If there's one comment I've heard about "Fables" the past few months, it's been, "Now what?" I think a lot of readers assumed that if the war between Fabletown and the Homelands ever occurred, that "Fables" would come to an end. Well, it's now three issues later and the book is chugging along strongly. If anything, this new issue has shown once and for all how "Fables" is anything but out of steam.
The basic conceit of the issue is a pretty easy one: for all of the bad things that the Adversary did in conquering the Homelands, there were some things that everyone in the Homelands should have been thankful for. After all, the Adversary's armies had to defeat not only many heroes but also other, powerful villains as well. And suddenly, all those checks and balances are starting to come undone. That concept alone could have moved at a slow pace for quite a long time and been satisfying, to be honest, but I have to give Willingham credit that he's already pushing "Fables" back into high gear with the introduction of Mister Dark.
It's impressive how in just 17 pages, Willingham is able to make Mister Dark a genuinely creepy new villain. Not only does he fit into the larger scheme of things very easily (with a connection to something pre-existing in "Fables" that suddenly explains a lot about a certain powerful magic item), but he does so by doing very little so far. Actions have consequences in "Fables," and this issue is full of nothing but consequences so far. "Fables" #75 seemed to let most of its characters get away scot-free, but for anyone else like myself who might have complained about the lack of repercussions, they're showing up all over the place now.
Of course, the issue wouldn't be complete without Mark Buckingham's beautiful pencils, which seem to just get stronger and more ornate with every issue. He's able to really bring out Mister Dark's malice here, not only in his physical appearance but the way he interacts with those who discovered him. His movements towards and around those two just seal the deal, so to speak, with knowing that he's bad news all around. Peter Gross's art for the back-up story is nice as well; he does a great job with the numerous wildlife creatures and lush jungle setting of the story, and the new character on the last page looks like a perfect combination of funny and dangerous.
"Fables" isn't just still around, it's alive and well. I'm quite happy to see that the series has quite a bit of life still left in it. Here's to the next 75 issues and then some.