One of the things I like about "Fables" is that, more often than not, its side-step stories are just as satisfying as the "main" storyline. So when I heard that "Fables" #101 was going to check in on what happened to Bufkin the (formerly) Flying Monkey, Frankenstein's Monster's Head, and the Magic Mirror? I was rather psyched. And when I heard that it was penciled by the great Eric Shanower? Well, I was even more excited.
Here's the great thing, though: even with such high hopes, the issue wasn't a letdown.
Still trapped in the inter-dimensional Fabletown business office (after the destruction of Fabletown severed its link with the rest of Earth), Bufkin and company are still in remarkably high spirits. Sure, they're trapped, but considering they managed to defeat Baba Yaga and an all-powerful djinn, they're doing rather well for themselves. So with all that in mind, Bufkin has a new goal: figure out how to escape the office. Oh, and also, become king.
What we end up with is a great mixture of humor and adventure as a character that most people would have written off continues to prove himself to be remarkably capable. Bufkin's a fun protagonist, and his interactions with characters like Frankenstein's Monster's Head and the Magic Mirror can't help but crack you up. And at the same time, I like that Willingham's able to pack both some "Fables" lore (how the Magic Mirror's powers actually work) and some surprises (where the second half of this issue takes place) for the reader.
And as for that surprise? Well, let's put it this way: I know that this is just a side-step and that we won't see Bufkin again for a while, but it's such a great cliffhanger that I'm dying to see the future adventures of Bufkin just to see how the heck he accomplishes the impossible.
Shanower's pencils for "Fables" look gorgeous. He's the perfect choice for this issue in many ways (there's a moment where I almost literally hit my forehead and shouted, "D'oh!" because it's a twist that with 20/20 hindsight I should have seen coming, in regards to the art), the least of which is that he's an amazing artist. From the rich fur on Bufkin's hide, to the different designs on the lunch boxes, nothing is given short shrift here. And while a lot of this issue involves standing around and talking, when an action sequence does show up Shanower reminds us that he's got just as much skill in drawing an action scene, too. From the collision and bouncing of the Rumble Tumble Toms, to Bungle pushing one of the balls, he's nailing every moment. As much as I want to hear that Shanower's working on another issue of his fantastic "Age of Bronze" series, getting some more "Fables" issues from him down the line sure would be nice.
"Fables" #101 is a thoroughly satisfying issue, and a great way to take a brief break from the huge events of last month's issue. The next time Willingham and Shanower decide to collaborate, make no mistake: it's a reason to celebrate. Great stuff.