“Boats Against The Current”
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Brian Level, Jay Leisten, Anthony Fowler Jr.
Color Artist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Steve Wands
Review by Matthew B. Lloyd
Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers
In what may be the best issue of the series so far, Batman vs Bigby! A Wolf In Gotham #5 goes the extra mile in the story department. There’s often a balance to be struck with a 6-issue mini-series, in terms of pacing with the story so that it neither ends too quickly nor drags on too long.
With this issue, the story feels spot-on as, by the end of it, we have a new reveal about Bookworm that leaves the final issue needing to provide the impetus to make the ending be more than simply a “final showdown.” It’s an additional layer of mystery that adds immensely to the overall story. It elevates the level of excitement for the series as the implied details suggest some nostalgia for Fables itself.
There are a couple of artistic elements that really stand out. First, as the Robins attempt to save Batman from his encounter with Bookworm last issue, they must administer CPR to the Dark Knight; chest compressions, a ventilator, etc…. The layout for one of the pages is done extremely well because we get a wide shot of the scene in the middle with the main panel lines on either side with smaller ones that show hands doing the chest compressions.
It’s really effective at, not only depicting the events but adding to the tension of not knowing the effectiveness of the Robins’ actions. The multiple panels of the hands in close-up perfectly provide the pace for the scene.
Later in the issue, as Bookworm confides to Mrs. Stacks, instead of using a traditional panel design, we have overlaid pieces of paper with the ends curling up. These appear to have been torn from a book, which not only fits thematically with the Bookworm character but also with the source material for the characters that inhabit the world of Fables. It’s a really creative approach to the panels that also provides a unique and varied layout.
Batman vs Bigby! A Wolf In Gotham #5 is the perfect penultimate chapter. Coupled with some really exciting visual moments it lands as the best issue in the series, and obviously at the perfect time. Next month’s finale should prove to be not only nostalgic for fans of Fables, but an enjoyable conclusion to this unique crossover.