Review: Fables #151
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Bill Willingham
Art: Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha
Colors: Leigh Loughridge
Letters: Todd Klein
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
“In which things continue more or less where we left off.” Including, catching up with Snow and Bigby, meeting Jack in the Green for the first time and a couple of mysteries rear their heads.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly seven years since Fables #150. The creative team drops the reader into Fables #151 with only seconds appearing to have passed, at least to some of the fables. This feeling of familiarity and the appearance of Mayor Old King Cole reassures the reader that this is indeed the beloved comic he/she has been missing. The most amazing thing of all is that in this one issue, it’s all there- the art, the look, the voices, the tone.
Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha gave Fables a look. This is one of those penciler/inker teams that work incredibly well together and this look was integral to making Fables the success that it was. With this issue, the reader is reminded of old family and friends, it’s almost like looking at pictures of the house one grew up in. The brilliance of Buckingham’s layouts is there, including the wonderful images outside the panels that go to the edge of the page. For the uninitiated, it’s like scrollwork that reflects the theme of the story in the panels. It’s a truly unique approach that makes this comic look like nothing else.
Leialoha and Buckingham have been working on the titles for a long time and they own the look as much as Willingham owns the stories. Old King Cole, Bigby, and Snow White all look magnificent. The animal fables are a delight, in that Buckingham and Leialoha communicate the facial expressions on them with the same impact as the human fables. The art is perfect and perfectly aided by Lee Loughridge’s colors. He’s been doing Fables for a while as well, and it’s no secret that his choices for the different settings masterfully evoke these different milieu.
It wouldn’t be right not to introduce a “new” fable to the series in this restart, and on page 6 we meet Jack-in-the-Green! Jethro Tull fans can rejoice at this second Tull connection to the series, the first being “The Mouse Police Never Sleep,” the title of issue #14. The aspect of Fables that is so intriguing is how Willingham incorporates the different fairy tales and folklore into the series. The introduction of Jack is an opportunity to see this all over again. Interestingly, Willingham gives us something extra, even if one is familiar with the folklore, there’s a story to go with it. This Jack is the new Jack, and she’s out to find the previous one to tell him she’s taking his place. There’s some meta-textual commentary ass she reveals to him that she carries a bow and arrow and that “It’s “all done with female archers now.” It’s easy to see Merida from Brave and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games here, but also Helena Wayne’s Huntress who took over for her father, the Earth-Two Batman, and carried a crossbow. Gwen, the new Jack is immediately likable.
There are a couple of surprises along the way in Fables #151 as well. There’s some intrigue in the first few pages that raise questions, and the end of the issue has an additional surprise, but we won’t spoil that at all. It’s a classic “tune in next month for more” which is a staple of serialized fiction. This title is known for that, so it’s a joy to see it here.
Finally, it’s refreshing to have Fables restart with issue #151 instead of launching with a new #1. Comics don’t utilize their legacies nearly enough. It tells the reader that this is indeed part of a greater whole and not just a flavor-of-the-month or ploy. There’s something satisfying about reading a comic with a high issue number and knowing it is connected to something with a pedigree, that new #1 doesn’t make it a better comic, it actually just dilutes the significance of true #1 issue.
There are no real negatives for Fables #151. However, some fans might have questions about how Everafter: From the Pages of Fables and Batman vs. Bigby!: A Wolf in Gotham fit in. I think Willingham will reference what he needs to as the story progresses. The Batman crossover could’ve taken place at almost anytime and doesn’t really affect the continuity. Connor Wolf, one of Snow and Bigby’s sons features heavily in Everafter, and as he shows up in Fables #151, one sort of wants to know how these two series fit together. It’s nothing to lose sleep over, however.
Fables #151 is like coming home for existing fans. This first issue indicates it’s going to be just as excellent as it’s ever been. For new readers, Willingham has the right amount of new characters like Jack-in-the-Green to love and learn about as well as some existing mysteries. It’s going to be an adventure for old and new alike as Fabletown and the Mundy World learn to get along which new and existing readers should find intriguing immediately. And, all readers will enjoy the art.