What happens after "Happily Ever After?" That's the question that Fables #151 begins to answer during the series' first new issue in nearly five years. At one point Fables was considered by many to be one of the best ongoing series in the industry. A multi-Eisner award winning comic, Fables explored the novel concept of fairytale characters like Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf living in secret in the modern world, fighting against an Adversary who had conquered a multiverse of storybook worlds. Once the Adversary War wrapped up halfway through the series' 150-issue run, Fables lost its bearings and meandered through some weak storylines and some frankly terrible spinoffs before eventually ending with a graphic novel-sized conclusion that left only a handful of loose ends to be explored further.
Now five years later, Fables is back, with creative team Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham reuniting for a 12-issue run that picks up just after the events of the final arc. The comic follows two primary plotlines: Bigby and Snow and their four cubs have returned to Bigby's old hunting grounds in the aftermath of Snow's truce with Rose Red, while the Mundy world reacts to the discovery of Fabletown in the heart of New York City. The comic also introduces a possible new villain, one with very interesting ties to the original Fables premise, and has a "shocking" last page return that makes plenty of sense given how Fables are meant to be immortal depending on the strength of their story.
One interesting part of Fables #151 is that the comic truly acts as the 151st issue of a comic book series, as opposed to the start of a new series. There's no recap to bring new readers (or readers with less-than-stellar memories) up to speed, even though the story starts literally in the rubble of the final arc. While there are a couple of little reminders here and there, the series seems content to cater solely to established fans, which seems a little misguided. Given the lengthy period of time that's passed since Fables #150 was released, I would have hoped that we'd gotten even a little reminder about what had come before, especially as the last page reveal is a bit dependent on remembering the events of that last issue.
It's hard to say which version of Fables (the award-winning Fables or the less than stellar Fables that dominated the second half of the original run) we'll get out of the new arc. On the one hand, Fables #151 acts as a "greatest hits" of sorts reintroducing readers to the world of the series. Buckingham's artwork is excellent throughout the series, with the illuminated manuscript illustrations adding an excellent touch that instantly reminded me of how I felt when I read through Fables nearly 15 years ago. Bigby, Snow, and their cubs are also just the same as readers remember them, which bodes well as those characters were always at the heart of Fables' strongest stories. However, I can't help but feel there's a bit of self-indulgence that lingers on the pages, ranging from the choice of villain to the focus on a "brand new" Jack of the Green who likely will act as either an ally or foil to Bigby and Snow's family. Fables was at its worst when it got too caught up in its own self-importance (as evidenced by "The Great Fables Crossover") and it's too early to tell if Willingham and Buckingham actually have something new to bring to the Fables world.
For the time being, we'll call Fables #151 a happy return to a story with a rather definitive ending. Fables are immortal after all, so we shouldn't be too surprised that the story goes on after "ever after." Whether that story is any good remains to be seen, but this new Fables arc at least shows some promise.
Published by DC Comics
On May 17, 2022
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Todd Klein
Cover by Qistina Khalida