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

The Story: Heavy is the crown the king must wear on his noggin—or whatever.

The Review: The last couple arcs spent a lot of time building up the tension for when Mr. Dark would rain down his nightmarish power over all the Fables and destroy them all, or at least most of them.  Since all that anxious anticipation pretty much came to nothing, both for them and for us, it now just seems like the title has been spinning its wheels for a while.  While all their current antics offer the usual good times, you also wonder where the next baddie will come from.

As much as Willingham wants to direct our attention to Nurse Spratt—I mean, Leigh Duglas—the idea of her as the Fables’ newest nemesis seems a major step down from the embodiment of bogey-men everywhere.  It’s obvious she’s determined to improve herself in the art of dastardly dealings (familiarizing herself with poisons and the like), and she briefly mentions that “others” will soon join her in an ostensibly spooky way, but it all seems very mundane and unthreatening.

Also somewhat disappointingly, Rose Red and her scouting team find nothing out of sorts on the Farm.  You’d think they’d run into at least one obligatory mystical trap worthy of a panther, crow, tomcat, and redhead armed with a dagger, but no.  In short, things seem to be going swell for all our Fables at home—meaning some horrible disaster must lurk right around the corner, just out of sight, but that doesn’t really do anything for our suspense in the herenow.

Most of the action comes courtesy of Bufkin et al, still getting up to no good in land formerly known as Oz.  We know they plan to start a revolution and to do it they need to sneak out some of the goodies from a bunker full of the most powerful magical weaponry in the Homelands, but everything in between remains a mystery.  The odds certainly are stacked against them, as before they even take their first step, they run into “the Yoop! And ravening monkey-eating kalidahs!

Meanwhile, the bulk of the issue lands squarely on Bigby and Snow’s cubs and their semi-friendly competition to see who’ll be king.  Each cub pairs off with one of the North Wind’s servants, leading to some very cute scenes.  Poor Ambrose gets quite possibly the best line of the issue, delivering in what I imagine to be a Mary Katherine Gallegher cadence, “…sometimes I get overexcited and pee a little bit when I fly.”

Yet in the back of your mind you can’t help thinking of Ambrose’s prophecy vis-à-vis Ozma revealing the fates of the cubs.  Like any proper prophecy, the general gist of it is completely obscure and therefore utterly useless to anyone, although it does grimly promise that at least one of the cubs will die to stop another cub (one of the girls—it says “her,” after all) from doing an evil thing.  And before anyone can really react to the news, who should appear but the other cardinal winds, each looking quite as overdressed and imposing as the late North.

Buckingham does fine work as always, but with little in the way of actual activity or gripping drama, the most impressive offering he gives is in the great designs of the three cardinal winds.

Conclusion: Pleasant, but a bit too quiet, for all the characters and ground the issue covers.  Some liveliness is seriously needed to pick up the pace.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Yeah, I know Dare is quarter-wolf, but it’s still totally disturbing that he would go off and kill a warthog and bring its bloody carcass back as a token of his kingship.

– And honestly, by now, haven’t we all learned prophecies do nothing except get everyone spooked out and paranoid, and most of the time, they wind up being completely wrong anyway?