Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Publisher: DC Comics
One of the best things about Fables is the sheer variety it presents; you never really know what you're getting, or what to expect. Case in point, this two-parter is a kind of sequel to The Jungle Book. The previous arc was a romance. Before that it presented a culture clash featuring characters from the Arabian Nights. Prior to that we saw a solitary hero questing in a land of goblins and dragons. At one time or another Bill Willingham has given us tales from World War II, spy missions, Hollywood intrigues, political dramas... like Sandman before it, there's very little Fables can't get away with in terms of the types of stories its writer chooses to tell.
So what do we have here? Jungle Book protagonist Mowgli has been ordered to retrieve long-lost cast member Bigby Wolf (who was written out of the series over a year ago). To complete this mission, Mowgli must reconnect with his animal side - but he finds the wolves to be less hospitable than they once were.
It's all very low-key; the hunter (a man who wants to be a wolf) is contrasted to his prey (the wolf who wants to be a man), and we're invested in the search because we want to know what's been happening while our attention was turned elsewhere. Willingham is fond of the "made you look" trick, focusing the reader's gaze on minor diversions while the main plots move on, whether we're looking or not. It works because the "filler" stories are just as engaging, and often foreshadow upcoming developments.
While the outcome of Mowgli's hunt might not come as a major shock to many readers, it's still a welcome conclusion to the arc, one that will undoubtedly have a big impact on many characters in the series. The issue ends on an uncharacteristically optimistic note, suggesting that good times are coming; whether that's true of our poor, battered heroes or not, I think it's certainly true of Fables and its future.
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