Tragedy has dogged Rose Red since the earliest days of Fables, and a lecture from a friend cut to the core of who she is, shredding her self-confidence and reducing her to depression. The first half of the book deals with her restoration via reviewing her youth, and later prickly relationship with her sister Snow White. While she’s been operating at less than full capacity things have rather escalated out of hand at the Farm.

If the threat of the Dark Man wasn’t enough, the Blue Fairy turns up wanting revenge on Gepetto, and a group of residents feel the time has come to depose those running the Fables community. There’s also the return of an old character in a new guise confident they’ll have an answer to at least one of the problems besetting the Fables. Bill Willingham manages his usual magic of making the pages turn faster than usual, the only shame being that the gorgeous artwork from Mark Buckingham is being skimmed.

That, though, is only the halfway point. An interlude chapter described as “we prequel the coming duel by taking a moment to size up the villain” is far more. Inaki Miranda’s disturbing depiction of the Mister Dark is the equal of Buckingham’s and his conversation with the North Wind is chilling. Willingham moves his script into very bleak territory here, and it’s an interesting contrast that leaves no doubt as to intention and motivation.

The climactic battle with Mister Dark lives up to expectation in execution, writhing and squirming away from it in every other respect. Along the way there’s a new birth, Nurse Spratt steps up to become a significant character, her festering resentment fanned by Snow White, and Buckingham’s depiction of spells is both innovative and spectacular. His art is inked by Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy over different sections, each adding to the pencils.

The book is packed with additional features: brief stories checking in on Thumbelina and the three blind mice, a section of strips illustrating questions from readers as in Sons of Empire, a selection of Buckingham’s sketches and un-inked pages, a board game, and, of all things, the Fables Puppet Theatre.

All in all extremely satisfying, matching the standard of Witches and setting up Super Team very nicely indeed. It’s collected with Witches in the hardcover Fables Deluxe Edition 11.