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

The Story: Get ready to see who’ll be the new North Wind—he (or she) will blow you away!

The Review: Reading this series occasionally reminds me of something I often wondered when reading Harry Potter: for all the drama going on in the magical world, all the normals just went on their merry way, eating McDonalds and drinking Starbucks without ever becoming aware of the disaster on the verge of crossing over into their lives.  The same goes with the Fables; for all their perils, we really have no idea what tangible effect it’ll have upon the non-fictional world.

Take this choosing of a new North Wind.  The late Mr. North’s servant can talk all he wants about how “Entire worlds can live or die” depending on the choice of successor, but we don’t really know what he means by that.  “Worlds” as in other planets or fictional realms?  Why would the North Wind have such a critical effect on other worlds?  Without that information, it just seems he’s trying to play up the drama since the action is rather clearly lacking here.

At least we have assurance of real drama to come. Spoiler alert—Winter, by reaching the Homeland of the North, reveals herself as its new “king.”  In some ways, we could have foreseen this; she bears the name of Boreas’ former wife, after all.  But as the most childlike and innocent of the Cubs, she seems totally unfit for the role.  Besides that, there’s the anxious question of how this will affect the family dynamic (aside from Darren’s obvious outrage losing kingship).

Winter’s age and personality also make her peril in her new status all the greater, as the other three cardinal winds don’t look all too enthused about the development either.  Though the East Wind seems conciliatory enough at the event, telling his fellow winds to “Mind the occasion,” don’t forget his earlier remark about the Cubs possibly killing themselves off during the testing: “[T]hat’s fewer we’ll have to winnow out when we’re compelled to step in.”  The West Wind seems determined to step in regardless, saying, “In the end we’ll still have to finish things.”

At least Winter still has her family to support her, as well as two valuable allies: Bellflower (formerly Frau Tautenkinder, though Snow and Bigby don’t recognize her in her current foxy state) and Dunster Happ, whom Winter rescued from the inescapable Homeland of the North.  “Belle” promises the Cub they “owe you a great debt”—and we all know how serious the former crone can get over debts.  The fact she and Dunster survived that long in the Homeland indicates they have enough power to prove very useful should a spat with the other cardinal winds arise.

Meanwhile, Bufkin’s revolution in Oz is going as slowly as ever.  Actually, it’d be more accurate to say it’s at something of a crossroads, since the main monkey himself is set to be hanged.  At least his capture allows us to see how dire things truly are in the empire; the Emerald City has been reduced halfway to rubble, but whether that’s enough to motivate the citizens to rise up to Bufkin’s cut-off challenge on the gallows, we’ll have to wait and see.

Buckingham’s simple artwork does a fine job, but he does little more than communicate the story in the most straightforward way possible, with no flourishes and little inventiveness.  At times, the cartoony nature of his figures plays down the dramatic elements of the story, but mostly, he does a completely competent, respectable job.  Little more to say there.

Conclusion: Willingham has plenty going on, but not much really taking off.  The slow burn is turning this series into merely interesting, when it’s capable of so much more.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – You can tell when a society hits rock bottom by its propaganda, which in Oz has reached hysterically deluded levels: ““…all rations will be decreased by one-third!  Further proof that we are living in an age of abundance and plenty!  How otherwise could there be so much waste to trim from our daily bread?”

– “Unquestioning SERVICE is the least you owe him!”  Consider that my slogan should I ever fulfill my dreams of becoming lord and master of the universe.