Here’s my look back at the ten best single comic issues from the past year. Including ongoing series, one-shots, and mini-series, the only limitations I put on this list was that the comic had to have been released in 2013 (no reprints) and I limited myself to only a single issue from any one title. Because I was focusing on standout issues rather than consistently strong comics every month several of my favorite series missed the cut, but, if time permits, I may work up my regular list of best comic series of the past year as well.
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After last month’s look in at the afterlife of Bigby Wolf, Fables jumps right back into the Camelot storyline with Rose Red meeting those wishing to join her new Round Table as Knights of Hope. Despite the heavy turnout, there are still quite a few obstacles standing in Rose Red’s way including Snow White who has not forgiven her sister for recruiting Prince Brandish as part of her undertaking.
Other than her sister, Rose Red still has to come up with a method of choosing her knights and deal with the wide assortment of volunteers ranging from all sizes of both a wide variety of creatures and humans. There’s also the matter of the quiet man of the hills whose true name and purpose for journeying to the new Round Table has yet to be revealed.
With the near completion of Bigby’s shattered crystal form we find one crucial piece still missing (in the hands of a mysterious woman) which must be recovered if the witches’ magic has any chance at returning him from the dead. What dark forces are working against Bigby and his return? Worth a look.
A single issue interlude in the “Camelot” storyline centers around the afterlife of Bigby who has been living out his days in a forested realm without remembering the series of events which led him there. Visited by Boy Blue, and one other important visitor, Bigby is roused out of his dream state to consider and question what happens to the legendary Fable going forward.
Although Blue doesn’t show him the way, his conversation to Bigby implies the wolf can return to the land of the living if he so desires. Or, if he believes that life is finished and is happy in his new surroundings, the wolf can stay in his new realm for eternity.
Bigby’s abscence in the comic has been felt, even before he was turned to crystal and shattered by Prince Brandish. This issue suggests that his return has more to do with the wolf’s decision and will than the various magics of Fabletown tirelessly working to put him back together again. The issue ends on a sweet, if melancholy, note, but I expect we haven’t seen he last of the wolf. Worth a look.
Prince Charming and Nayalani’s story arc concludes with some background on Singh, the former maharaja who is responsible for all of Charming’s recent troubles, and a final showdown between the pair that leaves the villain dead and Charming with a roguish pirate look.
From the epilogue it appears Nayalani and Charming are both staying together and sticking around. I’m looking forward to the pair heading to Fabletown, and an inevitable confrontation with Charming’s ex-wife Snow White.
Although I thought “The Return of the Maharaja” got a little bogged down in the middle issues of what I felt was an unnecessarily long six-issue arc (four would have done just as well), the storyline ends with a pair of strong issues and characters I will look forward to seeing more of in the wider Fables universe. Worth a look.
An impasse between sisters temporarily halts Rose Red‘s new calling as the Paladin of Hope when Snow White discovers her sister is actually considering saving the man who held her captive and killed her husband. While Rose sees Prince Brandish as the perfect attempt to proves second chances can breed positive results, Snow has very definite feelings about never letting the villain loose to do any more harm to any member of her family.
Given the fact that neither will budge, the grudgingly new-formed friendship between the sisters falls apart as Rose decides, for good or ill, to make Brandish part of her new Round Table (even if it costs Rose her family).
Fables #133 presents a strong story in that both sister’s points are valid from their point of view. It also gives us a very un-Disney version of Snow White’s history as the character discusses with her daughter Therese the hard choices she’s need to make over the years to survive. Worth a look.
After surviving a curse, plague, and the hostile woods, Charming returns to the camp in large part thanks to Nayalani. Trying to make good on his word, Charming sets a trap for the dhole who have been terrorizing her village, but that’s when the story takes an odd turn.
It turns out the dhole aren’t dhole at all, but the brothers of Bigby left in the region to fend for themselves when an enemy of Charming decided to recruit them to get his revenge on the new Maharaja. Although this new understanding between Charming and the shapeshifting wolves prevents any further bloodshed, it also reveals the creatures’ brutal revenge on Nayalani’s village for the death of their brother.
