In a way, I'm sad to see Fables ending. It's had its ups and downs, but the downs weren't so bad that I wanted to give up on it, and the ups were so good that I sure as hell wasn't going to give up on it. Happily Ever After is the penultimate story arc for the entire series, and what it does is set up events for the culmination, which is a showdown between Snow White and Rose Red.
I've written before about how Fables jumps back and forth between a collection that sets up events, and a collection that gives is the payoff, and, for the most part, Happily Ever After is another set-up volume. It's a disservice to label it just that, since so much more is happening throughout the story. As Willingham is establishing the final events of the story, he's delving into history, resurrections, power grabs, and the frailty of the Fables overall. Not all of this is new -- Willingham has shown that not all dead characters stay dead, and power grabs are just a part of Fabletown -- but focusing on the vulnerability of the Fables is something new. There's been an inconsistency in how, when, and why Fables can die, and whether current events highlight those inconsistencies or better define who's vulnerable and who's not. The final volume might answer that question.
Amidst the action and the setup, Willingham also gives us glimpses into how some of the bigger players in the story of Fables live out their lives after this final showdown. They're brief asides -- some are as few as one page long, and none are longer than five -- and it's a fun look into how the Fables will live on. The short answer is that the Fables live on the same way they always did; the long answer is that the series still has enough possibility for Willingham or other writers to extend on the idea.
The final volume will be out in July, which is a short time when you consider how long it usually takes one of these collections to hit print, but that's also a really long time, given how events progress in Happily Ever After. Rest assured, though: I'll be back in here in July to tell you what I think of how it wraps up!