By: Bill Willingham (story), Mark Buckingham (pencils), Steve Leialoha (inks), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: A dream come true for the lazy cook.

The Review: If I could sum up the message of Fables, given what I’ve read and what I know, it’s this: there is no “happily ever after.”  For us Mundys, our mortal lives give us the chance to end on a happy note, but for the Fables, living indefinitely means that inevitably, every happy moment will give way to tragedy.  The only thing that keeps this series from being a complete downer, then, is the flipside: even the lowest points will turn around to happiness again.

This constant cycle of joy and grief has the side-effect of giving our Fables wisdom and sense beyond the average Mundy, given enough reflection.  Therese goes through such a process here, dwelling on her misdeeds and its consequences, beating herself up for the way things ended up for her and Darien.  At the end of it, she does manage to achieve a kind of redemption, but the taint of the past lingers on, and she knows it: “Murderers don’t get forgiven just because we promise to be good from now on.”

Once she steps up to the plate, Therese proves a prudent monarch, making sure her subjects gain back not only their physical shape but their moral center as well.  But at what cost?  I’m not sure I completely support on a philosophical level the story Willingham wants to tell here.  Yes, Therese was “vain and spoiled and basically wicked.”  But then, aren’t most children that way to some degree?  It seems sad that she has to beat herself up for the unintentionally cruel acts of self-preservation she made just to survive as a kid.  It seems sadder that even when Toyland has regained its beauty and joy, she only recognizes it distantly.

And so my prediction in #119 comes to pass: the epilogue shows that Therese may never experience true happiness again, even with the tenderest love and care.  I doubt Dare will ever return.  Willingham doesn’t seem like a writer who practices that kind of indulgence, and anyway, bringing back the boy will only minimize the symbolic and practical importance of his death.  The losses the Wolf family have suffered are permanent.

If we’ve gained anything, it’s confirmation that all “all the sons and daughters of Snow White and her wolf were powerful,” as foretold by Lord Mountbatten, speaking from the future in a place beyond death, apparently.  He continues, “Had they been raised different, they could have become the gods and monsters of a long and dark age.”  So greatness lies in all their destinies, and for good, too.  It’s surprising, however, how quickly destiny is playing out; three of the Cubs have already met their prophetic fates.  What waits Blossom, Ambrose, Connor, and Ghost in the near future?  And why the hurry?

Deprived of anything particularly outstanding to draw, Buckingham returns to his usually dependable, but unremarkable work.  There are always details worth looking at: Dare’s wooden sword and shield as Therese’s royal crest or the gaunt, world-weary expression in her eyes, but nothing really stands out.  This is storybook art, at the service of the script without imposing much taste of its own.

I’ll reserve a couple lines to Bufkin’s adventures in Oz.  The revolution proceeds steadily, though its leader seems distressed over the violence.  You’ll be happy to see Shawn McManus draw flying monkeys anytime.

Conclusion: Again, a rather pointless back-up adds a bit of dead weight to another strong feature, but not so much that you can’t simply pretend it doesn’t exist.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Incidentally, this indicates the Cardinal Winds never managed to find Therese or Dare in time.  Fail.

– Does this mean Lord Mountbatten is cursed to death in Toyland and permanent stasis, but awareness, in the Mundy?  Poor, poor tiger.