Welcome back, "Fables," all is forgiven.
All right, I kid, just a little bit. But after the lackluster conclusion to the Mister Dark storyline last month, I know I wasn't the only reader a bit concerned with the direction of the series -- doubly so considering until the last-second fake-out, how the Mister Dark story had initially looked to end in "Fables" #100, only to lurch back to life for a less-than-interesting additional story.
Well, as it turns out? It was all worth it, if this is what we get in return.
Bill Willingham follows two stories here; the look for a new North Wind, and a follow-up on what Bufkin the winged monkey is now up to in the Oz fable lands. And both of them, quite frankly, are the most interesting things we've seen in months. A story with Bufkin is always a winner, and watching him bluff, bully, and trick his way through the forces that have taken over Oz is pretty darn funny. It's a nice reminder that this is a character who succeeds by being self-made; all of Bufkin's reading over the years, combined with an innate wit, is what makes him succeed rather than having some massive innate magical ability. In some small ways, it's almost like reading an issue of "Jack of Fables" only this time it has a protagonist that's actually likable and whom you want to succeed.
It's the other story, though, with Snow and Bigby's cubs being lined up as potential new North Winds, though, that will certainly grab everyone's attention. Ever since Willingham introduced the prophecy about what would happen to the seven cubs, the cubs have had a lot of interest swirling around them, and this appears to be the first step toward that prophecy coming true. Willingham makes the cubs being in line to take over make sense (I love how the servants explain why they aren't asking Bigby's siblings or the other Winds to help out), and with seven cubs in the running, anything is possible.
Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha are one of the most consistent art teams in comics. The art looks sharp and beautiful as ever; I love the tense poses of the characters heading back into the Farm, the silly looks on Bufkin's face, and the way that the cubs and the servants flit around the page in the realm of the North Wind. And while Buckingham's page borders are always good, the ones of the six cubs are easily my favorite to date. Great as always.
If that's not enough, we've still got subplots running through the book about the reclaiming of the Farm, as well as what Miss Spratt is up to in her new slim body. The book feels alive and energetic again, and it's a joy to read once more. This is the "Fables" I fell in love with years ago, and I'm pleased as punch to see it return.