By: Bill Willingham (story), Steve Leialoha (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)

The Story: Oh, Danny Boy, the groupies are calling…

The Review: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve reviewed Fables for nearly three years, which is a ghastly sort of time commitment to a venture which yields almost no profit whatsoever. But the enduring power of this series is truly a testament to its consistency. Though I have yet to read a truly extraordinary issue of Fables, nearly every issue has been well-crafted—at least, they’ve always given me something to talk about.

It’s impossible for any title to not have its duds, though, and this arc seems from the start to be one of those. Willingham started on the right note by featuring the Fabletown band, a collection of the most musically gifted Fables: Baby Joe Shepherd (drums), Peter Piper (flute), Briar Rose (guitar/vocals), Seamus McGuire (harp), and Puss in Boots (fiddle).* Had Willingham taken the band on some wild, silly adventure that involved travel by van/bus to a gig of expectedly unexpected danger, this could very well have turned into a very fun break from the main Fables narrative.

Why Willingham decided to instead to have Danny Boy (Seamus’ pal from the old country) recruit the band as a ragtag liberation army, I’ll never know. Their weak jokes aside, there is nothing fun or amusing about their sojourn to Hybernia. There isn’t even anything particularly noteworthy about the enemies they face, whether it’s the witchy Baobhan Sith or her strangely better-described lieutenant, Brochan Weir. In short, Danny Boy gives you no reason to care about the fate of Hybernia, and his passive-aggressive accusations of Seamus’ disloyalty to their homeland doesn’t help, either.

Many of the issue’s problems might have been avoided had Willingham simply used the space better, but he’s unusually unproductive here. Basically, Danny Boy comes from nowhere, enlists the band in his cause, they take an easy and uneventful road trip to Scotland, from which they transport to Hybernia and are immediately beset by the Cu Sith, the Baobhan’s hounds. It’s a battle filled with more banter (“Aw, t’hell with all the proverbs! Just keep fighting!”) than fighting prowess, against obviously expendable opponents.

And for what? All to get the ingratitude of a giant they just saved from being gnawed limb from limb. I’d wager good money that despite the giant’s decision to keep to his own, he’ll come back later in some conscience-stricken turnaround, just when the band needs him most. This would have been a pretty pointless scene, otherwise, especially when you factor in Puss’ disappearance as a consequence of their impromptu skirmish.

Despite the pervading blandness of the issue, Willingham indicates that it’s meant to be one of some importance, suggesting that Danny Boy’s arrival is the beginning of Fabletown’s doom. “This is the way the world ends,” Willingham narrates ominously, clarifying that “[w]hen [Fabletown] finally died, it died from an idea.” I understand he wants to add some dramatic foreshadowing to the story, but thisonly gives you less reason to enjoy this arc, not more.

And Leialoha’s art gives you even less. I’m an artistic dummy, so I couldn’t possibly guess as to the relationship between a person’s skill as an inker and his skill as an artist in his own right. But I would’ve thought that Leialoha, a reliable inker to Mark Buckingham’s reliable pencils, would have turned out to be a fairly decent penciller himself. Not so, unfortunately. His own art is a weak, rough little thing that looks closer to colored sketches in many places than finished art. Male characters are virtually indistinguishable from each other, and expressions are mostly neutral to emotionless. Why, for example, does Briar Rose look so pleasant as she discusses Puss’ possible demise?

Conclusion: An issue with so little to recommend that already you’re not looking forward to seeing the rest of the arc.

Grade: C-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Obviously, Boy Blue was the member who died young in a blaze of glory. Damn shame. He was just a kid.