After the heart-wrenching end to the Cubs in Toyland story arc in Fables #121, Bill Willingham has diverged from the main narrative to bring us a tale of the Great Wolf. Beautifully illustrated by Gene Ha, a guest artist who truly understands the tone of the Fables world, unlike others who have cameoed in issues past. It's not too abrupt a shift away from Mark Buckingham's spectacular ongoing pencils and Ha captures a level of emotion and movement in his pages that few others can boast. Art Lyon's colours are beautiful as well, appropriate to the setting and mood of the storyline, enhancing the art without disguising or destroying the gorgeous pencilwork in the process.
The tale is set far in Bigby's past, long before Fabletown and fully entrenched in the magic and mystery of the Homelands. Introducing a sexy new antagonist who manages to come out on top in a battle of wits with Bigby (her mistake), what initially felt like a one shot story continues on to another issue. A curious foray into our favourite furried heroes' past, complete with Willingham's trademark witty banter; only in his universe could a despondent wolf mutter "Eating your own dad could get weird." How's that for an out of context quote?
Though it still maintains the sombre undertones ever present in the Fables world (Kill Train, anyone?), it's a welcome diversion from what promises to be a long, dark chapter in the cubs' lives. A required chapter I'm sure, as these things tend to be in the grand scheme of things, but constant heartbreak over these beloved characters requires at least a few distractions along the way.
Also included in this issue is a brief Revolution in OZ chapter that lightens the mood, despite some senseless violence, as well as a sneak peek of the "Werewolves in the Heartland" original graphic novel out in November. Pick it up for the gorgeous art and playful, out of continuity story that can be read no matter how far you've made it through the Fables series.