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

The Story: It’s pretty hard to do an autopsy when the cadaver keeps interrupting you.

The Review: The best thing I can say about this title is that even on its worst months, it always has something worth coming back for.  Mostly this comes from his ability to constantly juggle multiple plotlines featuring various characters at once, frequently setting one aside and then picking it up again later without breaking his flowing pace.  You suspect that he can probably continue in this fashion for another hundred issues at this rate.

This issue makes the perfect example.  You’ve got the fate of shattered Bigby in the witches’ hands, an undertaking that could take ages by their own accounting before it’s complete.  Obviously, it won’t be literally ages if Willingham intends for us to see Bigby’s revival during his lifetime, but the ongoing work of putting our wolf-man back together could be interesting to return to from time to time as the series inexorably advances.  As a fan of the magical stuff, I admit to having a particular interest in everything the witches do, no less because of the seeming altruism of their actions.  What benefit do they get from “magically track[ing] down each and every mote”?  There’s got to be some great need for it that we don’t see just yet.

Some plotlines you think are done and over with, only for them to start back up when you least expect it—or, in Prince Brandish’s case, grab you urgently by the arm and demand to be sewn back up.  This twist you definitely don’t see coming, at least not this soon, given the pain and price paid to put him down in #129.  The blaring metaphor of his missing heart aside, this means he’ll be very difficult to dispose of, and what he plans to do in the meantime—take his revenge on Snow? conceal his resurrection and plot in the background?—is intriguing, to say the least.

This leads to another plotline lurking in the underbelly of all the other Fable happenings, which is Leigh Duglas’* own plans for revenge.  Even though you don’t really expect much from her, at least, not without Brandish’s help, her well-concealed hatred for her fellow citizens is not something you can overlook.  It does add a tinge of mystery to every action she takes, like choosing to go back to work as Dr. Swineheart’s assistant.*  It’s hard at this point to tell how she can use this position to further her own ends.  Another conflict to watch out for.

Then you have Therese’s return to her family, an event we knew was coming from the ending of #121.  But although this reunion is a logical and necessary thing in context, it doesn’t seem like Willingham knows what to do with her now.  She can’t keep nursing her self-loathing forever, certainly not under a veil of cynicism, or else she may, as Ambrose says, “undermine what Dare did by belittling yourself!”  Proving that age alone does not make Therese any wiser than her now younger siblings, Ambrose offers sound advice: “If you can’t admire what he did, at least show some gratitude.  Anything else makes you a big giant jerk.”*

Maybe Therese can make use of herself by joining in her aunt Rose’s big idea, the recreation of King Arthur’s Round Table.  More than anything else in the issue, this is a good display of Willingham’s ability to pick up long stagnant details and weaving from them whole storylines.  Who knows what the success of Rose and her knights of second chances will be, given the fate of the original Round Table and Willingham’s own ominous hints (“Next: a brief shining moment.”), but it’s definitely pumping new energy into the series.

With Buckingham on art duties, there’s really nothing to complain about, except perhaps a regular lack of liveliness.  But you know something?  While it may be a bit boring at times, it’s also always solid and reliable, and that’s a great comfort for comics—to know that you’re in good hands and you’ll be artistically taken care of, no matter how the story reads.  The same thing applies to Leialoha and Loughridge, who are no less dependable than the man they ink and color.

Conclusion: We might only be in the budding stages of the next arc, but we’ve got so many different ongoing developments at the same time that there’s plenty to keep you occupied.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * We may as well get in the habit of calling her by her chosen name, though she’ll always be Nurse Spratt to me.

* I think Dr. Swineheart may be my hero a little bit.  His scientific justification for his own jerky behavior is so hilariously appalling.

* Ambrose is getting his judging on pretty early, don’t you think?  It feels like he should be on the bench in The People’s Court and we should be in the pews, applauding his sassy wisdom.