Saturday, October 11, 2008

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

This week's is up a bit early. Its Thanksgiving up here and I'll have guests the next two days.

#2 The (Un)usual Suspects

Writer: Bill Willingham. Pencils: Lan Medina. Inks: Steve Leialoha. Letters: Todd Klein. Colours: Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh. Cover: James Jean.

pp 01-03 The Next Day

It’s the next day. Says so in the first panel. Snow arrives at work. Flycatcher, a.k.a. The Frog Prince, is in the lobby, wearing an orange jumpsuit and singing as he mops. He greets the Deputy Mayor, but she’s in no mood for idle conversation.

Bigby is getting up. He has a small studio apartment in the building. He’s in his underwear, petting a talking pig with an oven mitt. Okay… Actually, he’s waking the pig up. This is the first of the Three Little Pigs. The one who lived in the straw house. Goes by the name Colin. Colin hates life on the Farm and sees himself as an urbanite. Whenever he escapes to Fabletown he crashes at Bigby’s. He feels Bigby owes him that, having cost him his home all those years ago. Bigby is having none of it. He is carting Colin right back to the Farm. Right after a breakfast of ham and eggs.

In Molly, the waitress, Greenbaugh’s apartment, Prince Charming is readying himself for the day. Molly herself is still asleep after a long night of passion. Charming leaves her a note, telling her know that he has helped himself to the money in her purse, and that he wants her to get his dry cleaning and do his laundry. Class all the way.

pp 04-06 A Talk In The Garden

An hour later Bigby and Snow meet in the apartment’s gardens. One of the statues appears to be Alice and her cat Dinah. He goes there to think and, knowing that, she has come to ask him a few questions about their investigation. “My investigation,” he quickly retorts. At this point he hasn’t much to tell her. The blood is Red’s. He is the original Big Bad, after all, and he knows blood. He is also pretty certain that a Fable did it. The ‘No More Happily Ever After’ wouldn’t have come from someone who didn’t know who Red was. Or what she was. In a round about way, Bigby admits he doesn’t suspect Jack, but still intends to question him. He isn’t so round about when it comes to Snow insisting a role in the investigation. She too is a suspect. The sisters had been estranged for years. He offers to do her interview there and then, but she begs off. She has an appointment with her ex. “Hide your wallet first,” is the only thing Bigby has to say on that subject.

pp 07-08 Cinderella v. Bluebeard

The next scene introduces two new characters. Everyone knows the woman, Cinderella, but far fewer know the story of the man. He is Bluebeard, proof positive that fairy tales aren’t just for kids. Bluebeard is one of fiction’s earliest serial killers. He was a French nobleman who married often, but never for very long. What happened to the women? No one knew. But eventually one of his wives discovered the secret and lived to expose him. I am not going recount the story. You really don’t want to know what happened to all those wives. Do you?

He is giving Cinderella a fencing lesson, chiding her for her ‘potty mouth’ and for not having learned more about swordsmanship when she was married to Prince Charming. Yes, the same Prince Charming that was married to Snow White. We don’t have to guess at what happened to his marriages. I doubt even a mundy like Molly will stay under his spell for long. He was, however, reputed to be quite the swordsman. Bluebeard asks her if she knows if her ex is in town. Old news. She asks him if he has heard about Rose Red. Done in, brutally, by Jack, she’d heard, who was caught dancing around wearing bits of her. Now we know that isn’t true, but it is interesting that she would associate Red’s killing with the sort of behaviour we expect from a serial killer while talking to a serial killer. He becomes enraged and cuts her. He tells her it’s because she wasn’t taking the lesson seriously, but the news has obviously gotten to him.

pp 09-10 Snow White v. Prince Charming

We’re at Fabletown’s I Am The Eggman Diner. From what I understand the Eggman in question is a character from a fantasy novel written by Willingham himself. It’s called Down The Mysterly River. The name of the restaurant, however, is from the Beatle’s song I Am The Walrus. That eggman is an apparent reference to the Animal’s lead singer Eric Burdon, who used to break eggs over naked women. Rock stars. Anyway. Snow is sitting down to a meal with her ex. There is some snipping, but he has a proposition and he wants her help.

Remembrance Day is coming, a day when Fabletown comes together to commemorate all that has been lost. Charming hopes to capitalize on the nostalgia but auctioning off all his lands and titles. Of course, they were all lost to the Adversary’s evil empire, but Remembrance Day is also a day of hope. Maybe someday we can go back – and why not go back as a prince? Snow isn’t impressed. She gets up to leave, reminding him that she divorced him because he slept with her sister! Charming says Red seduced him, but he isn’t the most credible member of our cast. She tells him Red is missing and that he should be on the suspect list.

Twice during this scene we see a truck outside. In the back is Colin, trussed up and on his way home.

pp 11-15 Questioning Jack

Snow and Bigby question Jack. He’s being held in a cell in the Woodland apartments, secretly the seat of Fabletown’s government and home to many of its citizens. Jack insists he will do whatever he can to help. Bigby asks him about his relationship to Red. Jack says the two have been a couple for four years. But last year, Bigby points out, they had a very public break up and then she’d been seen with Bluebeard. Jack insists she was only trying to make him jealous, and suggests they look into Bluebeard, given his history with women. Bigby wants to check Jack’s apartment and asks him where he was the night of Red’s disappearance. He says he was home, but the security guard, Grimble, reports he hadn’t come home that night.

