of bed and started cleaning up and preparing herself for action, I almost felt like it was representative of the series itself; after months of wandering listlessly, Fables is preparing itself to get back to firing on all cylinders.  There’s a lot of excitement, as a result, in seeing Rose suit up and it left me very eager for what’s coming.

It’s not just Rose either; the power struggle in the Farm is also more interesting than ever.  The meeting in the forest, and the fragile coalition between Ozma, Stinky, and Geppetto is very interesting and foreboding as well.  It’s a volatile and unlikely mix of personalities, all of whom are combustible elements.  It’s the sort of thing that you know is going to blow itself, and maybe a great deal else, apart and, like with Rose, it really left me wanting to know what’ll happen next.  I’m especially interested in Stinky/Brock who is getting weirder by the second; he manifests some very weird magical properties this month and their source is very cool.

That’s really what this issue amounts to: a very strong promise for the future.  After this issue, it’s clear that the Fables ship has righted itself once more.

What’s Not So Good: But while this issue’s strength is its promise, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a particularly jaw-dropping issue in and of itself.  The fact remains that half of the issue is still spent in that dry flashback mode.  While the flashback is better this month in that actually does focus on Rose, the fact remains that it doesn’t really give us anything that we didn’t already know.  The story that it tells, about Rose’s sabotage of Snow’s first marriage, is one that we already knew the core details of and, after this flashback, it’s clear that there wasn’t really much else to tell.

Everything else is just potential, plot developments that tease us about what’s to come.  If I was able to grade on the future, I’d probably give this a really high grade, but unfortunately, I’m grading this issue itself.

Also, for one reason or another, I found Buckingham’s artwork, while still strong, to be a little blander than usual.  Perhaps it was the amount of dialogue, as I can’t really say that he didn’t much wrong, it just wasn’t anything to get excited about, as is usually the case with Buckingham.  That said, I did feel a couple of faces were a bit iffy.

Conclusion: I’m happy to once again find myself excited for the next issue of Fables.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans