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

The Story: If you’re an enemy of the state, prepare to be pooped by the Yoop.

The Review: Having multiple running plots can be a handy way to keep your story from stalling in one place too long, but it has its downsides too.  Split them up too much and you have the reader not only regrouping to keep track of them all, but you also risk shortchanging each plotline to the point they only inch forward with each episode.  Even worse is when they all hit that big, fat middle of exposition, which can be deadly in the best circumstances.

That is pretty much the situation Willingham brings upon himself here.  He essentially has four stories going on at once, each pretty much its own thing and not obviously related to the others.  The real problem is they all tend to hit the rises and falls of their action at the same time.  When they reach major turning points, the whole thing sings; when they reach the talky portions of the story, suddenly the whole issue becomes an endless cascade of text.

Most of the “Search for the Next North Wind” plot involves the living three Cardinal Winds engaging in some hardcore political intrigue, which, like most politics, involves more talking than you can ever imagine could come out of a human being.  Then again, this trio hardly counts as human, as they demonstrate with their chillingly judgmental and patronizing words: “Kill them.  End them.  Wipe them out unto the smallest child.  Let all of [the North Wind’s] taint upon the worlds die with him.”

Going back to Bufkin and Co., their encounter with the man-eating Yoop and his attendant Kalidahs doesn’t result in a fraught chase, but in more conversation.  It turns out ol’ Yoop isn’t as bad as he seems, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that he has to restrain his grisly appetite out of self-preservation, and he’s counting on Bufkin’s rebellion to help do that.  Again, the scenes aren’t exactly dull, but they are bland slow, for all the times “Yoop poop!” is mentioned.

You have an obligatory scene with Nurse Spratt, who’s replaced her appetite for fat with one for greater heights of combat mastery.  At this early juncture, she still comes across as a low-rate threat, growing less and less viable as an interesting villain every time you see her.  While an advanced knowledge of poisons and fencing are good skills to add to your resume, they don’t exactly strike you as very foreboding.

As for the Cubs, they once again embark on another scavenger hunt, which the zephyrs continue to use as a stalling tactic.  This time around, however, one of the Cubs discovers a little treasure chest sitting upon the snow, one looking very much like the casket of primordial winds the North Wind and Mr. Dark descended into in Fables #106.  It’s a fortuitous find, one that won’t lead to any good, as we can all predict, meaning Ozma’s prophecy may be gaining traction now.

After a while, it gets a little tough to talk about Buckingham’s style of art.  His storybook look definitely fits the title, and is almost always thoroughly competent, charming, and fundamentally solid.  But maybe the lack of real action has deprived him of material to show off with, because mostly, he winds up drawing nearly a whole issue of talking heads.

Conclusion: It seems most of the plots are at the simmering stage, building up their tension.  With so much going on, it’ll be a major blowout (if and when it happens), but for now, the series reads a little too soberly and quietly.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I like that Eurus, presumably the South Wind (if, going by stereotype, Fei Lian means to represent the East Wind), wears a fake beard on her chin, Hatshpsut style.  Really calls to mind my elementary history days.

– “I prefer orange marmalade on flaky, fresh baked crescent rolls.”  I must say, Yoop, you have awesome taste.