Itís been five issues now since I started picking up Fables in the monthly format. I basically went on a binge and read every Fables trade leading up and through the end of the Adversary/Fabletown war and now have to wait for my fix once a month just like everyone else. Therefore, it gives me a weird perspective on the series because Iím use to reading huge chunks of story at a time instead of being handed small sample packets.
Well, no matter if youíve been reading Fables in trade format or monthlies, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckinghamís work on the series is--wait for it--LEG-EN-DARY. Willingham continues to write some of the most well rounded characters in comics and never misses a step in giving everyone their moment to shine. It also helps that Iíve been following these characters for 80 chapters now and have grown quite fond of them all. For example, in this particular story arc, "Dark Ages," Boy Blue is being put through the ringer and Iíll be quite pissed if he doesnít come out on the other side of his troubles by the end of it. And it isnít because itís poorly written, or out of character, but Willingham made me love the guy over the course of this series and to even think about him dying is hurtful.
And as for Mark Buckingham, the seriesí regular penciller since issue #6, heís really grown into his work on Fables. While heís always managed to give a distinctive style to the characters of Fables, lately, with the combination of Andrew Pepoyís inks and Lee Loughridgeís colors, Buckinghamís art has started to really pop off the page. Everything looks a lot more dynamic and itís cool being able to trace Buckinghamís evolution as an artist on this series. It also helps that he has a hint of Jack Kirby in his pencils, which is always a plus.
As for the story in Fables #80, there are two gripes I have with it. One, itís not long enough. Since ďThe Dark AgesĒ began in issue #77 thereís been a back-up story featuring Mowgli and Bigbyís wolf brothers going on a covert ops mission into the homelands which is interesting, but not enough to warrant the main story having to cut down its page count every issue. Itís just upsetting to get about three quarters through the comic to find out you just read the cliffhanger of the issue and the following page is the start of this sub-par side story. Which brings me to my next qualm with Fables #80--the cliffhanger isnít very griping. Yes I love Boy Blue, but the final splash page isnít anything to cause me to bite my nails and smoke three packs a day till the next installment hits shelves. In fact, Fables' cliffhangers, issue to issue, have been lackluster from the start for me. Of course, reading the series in trades has made that a mute point because I can just continue reading, but when approaching single monthly issues, I come to expect a cliffhanger worthy of the name.
But for the two problems I had with the latest issue, I still found a lot to like and warrant a pick up of next monthís issue #81 which is a full issue, no back-up conclusion to ďThe Dark Ages." It should be pretty intense and throw the inhabitants of Fabletown into a whole new status quo.
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