By: Lauren Beukes (story), Inaki Miranda (art), Eva De La Cruz (colors)

The Story: Can a fox outfox a wolf and a witch?

The Review: Call this a critic’s existential crisis, but I often wonder if at the end of the day, my reviews have any sway at all.  I mean, I can’t even sway my two-year-old niece to stop dancing while I’m trying to put her pants back on her.  I can’t sway my friend to stop falling for girls who call him “Idiot” within a week of the relationship.  So what hope do I have of reaching out to strangers on the internet, rather yet the powers that be in the business?

But if I do have any influence in the comic book world, I’d use a lot of it to get Beukes an ongoing title from DC or Vertigo, ASAP.  I’ve noticed a lot of writers can’t hit the proper tension at different parts of their stories, either going too big too early and fizzling out, or sticking to a slow burn for too long then throwing in a whole lot of flash and bang at the last second.  Beukes hits exactly the right note for her penultimate issue; you can actually feel the action rising to a climax, with the various characters drawing closer together, setting the stage for the final blowout next month.  You can tell it’s all going exactly according to Beukes’ plan.

After all, you’d never expect that things would rise to the level of war, either between Tomoko’s group of Fables and that of Katagiri, or Tomoko’s Fables against Fabletown.  It’s become pretty apparent Tomoko’s gotten fed up with the antics of all the gaijin Fables, whether it be Jack’s slippery maneuvers, Rapunzel’s escape, or the interference of Bigby and Totenkinder.  Ordering a direct confrontation, however, one that may expose them all to the Mundies, seems like the tipping point of what has been a long darkening of Tomoko’s character.

Rapunzel observed earlier that Tomoko has turned “savage,” but until this issue, it wasn’t clear what brought about that change.  The combination of both Punzel’s abrupt departure and the means Tomoko had to resort to in order to survive in the Mundie world has led her to become one cold fish.  After all, even when Ryogan had actively persecuted her, Tomoko didn’t turn to violence.  But once she entered the yakuza life…well—we all know those guys don’t mess around.  At this point, however, her actions are no longer protective, but personal.

The one thing that really confuses the story is Mayumi’s precise role in all this.  At first, it seems like she’s the real mastermind and manipulator when she tells Tomoko that Rapunzel betrayed them all as Ryogan’s “dog.”  In the present day, however, Mayumi insists on this version of events right to Rapunzel’s face, meaning she really believes that Punzel is a traitor.  This is a real puzzler, since last issue we saw Mayumi witness Rapunzel drugging Ryogan and besides, it was Mayumi who woke Ryogan.

Miranda continues to rock the art on this arc.  I must say, you can get pretty spoiled on this sumptuous kind of work every month.  You’ll start wondering why every other artist doesn’t put so much detail into each issue.  Look at those intricate designs on the sumo wrestlers’ outfits; look at the care and authenticity put into the various Japanese Fables.  Not only that, but Miranda has a great sense of action and storytelling as well, using splash pages to terrific effect, putting the characters’ leaps and bounds right into your face.  De La Cruz knows exactly when to switch up the palette to play up the horror of each scene.  The haunting blue-grays that wash over the scenes of Rapunzel as Sadako is pretty terrifying.  “Fairest,” my butt.

Conclusion: Supernatural comics don’t get much better than this, and it looks as if Beukes and Miranda are likely to produce an even better showing next month.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Dang, this issue makes me miss having Totenkinder around.  I love an old lady who makes it clear she knows more than lets on at all times.  It’s always fun to see her whip out some trick to save the day when you least expect it.