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

The Story: Ozma begins to assemble a super team under the guidance of Pinocchio as the Dark Man threatens Haven.

The Review: As weird as it seems at first, and as dubious the reasoning is behind it, this whole Super Team thing is really, really enjoyable.  It feels new and fresh for Fables and makes for some smart reading as well.  It allows Fables to discuss superhero comics and, by extension, comics as a medium.  The end result is an intelligent comic that almost feels self-conscious of its own medium.  It allows Willingham to think over some of the tropes and absurdities of superhero comics by bringing it into a comic that is anything but.

The whole superhero element also allows for a good deal of comedy as well, much of it thanks to that absurdity.  There’s also a good deal of hilarity in seeing Willingham’s piss-takes here and there, for instance, with Pinocchio’s dressing up as Professor X/Chief.  As you might suspect, it also leads to Mark Buckingham’s getting to do some really cool stuff.  His costume for Ozma is both gorgeous and humorous and quite honestly, even seeing the always-serious Ozma dressed up in such a get-up is all kinds of awesome.

As I mentioned, however, the reasoning for this whole Super Team is a bit questionable.  I can see where Willingham’s going with his reasoning, but it seems like a sort of ad-hoc explanation, as though Willingham just really, really wanted a superhero team in his comic and tried to come up with the reasons afterwards.  Furthermore, it’s a bit of a strain seeing someone like Ozma buy into the whole thing and dive in so completely.  That said, the visual and intellectual places that the comic is allowed to go as a result makes all of this fairly forgivable.

I also should mention that it’s always great to see Flycatcher and Haven.  I’m glad that the final stand with the Dark Man will take place in this locale, as it allows for Fables’ more fantastical elements to truly stretch their legs.  Already, there’s some awesome Buckingham artwork that results, particularly with Grinder the troll, and Flycatcher is as likable as ever.  Willingham also uses a well-written seen with Beauty and Beast that builds up the tension quite nicely while serving as a strong character moment for both characters.

What falls a little flatter is the plot involving the North Wind and his zephyr grandson.  It’s wholly detached from the Dark Man/Super Team stuff, which wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the fact that as far as this issue goes, it’s the less interesting story.  Frankly, it’s just a lot less fun than the Super Team stuff and doesn’t have the same life to it.  That said, I’m glad that Willingham is giving the North Wind a more nuanced position, as opposed to just making him a straight up bad guy out to kill all zephyrs without question.

Conclusion: It’s not all gold, but I really like this Super Team idea, which is what’s important, given that it’s the meat of this new story-arc.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans