“It’s not a happy ending,” I told a friend who was visiting this weekend. She only read “Fables” in collected editions, and was excited when I mentioned that I still had to write a review of “Fables” #129 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy. Her face fell, and I had to quickly add, “But it’s a good read.” That’s one of the strengths of “Fables” when everything’s firing, after all; even when awful things happen to characters we love, it can still be fun to read.
Even after last month’s issue of “Fables” where Bigby Wolf was transformed into a glass statue (and presumably killed), it was a safe assumption that worse things could still happen. After all, Snow White still had a curse on her so that any wound dealt to Prince Brandish would echo over to her. When you’re wishing death on a character, that’s a bit of a wrinkle. And true to form, that wrinkle has to play out in this issue as they try to find a way to stop him once and for all.
What I appreciated about “Fables” #129 and its conclusion is that I didn’t feel like it cheated. There’s no miraculous 11th hour device to be used, no shock and awe about the curse not really being in effect. Willingham plays entirely within the realm of both “Fables” and fairy tales in general; the solution uses just those rules, and even then it’s not the most elegant or even desirable one. And that’s what makes this comic work; a really tough foe shouldn’t be easy to defeat, and Willingham fulfills his earlier promises that Brandish was a dangerous character to go up against. With no easy fake-out up anyone’s sleeve, it feels satisfying.
Buckingham’s pencils are as dependable as they always are. Honestly, I don’t think he even knows how to half-ass an art assignment. We get good anatomy, nice page layouts, handsome page borders, and expressive faces. That’s something readers always expect and get when Buckingham draws an issue of “Fables.” I also like that he’ll take a two-page spread and not use it for a huge splash image, but rather a lot of vertical panels that let him cut back and forth between characters while still showing their entire bodies rather than resorting to head shots. When one spell in particular is cast, that grin on the witch’s face says more than even the dialogue can.
“Fables” #129 is a rather bleak conclusion to “Snow White,” but it felt right. Bad times have been coming to Snow White and her family (especially after the Toyland story) and it feels like it’s not over by a long shot. For now, though, it’s immensely entertaining to read. Bring it on.