The end of an ongoing arc is perhaps not the best place to come in on a story. I check in on Fables every now and then, and find the story continuing to unfold in complexity and the art as beautiful as ever. Willingham has mastered that mix of the mundane with the whimsical that defines this fanciful world, where abstract concepts are people and ancient story ideas and newer ones interact with all the accumulated drama of human feelings and failings. It's both a jolt of escapism and a truly involving slice of life, as we recognize ourselves in the scars accumulated by all these archetypes. And we only wish we had magic spells, enchanted music boxes and mystical curses to solve all of our problems, too.
The vile Mr. Dark is clearly anticipating a big battle at the beginning of the issue, but the inexorable persona of the North Wind soon has him begging and bargaining for mercy. Buckingham/Leialoha do a great job of the monster's morphing through various wraith-like forms during the battle, which unfolds over several splash pages. The North Wind, by contrast, remains stalwart and unchanged, busy invoking an ancient clause that seals the fate of both beings. It's interesting if a bit anticlimactic that their promised confrontation results both in eternal sacrifice and a simple scene of closing a lid that shouldn't have ever been opened.
In the rest of the issue, we check in on everyone else's reaction to the virtually unwitnessed ending to the much-feared battle. And here Willingham pokes gentle fun at our propensity for rumor-mongering and gossip, especially concerning our leaders and world heroes. He also stages several subtle hints at future stories to come. This is a very talk-heavy issue, but that's pretty appropriate in a story about the reasons behind and lasting lessons of all stories.
The core of all the talk is a conversation between Rose Red and a very Cate Blanchett/Galadriel sort of being on a hilltop. The Elven glowing creature tries to make Rose see that even the smallest acts can sometimes have the most lasting results, and to warn of the dangers that still lie ahead of her. And neither her sister Snow nor brother-in-law Bigby is assured of an easy future either, as the "death" of the North Wind has left a void that must be filled. It's one more chapter in the ongoing saga, not so much earth-shattering or epic as it is intricate and endlessly fascinating.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at http://cornekopia.net.
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