By: Bill Willingham (story), Phil Jiminez (pencils), Andy Lanning & Mark Farmer (inks), Andrew Dalhouse (colors)

The Story: You’re never too old—or tyrannical—for a good story.

The Review: Three months into this series’ run, it’s still not clear what role it’s meant to serve in the grand scheme of the Fables universe.  Though ostensibly a showcase for the most attractive individuals fairy tales have to offer, this doesn’t seem quite enough to support an entire ongoing.  As a supplement to Fables proper, it hasn’t quite established how closely it intends to tie in with the events of its sister title.  In short, you really don’t know what to make of this book.

The first couple issues definitely gave you no help in figuring any of this out.  The plot has largely meandered, switching suddenly from Ali Baba’s hustling adventures to a random retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  We haven’t really gotten to know any of our protagonists to like them very much—assuming they’re likable in the first place (I’m looking at you, Panghammer).  And although the return of the Snow Queen, one of the major Fables villains, suggests bigger stakes than what we’ve seen, we’ve gotten little sense of danger or tension.

For one thing, despite an air of chilliness, Lumi hasn’t behaved all that menacingly toward Ali, Rose, or Panghammer.  Quite the contrary; she’s treated more like honored guests, seating them beside her at her table, and treating them to a lavish spread of food.  Sure, the dishes include such entrees as “goblin in wild tarragon sauce,” but the point is this is hardly how you expect a winter despot to act toward her enemies, particularly one who left her comatose for some years.

Our imp calls out the Snow Queen on this very point, which she noticeably sidesteps.  Yes, she candidly admits that she enjoys good stories—“addicted” to them, as she says—but that only explains her willingness to let Panghammer live, not his two human companions.  And yet he has the confidence to contradict her when she says she’ll get to snuffing them later.  She mentions that during her association with Gepetto, she was too busy to enjoy a story of any kind, a huge contrast to a period when she once boasted the “best players, minstrels, and storytellers in a thousand kingdoms. Ten thousand kingdoms.”  It could be she wearies of wartime, and wishes to return to her peaceful existence of fictional pleasure.

Panghammer promises that the answers to these queries lie within the last part of Sleeping Beauty’s tale, which shows it’s no coincidence he started telling the story in the first place.  It will be intriguing to see how this legend ties together with the icy situation we have on our hands now.  Our imp has already gotten through most of the dramatic parts of Rose’s origins; all that’s left is the part where the last fairy godmother, Leysa the Defender, strives to mitigate the curse Hadeon the Destroyer left upon baby Rose.  It’ll take some artful plotting to connect this piece of myth to the Snow Queen, but I’m sure Willingham has the chops for that.

Jiminez’s art is still breathtakingly beautiful in every way possible, but it’s not merely easy on the eyes.  His attention to detail is beyond praiseworthy (you have to admire anyone who goes through the trouble of giving even extras distinctive features), and he can craft some convincing moments of suspense.  I’m mostly just impressed by his ability to clearly depict Rose’s resemblance to her parents, and not just because of their shared hair color.  Speaking of which Dalhouse’s Technicolors make every character and scene pop out, dazzling you with his use of light effects.

Conclusion: A much stronger effort than the last two issues, particularly since you can feel the story’s finally going somewhere worth your time.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I can only hope that at the end of this, however it happens, we never have to see Panghammer again.  Good Lord, that pudgy imp and his anachronistic turns of phrase are annoying.

– “…You can’t possibly know how dirty you make me feel! / Keep me down in the filth, as long as you keep it real!”  Somehow, I imagine Yeva the Lively didn’t have these lyrics in mind when she blessed Rose with the ability to “craft delightful songs.”

– As for Adam Hughes’ cover–yowza.  No one draws a pin-up like that guy, because he makes them brassy but keeps them classy.  I’m coining that phrase, by the way.