Up until now, I've been a big defender of the post-Adversary era of "Fables." I've heard a lot of grumbling that the series hasn't had the same spark after "Fables" #75, that they just aren't interested in what's happening these days. I've been enjoying the book, though, with the introduction of Mister Dark, the forced evacuation of Fabletown, and things slipping continually from bad to worse. Now we're entering a 9-part story, though, that crosses over between "Fables," "Jack of Fables," and a mini-series titled "The Literals" and all I can think is, "I hope this picks up quickly."
It probably doesn't help matters that so far, the big story seems to be spinning not out of the events of "Fables" but rather "Jack of Fables," a book that's always had good ideas but never quite clicked for me. With one of the characters from "Jack of Fables" quite possibly on the verge of wiping out all of the Fables in the blink of an eye, it at least does make sense that Jack would contact the rest of the Fables on Earth, and so the crossover is a logical one. But somehow, strangely, this issue of "Fables" just left me a little bored.
Maybe it's because the book's still trying to juggle a story about the effects of Mister Dark on the Fables with this new encroaching story, and neither of them can quite fit with the other. So when we have a Dark-influenced fight between Bigby and the Beast, it just comes across as a strange combination of rushed and predictable. And likewise, Jack's sudden call to the rest of the Fables just seems tacked on to the second half of the issue. It's not coming together, and feels all too much like those random crossovers that Marvel used to run through all of their Annuals where stories are shoehorned into other characters' lives with no warning whatsoever. The only part that worked for me is a subplot about the effects of Little Boy Blue's death a few months ago, and even that gets laid on a little too thick here, going from nothing to a full-blown movement in just a few pages.
Still, at least Mark Buckingham's art is as strong as ever, able to tackle both the beautiful and the hideous without breaking stride. It's the one consistent part of this issue of "Fables" and that gives me at least some faint hope. "Fables" is normally much better than this, and with any luck this is just a "setting everything up" problem that will be gone once everything is in full swing. But as an exciting, "you must read this" opening chapter? It just doesn't work.