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

The Story: On the bright side, Therese, at least you’re not being made queen of Haiti.

The Review: Even though “happily ever after” doesn’t apply equally to all ye olde fairy tales, that’s generally the feeling such stories evoke.  The brilliance of Willingham’s Fables is for them, there is no “happily ever after.”  One day, perhaps, when we reach the end of this series, we’ll discover all the conflict and horror these characters have suffered through are just a heightened extension of what they must necessarily go through to earn their happy ending.

Till that day, most of the Fables have to take their joys in measured doses.  For Snow White, Bigby Wolf, and the Cubs, that means cherishing their family life, something hardly any other Fable has.  We begin with Snow looking lovingly on her kids, and singing—actually singing (“…best part of the day… / …when monsters, trolls and grumpkins are locked away.”).  Snow probably hasn’t engaged in such stereotypical fairy-tale princess behavior since the innocent days of her youth, so that should indicate the gladness coursing through her in that moment.

It all falls apart, of course, once Therese’s disappearance is finally noted (frankly surprising me no one notices sooner—didn’t anyone wonder at her absence during dinnertime?).  And where is she now?  Well might you ask, for the place she’s landed upon has many names, including Magical Land, Madland, Far Mattagonia, Discardia, but the one we’ll inevitably remember most is Toyland.  Unlike the realm you imagined in childhood, this Toyland seems quite sinister.  It’s only because broken toys which talk tend to have that effect, but it’s also because they play so perceptively on Therese’s desire to be queen of her own kingdom, like homelier sister Winter.

While the Wolf family scrambles to keep itself together, back in Haven, another Fable family considers how to preserve their own happiness, which may involve staying in that fair land instead of returning to the drudgery of Fabletown.  It’s hard to tell what impact their decision will have, but one thing’s for sure: without their vigilance around, that gives Nurse Spratt even more freedom to act out whatever nefarious plan she has in her noggin.  And seeing the kind of craft and credibility she brings to lying (and I should know, having told some whoppers in my time), you’ll be more convinced that she poses some kind of threat to her fellow Fables.

Really, I don’t have much more to say about Buckingham’s art other than he does a fine job drawing the story, but nothing about it really stands out—with the possible exception of the toys that greet Therese, all of which are damaged at precisely the right places to convey a pitiable and simultaneously creepy appearance.

There’s not much to learn from the Bufkin back-up other than three pages doesn’t do much to move a story forward.  The real reason why revolutions don’t happen more often than you might expect, not even in fairy tales, is all the power plays.  With Bufkin on the verge of hanging, the Ozian rebels decide to give way principles to practicalities; rather than deal with the difficulties of rescuing their leader, it’s a whole lot easier to replace him with a new one.  If Bufkin’s to be saved, it’ll be up to his jailbird companions to do it, it looks like.

Conclusion: Plenty of points of interest, but none progress as much as you’d like, leaving you feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if you haven’t gotten quite enough material to last you a month—which you haven’t.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – One can only hope Darien’s remorse in this issue signals the beginning of his growth from a pampered, cocky brat—“meany craphead” (his own words, not mine) is actually very apropos here.