Since its inception back in 2002, Bill Willingham's Fables has captivated readers with its sharp, imaginative writing, implausible but believable plots (if that makes any sense), and truly multifaceted, fascinating characters. The basic premise, of course, is brilliant--take the famous fairy tale and fable figures of yore and set them inside the "real" world, where they live, roam, and otherwise behave like regular human beings, unless, of course, circumstances dictate otherwise. And with outside dangers and peril always afoot, circumstances often do.
This latest volume, Inherit the Wind, continues Willingham's complicated yarn, with the focus now set on which of Snow White and Bigby's seven cubs will become the new North Wind. Bufkin's ongoing adventures in Oz also continue to unfold, as does Miss Sprat's evil plan to exact revenge on the Fable community. Unfortunately, each tale crawls at lethargic speed, and almost smacks of being filler in parts. Only a foreboding prophesy involving the cubs, and the North Wind's eventual selection, redeem the rather uneventful plot.
Surprisingly, the final two chapters fare better, despite having only a cursory connection to the other storylines. The first follows Rose Red on Christmas Eve as she learns the true meaning of hope, providing a quintessential Fables tale full of philosophical musings, tantalizing questions, and heartfelt sentimentality. The second is a collection of whimsical short stories of varying quality, but each is entertaining in its own right and one even provides a hint or two of what awaits the Fable people in the future.
As for the art, Mark Buckingham's pencil work is merely adequate here, feeling uncharacteristically rushed in parts. A notable exception is Rose Red's story in chapter five, which features the sharp, lush illustrations for which he's famous. The final chapter also features solid work by a number of guest artists, but the final piece by Adam Hughes is easily the most striking, with his depictions of Bellflower (and a voluptuous farm girl) being absolutely stunning.
Ultimately, Inherit the Wind feels more like a middling prelude to what one hopes will be a weightier story in the next installment. Readers will probably enjoy what's here, but like eating an appetizer, will still hunger for the main course. Let's hope the next one delivers.