Normally I don't mind when "Fables" veers off on one of its tangents. Bill Willingham has shown in the past to have a good instinct of when the right time for a side-trip is, focusing on forgotten or sometimes brand-new characters for a time. With the new issue of "Fables," though, this actually seems like precisely the wrong time. The previous storyline finally got the battle against Mister Dark moving forward, brought back a Fable that could flip the story upside down, and had a spectacular battle of a winged monkey versus Baba Yaga. This issue? It opens with a baseball game and a retelling of "Casey at the Bat."
Willingham may still well turn things around next issue, but this was the first issue in a while where I actually felt disappointed. Normally I'd have welcomed a stop-over in the Fable kingdom of Haven, and seeing how King Ambrose was doing. It's the latter that is the high point of the issue, in fact; Flycatcher and Red Riding Hood's interactions felt like something was happening, that there was a reason for temporarily leaving Earth for one of the Fable Homelands. Too much of the story, though, focuses on the game and one of the goblin athletes. I'm not sure why, but the spark just wasn't there for me.
On the bright side, new art by David Lapham is always welcomed, and his stopping by for a two issue stint was a nice surprise. I appreciate that he can make characters attractive without turning them into glamour models; when Red and Ambrose are talking in the hallway, she's the girl next door but at the same time you can see beauty in her brown eyes and hair, and that look of attraction that she's casting outwards. I also appreciated that as Lapham zooms in on Red, that the tighter image of her face looks almost identical to the previous one, but clearly was not Lapham just making a copy of the first and telling Photoshop to crop off the edges. It's just careful craft on his part, and the end result makes the scene that much stronger.
Maybe next month's conclusion of this two-parter will show me wrong and that Willingham has a big-picture surprise lurking in the wings. For now, though, I'm glad that we're getting some more art by Lapham, and will just hope for a lot more Red and Ambrose and perhaps less of the baseball teams.