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

The Story: No need for minutes—this is a witches’ meeting!

The Review: As a lover of most things magical, some of my favorite Fables by default are the Thirteenth Floor witches. In most respects, they live up to the typical spellcaster mold: distant and a little bit distracted, always with an air like they’re seeing something you’re not, which they probably are. But they also have an unquestioned loyalty to Fabletown that’s somewhat surprising for such powerful characters. Mages are not well known for their charity.

It made sense for the witches to ally with Fabletown when they had Gepetto as a common enemy, but that’s all over now. Not only has the war been fought and won, the need for Fabletown itself is fading, as even the witches recognize. Yet they continue to stick to their customary meetings, discussing various Fabletown concerns, and even going so far as to consider prospective replacements for their dead/missing/departed peers. With one exception, none of these topics of conversation hold as much weight as their passing remarks.

There’s clearly a difference in opinion among the witches as to their future. While some express interested by the changes they feel happening around them, others are more ambivalent. When Maddy expresses dismay at the lack of celebration on Remembrance Day, Mr. Grandours sensibly points out, “Even the most beloved traditions are often destroyed by uncomfortable change.”

“By progress,” Morgan clarifies.

“Right,” Prospero says, a touch sullenly, “Progress. Let’s agree to call it that.”

Snideness aside, Prospero may be getting at something here. Discarding Remembrance Day is one thing; it’s a bit eccentric to spend a day remembering things that are currently out there, waiting to be re-experienced for real. But that also means breaking up the unity of Fabletown for everyone to return to their isolated Homelands. Is that really a good idea?

Anyway, these kinds of questions are mostly academic since Willingham has already made it clear the end of Fabletown is inevitable. Your time is better spent, as Ozma impatiently urges, on more pressing business, like the return of Bigby. Far from being a joyous triumph, his reappearance bodes ill when your first sight is of him feasting on humans even while in human form himself. That’s a level of savagery that goes beyond even his Big Bad Wolf days.

As if the Fables don’t already have enough problems brewing. Rose is still gathering massive amounts of power from fell sources in ominously inexplicable ways. In spite of this, Maddy predicts that Snow will ultimately win the day, conveniently forgetting war hasn’t broken out between the sisters—yet. Cindy’s encounter with the transformed Grimble also serves as a reminder that Brandish remains a threat, as does Hadeon, the evil fairy now serving as Briar’s ride. And this is all before we even get to Gepetto and Leigh’s respective schemes. If Fables has to end, at least it has plenty to end on.

While he’s doing some of his most dynamic work on Dead Boy Detectives, Buckingham remains a dependable player here. When I describe his art as vanilla, I mean it in the most complimentary way: smooth, pleasant, simple, and impossible to criticize aside from its lack of ambition. I will say, however, that the ladies look particularly comely in this issue, which I notice only because Buckingham’s art is generally not known for its sex appeal.

Conclusion: There’s quite a bit of progress on many plotlines, though it’s all happening under the surface.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – At least things seem to work out for some Fables, as we see Flycatcher and Riding Hood in a flash-forward, happily embraced in a prosperous Haven and chatting amiably with their son, one of four children. If anyone deserves it, it’s Fly.

– The witches remark on the missing access door to the business office, in which all their magical things are kept. Why do I have a feeling that Leigh may be behind that?