By: Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha & Andrew Pepoy (inkers), Lee Loughridge (colorist)

The Story: Who knew Mister Dark has the most effective beauty treatment regimen in all the homelands?

The Review: Of course, one of the harder parts of writing comics is creating characters who can convince us of their realism even when they may have the least realistic backgrounds in the most unbelievable situations.  With Fables, you’re dealing with some truly outlandish characters, so crafting relatable emotions or personality against our popular understanding of them can be a tricky feat, one which Willingham has done impressively.

When you really consider the fantastic nature of Bigby’s encounter with his father—the Big Bad Wolf trying to prevent the North Wind from killing his invisible son—you’d think it’d be well-nigh impossible to make the scene credible.  But Willingham tunes Bigby’s helplessness in his father’s grip just right, projecting the right mixture of subdued rage and desperation.  Even a “monster” like the North Wind gets a couple instances of honest vulnerability, the most poignant being the crouch and sniff of his subdued son just before he departs to confront Mister Dark.

But what makes these scenes most convincing is Bigby ruthlessly pointing out the hypocrisy of his father’s claim that his “nature” forces his hand (e.g., targeting Ghost for being a monster).  It’s an interesting commentary on how much the Fables are actually beholden to their original conceptions.  Most have developed beyond their childish origins, Bigby especially, so it’s fitting he calls out his father, a true force of nature, on pretending to have no control over his actions.

These scenes deliver some nice tension, but they and the rest of the issue feel like a bunch of moments strung together to kill time.  Perhaps it’s the dropped page count, but most of these moments don’t develop or have impact like they should, although some have more meaning than others.  Mister Dark’s lack of appetite and idle wondering whether Frau Totenkinder is to blame hints that the old lady’s last effort to defeat him may be not all in vain, but what significance Ozma’s stumbling onto Bigby and his father’s meeting has is a mystery.

For a story arc that involves “superheroes,” a formidable adversary, and a magical war, little action goes on this issue.  Even Castle Dark seems strangely domestic, with Mister Dark getting some busywork done (such as beautifying—painfully—Nurse Sprat) just before running into the North Wind.  Whether Bigby’s dad can overcome Dark is up in the air, although it’d be a sad waste of getting a team of super-Fables together.

Buckingham doesn’t get much to do other than draw talking heads, which he does surprisingly well, considering the simplicity of his style.  He uses Bigby and the North Wind’s rugged features to bring out some great underlying emotions to the scene, although the lines are a little too heavily inked by Leialoha and Pepoy.

Conclusion: In spite of some intriguing drama, this issue serves only as a prelude for the next, undoubtedly action-packed part of what’s bound to be a good, long story arc.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Between Bigby and his old man here, and Colleen and her mom over in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, there sure is a lot of parents and children wanting to kill each other in the DCU lately.