Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
"So, do you think Happily Ever After is possible after all?"
This is the last line of dialogue from what I consider to be the best anniversary issue Vertigo has put out in quite some time. Fables #50 celebrates the series with an energetic, upbeat story that's simply a delight to read, whether you've just tuned in or were here from the start.
Ever since the Wooden Soldiers launched their invasion (way back in issues #19-27), Prince Charming has been working on a secret plan to strike back at the Adversary. Bigby's return finally sets that plan in motion, and it leads to a rather impressive climax. Later, a long-overdue wedding brings joy to Fabletown, fulfilling last issue's promise of good times approaching.
Willingham is at the top of his game here. Previous storylines are tied together as phases in the larger plan, characters get some well-deserved development (particularly Charming and Bigby, though there's a foreboding moment concerning Pinocchio's defection as well), Bigby's mission is fast-paced but leaves room for an unusual but interesting real-world analogy, and the reunion/wedding scenes are heartwarming without falling into the realm of kitsch. The story is also very well-paced, with nearly fifty pages of content negating the need for compression or awkward delivery. Willingham even squeezes in some teasers for future storylines - does Red really recognize Bigby? How will Fabletown greet Snow's seventh child, the killer zephyr? What happened to Mr. North?
While the cast of Fables is largely based on fairy tale characters, they've become individualized enough under Willingham that there's a real sense of satisfaction in watching things go their way at last. Sure, it ultimately amounts to a "feel-good" issue... but hey, they've earned it.
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