By: Sean E. Williams (story), Stephen Sadowski (pencils), Phil Jimenez & Dan Green (inks), Andrew Dalhouse (colors)

The Story: Prince Charming realizes this is no Bollywood romance he’s stumbled into.

The Review: Not that every story has to be layered with double meanings and secret symbols, but for a reviewer, the more straightforward a story, the less he naturally has to talk about.  After all, why would you need a critic when a synopsis of the plot would suffice just as much?  Fables, for example, wouldn’t have such lasting power if they weren’t crafted in such a way as to deliver a bigger message beneath the simplicity of their actual substance.

This is all to say that I find it very interesting that Williams’ reinterpretation of Nalayani’s character and journey is in many ways less complex and meaningful than the original.  Admittedly, sequels and spin-offs do tend to end up like this, but Fables isn’t usually your typical sequel or spin-off.  It’s possible that Williams will at a later point reveal how deeply layered his story really is—he’d have to if he wants to make any impact with this arc at all—but for now, his individual issues aren’t particularly engaging.

Perhaps he thinks adding Prince Charming to the proceedings will instantly spice up the action.  I suspect it’s this same mentality that’s encouraged the writers of How I Met Your Mother so reluctant to allow Barney Stinson to evolve as a character and instead make him broader and more outrageous with every season.  Personally, I’ve never found sexual promiscuity in itself all that entertaining, but your mileage may vary.  Anyway, I can’t exactly fault Charming for acting according to his fictional nature.

Still, I sincerely hope that his fateful encounter with Nalayani will lead to a more interesting relationship than one of a committed ladies’ man licking his lips in anticipation of a “challenge.”  For the time being, she seems like she’ll be one of his more difficult conquests, avoiding his every attempt to “get to know each other.”  It might be too much to expect a sudden sea change in his personality, but maybe her good sense and competence will convince him to think twice before doing her then dumping her.

Outside of Nalayani and Charming’s cat-and-mouse game, there’s really not much more in the issue to talk about.  The Dhole aren’t exactly Machiavellian villains, although the fact that they act at the direction of a turbaned man’s trident suggests a Machiavellian plot somewhere.  Williams possibly senses that he needs to add a little more zip to his fairly uncomplicated story, although it’s not certain that adding any number of animal villains will do the trick.*

I can’t say that I’m the most distinguishing art critic in the world, but every now and then even I can point out some details worth remarking.  I must admit, even though I’ve always dimly understood that inking is a very important step in the comic book production, I never appreciated just what a difference it can make to the art until this issue.  Jimenez’s deep, shaded approach practically subsumes Sadowski’s pencils to his own distinctively voluptuous style.  In contrast, Green’s lighter hand makes figures appear significantly flatter, resulting in less exciting visuals, even though Dalhouse douses everything with his smooth, almost painted colors.

Conclusion: Too formulaic and predictable to really stand out, but competently written and drawn, regardless.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Shere Khan is kind of a funny one to be including in this region of Fables, though.  Technically, as a character from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, he’s a European creation, not an Indian one.  Right?  But then again, so was Tabaqui the jackal from last issue.

– “Feringhi”, by the way, is an Indian old-timey way of referring to a European in a hostile manner.  Think of the connotations usually associated with gringo or gaijin.