By the end of the issue Charming’s true enemy will finally be revealed and Nayalani will be forced to say goodbye to the only home she has ever known. I thought this arc got a bit off track with the plague storyline, but this issue feels much more in-tune with the rest of the Fables universe leading into next month’s final issue of Nayalani and Charming’s tale. Worth a look.
The news that Rose Red plans to finally accept her destiny as the Paladin of Hope and reconstitute the Round Table spreads like wildfire around Fabletown, the farm, and the furthest reaches of every world where the message is spread. Taking a little time off from her new duty, Rose Red also confronts the still very much alive Prince Brandish with a machine gun leading to a discussion of just how the insane Fable would like to spend his immortality.
Although I’m still waiting to see Arthur and the old Knights of the Round Table (which we may have gotten a tease of here), the issue continues Red Rose’s story and makes something unexpected out of the continued existence of Brandish (something I’m not really in favor of).
It will be interesting to see who signs up for the new Round Table as the story continues to unfold and who Red Rose may have to pressure in to joining their ranks (even Brandish?). The B-story of this issue continues the so-far-failed attempts to reconstruct and resurrect the shattered Bigby. Worth a look.
The odd plague which was introduced in the last issue is further developed here as Prince Charming loses a pair of fingers to the the malady only to regrow his hand. Whether his healing came from the notoriety of his legend or the discovery of the depths of his feelings for Nalayani is a left a bit up in the air.
I thought last month’s issue got far too sidetracked with Charming’s story while shoving Nalayani to the background. This issue focuses much more on the pair together. Although it’s hard to accept Charming’s feelings as true love (wasn’t he just gleefully boffing members of his harem an issue ago?) I will be curious to see where exactly these new-found feelings lead the story and Prince Charming.
Fairest #18 is certainly an improvement over last month’s issue, but it does have weird jumps in action such as the rivalry back at the maharaja’s camp and Charming’s attack of the crocodile that aren’t properly set-up and seem a bit out of place with the focus of the issue, and whose inclusion disrupts the flow of the story. For fans.
The beginning of the Camelot arc is a little deceiving as we don’t get King Arthur or the Knights of the Round Table in the first issue of the new storyline. Instead Fables #131 is mainly concerned with the fallout of the recent Snow White arc involving plans to try and piece Bigby back together again and the autopsy of Prince Brandish (who it turns out is even harder to kill than originally believed).
Other than these nagging storylines, the issue also focuses on both Rose Red‘s humorous reunions with Hope and her niece Therese which lead the directionless Fable to finally accept her role as the Paladin of Hope and begin her plans to reconstitute a new Camelot in Fabletown, beginning with the creation of a new round table.
All geared up for King Arthur, I have to say I was a little dismayed at the bait-and-switch here. That said, I like Rose Red and I’m curious to see how her story unfolds with an attempt to recreate something as grand as Camelot. As for Brandish, the best thing his character did was to die in an agonizing fashion and I’m less happy to see him sticking around. Worth a look.
“The Return of the Maharaja” continues as Nalayani and Prince Charming spend a little time together separated from the rest of the royal entourage and Nalayani learns the series of events that led to Charming becoming India’s latest Maharaja. Although the pair are able to get out of their predicament involving a crocodile and quicksand at the issue beginning, Fairest #17 also introduces a new threat to Charming’s reign as Maharaja.
The quick thinking that gets the pair out of danger in the issue’s first few pages work well. Charming’s flashbacks give us some insight into the series of events on how the prince took power without ever addressing why Charming was in India in the first place. This also forces Nalayani’s story, the arc’s best character, to be put on hold for an entire issue.
The plague which first hits one of Charming’s concubines and later the Maharaja takes the arc even further from the story of Nalayani’s village. The source of the disease and eventual cure might turn out to offer interest insights into both characters, but for now I’m a bit concerned with the shift in direction of this latest arc. Hit-and-Miss.