When “Fables” #100 was released, I remember hearing from some friends that they were irritated by the lack of conclusion to the Mister Dark storyline, and that they were thinking of dropping the title because they were unhappy with how Willingham had concluded that particular story. (Personally, I liked it.) Reading “Fables” #106 made me wonder if any of them had read this latest issue, because if you ever want to take issue to a story’s conclusion, this is the one you should probably be targeting your ire toward.
There’s a time and a place for a deus ex machina ending in a story; when done properly, the sudden out-of-nowhere resolution can actually work quite well. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s even remotely what we ended up with here. In nine of the most boring, unenergetic pages we’ve seen in “Fables” to date, Willingham wraps up a large, major, multi-year storyline in the least exciting way possible. There at least was, in earlier issues, a vague hint towards this being the conclusion. But it’s still not a good ending, unfortunately. After Willingham’s big fake-out in “Fables” #100, this feels almost like Willingham has swerved too much in the opposite direction, wrapping up a story so quickly and suddenly that it’s hard to believe anyone will be happy with how it played out.
Part of the problem is that none of our heroes, in the end, played much of a role in its conclusion. You can make the case that one or two of them indirectly did, spurring on one of the two opposing forces into making a move. But especially in a serial form, that doesn’t make this issue any more entertaining. Willingham himself seems to be doing a bit of damage control in the second half of the issue, with Rose Red being told that it’s the little moments that make people the unsung heroes. Short of Willingham being drawn into the story himself and saying, “Hey guys, here’s how two of the other characters brought this about” it couldn’t be any more blatant. Of course, considering that even Rose Red isn’t buying this line of logic, it says a lot about what a weak defense it is.
It’s really too bad because the last few issues have been a lot of fun, with the retreat from the Farm to Haven, the trouble brewing in the ruins of Fabletown, and Ozma and Pinocchio’s ludicrous “super team.” This issue, though, brings everything crashing down into a heap, and not of the good variety. If this had been a movie, you’d have an audience booing. The one bright side is Mark Buckingham’s beautiful art, which is as great as ever (and ultimately is the one boost in this issue’s rating). But overall? What a huge disappointment. I didn’t get why so many people were feeling soured on “Fables” after reading #100, but with this latest issue, I’m starting to get an idea as to how that could happen. Strictly in terms of storytelling technique, “Fables” #106 is a failure.