By: Lauren Beukes (story), Inaki Miranda (art), Eva de la Cruz (colors)

The Story: Meet the only girl who can have multiple bad hair days in a 24-hour period.

The Review: Now that I think about it, women do make up a substantial part of the Fables population, don’t they?  You can’t deny the popularity of the fairy tale ladies far outstrips that of the guys, which explains not only their prominence in this universe, but also the fact that they can have long, involved storylines that do not center on romantic entanglements—at least, in theory.  Up until this arc, Fairest has tended to focus on the heroines’ love lives.

That’s all changed with Rapunzel’s search for her children.  In addition to the rather scandalous lifestyle choices she’s made over the years, Rapunzel simply seems more raw and primal than her fellow fair ladies.  You certainly can’t see Snow, Briar, Rose, or Cindy, even at their most desperate hour, spinning a nest of their own hair, strung and webbed across the boughs of a forest.  Combined with her urgent, instinctual hunt for her children, Punzel has an animalistic quality that makes her relationship with a kitsune almost logical.

This issue emphasizes how Beukes has really made use of Rapunzel’s hair as a character of its own, from which all kinds of eerie phenomena can emanate.  It’s pretty impressive that someone can take a plot device that’s been traditionally a bizarre joke or, at best, a tool for both slapstick and magic (see Tangled), and turn it into a threatening entity, something that endangers others and Rapunzel herself.  That last page demonstrates a rather twisted bit of imagination on Beukes’ part, but one that really works.

Against all this, the brief drama between Punzel and Joel seems mostly insignificant, especially since Joel exists strictly as hair-cutting support only, with little outward personality of his own.  Clearly, he has the fuzzy end of the lollipop in this relationship, but you don’t have much reason to really sympathize with him.  To her credit, Punzel does attempt, in a clumsy way to set things straight (“Can’t we have sex and it serves a purpose?”), but it doesn’t seem necessary; he’s too smitten and the story has enough drama of its own, anyway.

There are other characters whose relationships with Rapunzel you’re way more interested in.  It’s still not entirely clear what Tomoko’s intentions are, whether her unwillingness to let her ex-lover “get to the Gate” is out of protectiveness or spite.  And you might as well give up trying to figure out Frau Totenkinder’s motives; like all witches, she always knows more than she lets on, and given her varying loyalty over the years, it’s impossible to tell whether her actions are merely arbitrary or to some other purpose.

Miranda’s art slips ever so slightly from the perfectly formed linework we’ve seen in the last two issues, but only in a few panels and never to a truly detrimental degree.  His mastery of the anime look puts all of the art seen thus far on Ame-Comi Girls to shame, and his sense of design is nothing short of brilliant.  If you look at the panel where Joel and Punzel ride a grown bakeneko through the wet streets of Tokyo, pay close attention to the backgrounds—there’s a freaking Pac-Man wall illuminated behind them.  Who comes up with that?  De La Cruz’s colors are perfectly saturated for this lively series, but can also turn richly gloomy when the script calls for it.

Conclusion: You could do without the passionless romantic tension, but overall, another impressive outing by Beukes and Miranda.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Call this my own inexperience with Fables, but I had no idea they could recover from damage like that.  It’s kind of nice; the moment Jack awakens with the line, “If we’re going to play this rough, Tomoko, I need a safe word,” I can freely wish for Tomoko to have another go at him without feeling too much guilt.