Sunday, February 20, 2011
So Witches begins with what amounts to a gigantic "anyway..." and dives backward into the history of our new Big Bad, the Dark Man, explaining how he was captured by the empire of the previous Big Bad, in a single-issue story, "Boxing Days," with art by Jim Fern and Craig Hamilton. It's a decent story in its own right, but serves primarily to litter crumbs in the path of the main story, explaining where things will be going for the next ten or twenty or fifty issues.
The title story then follows, which originally filled up five issues and has art by the main Fables artist, Mark Buckingham. It moves the ball down the field a healthy amount, and begins to incorporate those bread crumbs from "Boxing Days" as it sets a number of major Fables characters off on new paths (such as "Frau Totenkinder," current head of the Fabletown witches) and brings others in (such as Ozma, future head of those witches). It's all good stuff, but it's all middle at this point, and it will take a while to decide whether this particular hunk of middle is working as well as it should -- probably until we get within hailing distance of an ending, I expect.
And then this collection ends with what was a two-issue story -- "Out to the Ball Game" -- with art by David Lapham, in which King Flycatcher deals with a threat to the peace of his still-new land, far out in the former worlds of the Empire. This is a complete story, but it's one part two-finger-exercise -- aping "Casey at the Bat" -- and six parts boilerplate "it's tough to be the king," so it's pleasant rather than particularly impressive.
All in all, Fables is still chugging along professionally, telling new stories out of the cloth its been weaving for ninety issues now. It's not as exciting and new as it once was, and there is a certain undertone of and-here's-another-damn-thing to it, but it's solidly entertaining and occasionally inventive.