Now Grimble is a more interesting character than he appears. He is the troll from under the bridge in the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. His presence in New York has led some to speculate that, like Bigby, he isn’t welcome on the Farm. He did eat other Fables, after all. But Shere Kahn is at the Farm and he is also a predacious Fable, so there must be more to it than that.

As much as Jack insists that he wants to help the investigation, the interview deteriorates and the questioning becomes angry. Bigby doesn’t trust him. Jack is a trickster, always trying to make a fast buck with one scheme or another. He’s tried to rip off Fable and mundy alike. Jack protests that he’s not a violent man, but Bigby reminds him of his past career as a giant killer. That was pre-amnesty, however. When they Fables settled in the mundy world a general amnesty was agreed to. Bygones were to be bygones. Bigby was provided with a glamour that would allow him to live among humans. Forgiveness only went so far and the Great Wolf’s past was just too much. But Bigby does have a violent past and so does Bluebeard. All pre-amnesty, of course.

It’s all too much for Snow. In tears she demands to know where Red is and if Jack killed her. He says he doesn’t know where she is and that he didn’t kill her. Of course he would be expected to say that. Things are quickly wrapped up and after they leave Snow apologizes for her outbreak. During the questioning, however, Bigby does say something important. “Relatively small amounts of blood, spread around can, go a long way.”

pp 16-22 Questioning Bluebeard

After leaving Jack they go on to interview Bluebeard. He also lives at the Woodland, but they step out for a moment to give Snow a chance to compose herself. Bigby tells her not to beat herself up over her outbreak and offers to go on alone. Snow won’t have it. She buys herself some chocolate and is ready for round two. The shop she goes to is called Edward Bear’s Candies. Edward the Bear is Winnie the Pooh’s actual name, but as Winnie is not a public domain character, we won’t question this too closely. No need to cause Willingham any trouble. She offers one to Bigby, but he passes. Wolves don’t eat sweets. As they re-enter the building we see Colin running free down the street.

Bluebeard has been a tenant from the beginning, keeping a small apartment on the fourth floor. Small on paper anyway. The place is magical and within it is his entire castle. Unlike many, Bluebeard managed to take his wealth with him. Moreover, he had access to a gateway from the Homelands to the mundane world and helped many other Fables escape the Adversary, as long as they had the fortunes to pay for his help. So he escaped with his own wealth, and many others’ too. That was all pre-amnesty, though. Just like his wife killing. Now he commands a great deal of respect. Fabletown’s government hasn’t the power to tax its people and relies on hand outs. Remembrance Day is a big day for cheque signing, but the truth is Bluebeard funds a great deal of Fabletown’s workings.

They are led into Bluebeard’s office by his goblin butler, Hobbes. Hobbes’ name is derived from the word hobgoblin and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who also gave his name to the tiger teddy in Calvin and Hobbes. In this office is a painting of a tall ship and in front of it a hook, the sort a famous amputee once wore. Bluebeard is, I understand, modeled after Captain Hook (another not-yet-in-public-domain character), but he was never a pirate. Neither Hook, nor Blackbeard, for that matter. He was, again, a French nobleman and serial wife killer.

Bluebeard is in a much better mood than when we last saw him. He assumes the government needs their donation a little early this year, and he’s only too happy to open his cheque book. Bigby throws down some crime scene photos and bluntly accuses him. Amnesty? What amnesty? Bigby acts as though Bluebeard isn’t cooperating, in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been given a chance to cooperate. Bigby accuses him of being pompous and a dissembler, and perhaps that is the point of this approach. If you want straight answers from the man, you have to throw out any chance for him to give you anything else. Bluebeard denies killing her. Not only were they romantically involved, and are still romantically involved, they are engaged. At the previous year’s Remembrance Day gala she agreed to marry him, with the stipulation that they keep it a secret for one calendar year. He agreed and paid her a dowry, actually a brideprice, since it was going from the man to the woman, of one million dollars and a contract to that effect was formalized. Bluebeard hadn’t seen her in the couple of days since her disappearance, but their relationship was very much ongoing. He immediately puts up a million dollar reward “for the discovery and capture of whoever perpetrated this foul deed!”

In the first issue we learned that our victim was the life of the party. In this issue we learn that she destroyed her sister’s marriage by sleeping with her husband – her sister’s husband – and that she has two ongoing relationships. A stormy one with a perpetually broke schemer, with a history of violence (the giant killing wasn’t metaphorical), and a secret one, an engagement with an infamous wife killer. So now we have our list of suspects: Jack, Bluebeard, Prince Charming, and Snow White. Some are more likely suspects than others, of course.

1 comment:

Westside Goth said...

i really liked the pieces between White and Charming, as well as Bigby and the Pig.