This article was originally published at Infinite Comix on October 16, 2014.
It’s beginning to feel like Fables is spinning its wheels. The first few issues of “Happily Ever After” laid compelling groundwork for a series of conflicts and confrontations that would make for a fittingly legendary end to this series. Now it seems like Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham have overestimated the amount of space it would require to tell their final tale.
The last few issues have all been circling the same plot point: Bigby’s rampage. Fabletown residents go out to find or fight him and are slain. There have been small changes occurring in the background of this cycle, but it remained the centerpiece for the last three issues. The repeated actions of a character leaving Fabletown, confronting Bigby, and being attacked have lost any sense of drama. Instead, it feels like routine and that risks violating the greatest sin any comic can commit: to be boring.
The conflict in this issue at least manages to move the metaphorical goalposts by presenting Bigby with a genuine threat and changing his physical location. The change is so small though that it is primarily exciting because it provides an opening for the story to move beyond this sticking point. The conflict here ends in a literal draw, which is perhaps the least exciting conclusion to a fight possible. When the only loss is of a dagger, it’s hard to feel excited about the story.
This repetitive narration has created a monotonous rhythm like waves slapping against a boulder, slowly wearing it down. The small changes occurring in the background, plotting at cafes in Fabletown and rumblings in Flycatcher’s kingdom may be important, but come with little impact. Even the twist introduced on the very cover of this issue in Cinderella’s “final story” feels more like a promise that drama will ensue than actual drama itself.
Buckingham’s illustration of Bigby’s latest battle is compelling at least. He consistently composes his figures so that their motion between panels is clear and effective. Each juxtaposed pair of panels creates a cause and effect correlation. Every action is met with a reaction, which is key to composing a dynamic battle. Even when he reverses the point of view, figures and movements flow naturally between panels so that the status quo is never in doubt.
Fables #145 ultimately feels like filler, a decompression of this tragic part of “Happily Ever After”. The stakes of the story are still high, but it needs to retain what little momentum it has left and build from that in order to keep this story interesting. There are still five issues left in Fables and no reason to wait until issue 150 to move the story forward.