By: Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist)

The Story: Oh, they just can’t wait to be king!

The Review: If you have a series that reaches a hundred issues, and haven’t accumulated a whole slew of engaging, enjoyable characters by then, you’ve done something wrong.  Not so for Willingham, whose epic title has a cast to beat the band.  With such a huge stable to choose from, yielding an endless combination of backgrounds and personalities, it’s quite possible that Fables will never run out of stories to tell.

Of course, the emotional center of all these characters is Bigby Wolf and Snow White, who, after a close save from the armies of Mr. Dark in the previous story arc, now have to face something of a family crisis.  The loss of Bigby’s dad left a major vacancy in the hierarchy of winds, and unless someone fills it soon, things are liable to get ugly, fast.  And so the servants of the late North Wind turn to the Cubs, young and unspoiled enough to take the position with honor.

Thankfully, Willingham doesn’t give too much focus to this question of succession, allowing the family some time to express their mix of emotions at the North Wind’s passing.  Among the Cubs, Darien is unsurprisingly more fixated on the idea of becoming king, much to the chagrin of his siblings, while Ambrose mournfully reminisces on all the good times they had with their “Grampaw.”  Sweetly sincere, these scenes offer an important glimpse into Mr. North’s soft side.

Meanwhile, the Fables of Haven celebrate the defeat of their adversary (no, not that Adversary), but have the presence of mind to send a party to check out what’s left of their former home.  To investigate the Farm, they choose a surprising leader: Rose Red, who’s apparently decided to take a more proactive role in being Hope’s avatar.  Though she and her team have enough smarts to prepare for any trap Mr. Dark left behind, they likely won’t see it until it’s too late.

For Mr. Dark may be gone (and who knows—it may well even be permanent), but he leaves behind some baggage in the form of the now svelte Spratt, who takes on a new name and who doesn’t take the loss of her benefactor kindly.  While her newfound enthusiasm for fencing probably won’t help her much if and when her fellow citizens come to reclaim Fabletown, we all know the former nurse has enough resentment to make hell for them.

And now enter our critter Fables still wandering the land of Ev: Bufkin, Bungle, the Sawhorse, Jack Pumpkinhead, and a tiny woman I presume to be Thumbelina, but may very well be mistaken.  With this kind of group, it almost doesn’t matter what they get up to, but since their goal includes “All of the really big magical stuff” in Oz, we can bet something spectacular will come of this.  After all, they’re willing to kill in “in cold sap!  I mean blood!” for it.

Buckingham is on fire this issue, doing what he does best: drawing every kind of character, from glass cats to talking ravens to flying children to blue air spirits.  He gives each great detail and expression, while Leialoha enhances their depth and Loughridge brings bold life to their colors.

Conclusion: Another story arc begins for Fables, and if precedent is any indication, this one will be a winner.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Before I die, I hope I run into someone really named Great Prince Googley Moogley.

– “Your love and service are the LEAST that you owe.”  When did Roquat the Red meet my mother?  Because he could’ve taken the words right from her mouth.