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

The Story: On the bright side, Snow has a husband willing to wait centuries to get to third base.

The Review: Although soap operas rightfully deserve all the jokes about their various and sundry clichés now, there’s a reason why they continue to have a place in our world, whether you’re talking about our American offerings, your Mexican telenovelas, or Asian dramas.  It’s all about their total fearlessness (or utter lack of taste—call it what you will) when it comes to throwing in plot twists that can upend the entire storyline up to that point.

Such was the case with the last-page revelation we got last issue.  Discovering heretofore unknown spouses is basically the bread and butter of your average soap, no?  Here, however, the nature of Snow’s “marriage” to Holt (or Brandish) is a little more questionable than we were initially led to believe, though Holt takes a rather stunted view of things: “[A] ceremony is meaningless in the high law of our land.  The promise is all that matters.”

But then, Holt has a lot of antiquated views on the way the world works.  If you didn’t much like his condescending attitude before, he’s sure to irritate you even more with this issue.  By adding an outrageously chauvinist streak on top of already pretentious manners, Willingham has designed Holt to be hated.  With that in mind, it only seems fair that Holt turns out to be much more formidable than you’d think; otherwise, he’s probably be dead already.

It’s not just Holt’s own bravado (“I’ve dispatched bigger than him in my time.  And I always have a trick or two up my sleeve.”) that makes you believe no one should take him lightly.  Remember, this was a man in Mr. Dark’s employ for a while, and I imagine the embodiment of all evil wouldn’t keep around a jerky prince if all he had to recommend himself was impressive swordmanship.  Then you have Spratt, exclaiming, “Couldn’t you see the power he had—the immense magical energies crackling around him like fire?

To which King Cole replies suspiciously, “No, I couldn’t.  Which begs the question, how can you see such things, Ms. Duglas?”  And there is where this whole Brandish-and-Snow-marriage twist throws a wrench even into the villain’s plans.  Now that Holt has revealed his true, ill-intentioned colors to both the mayor and Briar Rose, they’ll wonder how Spratt got mixed up with this guy, and they’ll wonder if Spratt was quite as helpless in Dark’s castle as she claimed.

But then, Snow isn’t exactly a helpless princess either.  If you know anything about her Fables origin story, you know she’s not quite above getting her hands bloody to protect herself, and Holt himself reaffirms there’s great power in her blood, though “power” has always been an amorphous concept in the Fables universe.*  We also know once Therese returns, Snow is there to greet her, so she clearly survives this incident.

Meanwhile, we have the Blue Fairy coming to Haven to collect on Gepetto or Beast, whichever is the case.  Now, as a Fables latecomer, I have a question: why won’t Beast turn the woodcarver over to the Blue Fairy?  From what I’ve read, she does have a rightful claim to the former emperor, and it’s not as if anyone in Fabletown have much love for him, either.  But setting that puzzler aside, I am very interested in knowing what Beast is up to when he asks the fairy if she’s “ready to talk marriage”.

I really have run out of things to say about Buckingham’s work other than it’s pleasant to look at, inoffensive in any way, but otherwise unremarkable.  I will say that there’s some inconsistency to the way he draws faces in this issue, however.  Sometimes Snow appears as youthful and fresh-faced as she must have been when she first met Holt; other times she looks a bit haggard and old, as if the years have finally caught up to her.  Loughridge does similarly unassuming work on colors, giving you what you need without asserting much boldness of his own.

Conclusion: While the issue has its interesting parts, it only barely advances the plot and confirms much of what we already know about the characters.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * I mean, it’s not as if anyone’s seen Snow casting spells or vanquishing gods or anything