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

The Story: Lord help the pedestrian in the way when Bigby learns to drive stick-shift.

The Review: Being a latecomer to the Fables mythos, I probably don’t have as profound an appreciation for its characters and continuity as I should.  It’s hard to get the real flavor of anything from Wiki summaries alone.  Bu that doesn’t make me any less interested in an arc focused on Snow White.  Given Bigby’s more active personality, Snow can get a little sidelined, so it’s good to shift the focus on the only real contender for Fables’ female lead.

At first, you might be misled into thinking that Bigby’s search for their children will take center stage in this arc.  That kind of quest does seem like the more exciting kind of stuff, after all, and once you add Stinky the Badger for a road trip buddy and the promise of Bigby learning to drive a car (a “terrible day,” Ambrose recalls in his future writings), well—that’s about all you can ask for, right?  Besides, we know from #121 that Bigby’s quest will prove fruitless, so actually finding his kids won’t be the outcome of his story.

Lest you think his tale has no weight at all, however, keep in mind how Ambrose begins this tale: “The fall of my father, Bigby Wolf, started, appropriately enough, in the fall.”  It’s an interesting statement because in #123, we know the adult Ambrose responds amiably to the suggestion that he speak to his father.  So which should we take literally— the “fall” of Bigby or the supposed conversation between him and his son?

At any rate, this issue turns to Bigby and his reckless driving as a comedic break to the melancholy and intrigue going on back at Fabletown.  Having returned to the world of the waking (presumably quite refreshed for some decades to come) in the pages of Fairest, Briar Rose arrives just in time to see that her old home has changed rather drastically during her long sleep.  Surprisingly, I found myself kind of heartened to see her back and ready to be of service to the grieving Snow.  I don’t know why, but her presence feels reassuring; against all the trouble going on, her good heart and fairy blessings will prove invaluable, I suspect.

That said, it’s doubtful that she alone can counter the clearly malevolent plans Nurse Spratt and Mr. Holt.  I never thought Spratt facing her fellow citizens head-on would ever work, but trying to disrupt them from within seems more viable.  If anything, she’ll distract and weaken them enough for an even bigger enemy to finish the job.  Already you see little things falling apart: the ominous fate of Squire Grimble and the disturbed reaction of King Cole to Spratt’s attentions.  And then comes the last-page reveal of Holt’s old relationship to Snow White, something which surprises even Spratt (“The hell you say!” she exclaims, reverting to her former vulgarity), possibly throwing an unexpected wrench into her plans.

After guest art by Gene Ha and Shawn McManus, Buckingham’s pleasantly stolid art looks rather tame and pedestrian by comparison, but again, you won’t find much to point out as actually flawed.  The problem, too, is this issue involves mostly talking heads, and we know that Buckingham truly flourishes when given more lavish settings or dramatic scenes, which you can sort of get a sense of as Bigby and Stinky use Briar’s car to traverse the endless worlds.  Loughridge provides similarly respectable, but unremarkable colors.

Conclusion: A very low-key prelude issue that only starts to pick up towards the end. 

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Wikipedia can only do so much to get you up to speed on an ongoing series’ history, and I haven’t caught up on all the back issues yet.  What’s the deal with Beast, Gepetto, and the Blue Fairy again?

– It’s nice to know that ages of living with guaranteed wealth has made Briar generous instead of spoiled.  Maybe that’ll be the key to restoring Fabletown’s public fisc again.