Monday, October 20, 2008

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#3 Blood Tells

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

pp 01-02 Recreating The Scene Of The Crime

Greenwich Village, a residential neighbourhood in Manhattan. We are at the apartment directly above Red’s. Under Bigby’s direction, Flycatcher and Blue have hauled up an assortment of furniture and a large ice box filled with IV bags of blood. The boys want to go, having brought everything up, but their long day is just beginning. They are in an apartment with exactly the same floor plan as the crime scene, with a matching assortment of furniture. Bigby needs to know just how much blood was found downstairs and to do that he wants Blue and Flycatcher to position everything exactly as it is downstairs and then, keeping careful count of how many IV bags they use, he wants them to match blood stain for blood stain.

When they know how much blood is downstairs, they’ll know whether Red is alive or dead.

pp 03-08 Debriefing King Cole

Meanwhile, back at the Woodlands. The Woodlands is Fables central, we now learn, is on the Upper West Side. So our story is focused in Manhattan. I am told that the cab rides we’ve seen between the Woodlands and Red’s apartment could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on time and traffic.

Fabletown’s ‘mayor-for-life’, King Cole has called Snow in for a report on the investigation. We already know a lot of what we’ll hear, but there are a few surprises.

Cole doesn’t mind that Snow is involving herself in the investigation – ‘blood relations need to look after each other’ – but he is concerned about a call he received from Bluebeard. Apparently this major donor doesn’t appreciate the way Bigby treated him. Is the Wolf reverting to old ways? Is this case too much for him? Snow argues that Bigby has been a ‘poster child for reform’, but admits she doesn’t know enough about criminal investigations to really judge how well he is doing. She recounts the interviews with Jack and Bluebeard and suggests that Bigby’s aggressive manner was a way to break through the aristo’s contempt for those lower on the social ladder. Here we get a line we didn’t see last issue. Bluebeard defends himself by arguing, ‘Why would I kill her while we’re currently happily betrothed?’ Would he kill her if they weren’t happily betrothed? Was he going to wait until after the wedding? That was his standard method, after all.

Next she recounts their interview with the Black Forest Witch, Frau Totenkinder. Literary, Mrs. Dead Children. She is the witch of numerous Grimm fairy tales, but is best known for her attempt to make a meal out of Hansel and Gretel. Totenkinder is also on the cover of this issue. She grows to be a very important character, but she’s only given two panels in this issue. In the first she is in full little old lady mode, even calling Bigby ‘Gaffer Wolf’, in the second he insinuates that she might have fallen into old habits. The look she gives him isn’t a happy one, but she doesn’t say anything. Now why would Bigby suspect her in the killing? It doesn’t make any obvious sense.

He goes on to interview Charming. We don’t see much of it, but Snow sits this one out. Then he interviews Snow herself. He points out that, while she and her sister have hated one another for years, it was only recently that Snow came to have a position of authority in Fabletown. One that would allow her to cover her tracks, to even directly interfere with his investigation. Finally Bigby makes the point, talking to Snow, that the Adversary may well be behind the killing. They don’t know that his agents haven’t followed them to the mundane world. Two points. First, it was only recently that Snow became the Deputy Mayor? What was she before? How did she become the Deputy Mayor? Second, if they aren’t sure of the presence of the Adversary’s agents, doesn’t that imply that they have, to this point, not had any troubles with him in the mundane side of things? A third point. The talk of the Adversary is illustrated with a panel showing his minions driving good out the good Fables. Front and center are the three pigs. The Three Little Pigs? One of them is down, with an arrow sticking out of him. If he is dead, what happens to Fables when they die?

Cole takes it all in without asking questions, but when Snow is done he dictates the priorities. Remembrance Day is coming, with its important fundraising. If the investigation isn’t wrapped up first, it will reflect badly on them and that might effect those donations. It has to be wrapped up before the gala.

p 09 Bluebeard’s Special Treat

Bluebeard is sharpening a knife. Four pages back, when Snow was recounting his evil past, this was the knife he was using to menace a new bride. This time he’s slipping it into his jacket. In his hand is a domed serving tray. Revenge is a dish best served…?

pp 10-11 Jack The Techie?

Bigby enters the labyrinthine Manager’s office loaded down with a computer system. He found it in Jack’s apartment. In fact, he found six computer systems in Jack’s apartment. The problem is that he can’t work them. ‘Machines hate me.’ So he is turning this part of the investigation over to Snow while he gets Jack his lunch. Why exactly does Jack need all these computers?

Bigby admits to Snow that he already knows the answers to how and what, pretty much, but he is still trying to figure out the who and why. He isn’t ready to share any of it with her, though, not even whether her sister is alive. She says something rude about his mother, but given that his mother was a dog, a wolf, technically, Bigby isn’t insulted. He does have a second favour to ask her. He wants her to help Charming with his scheme. He’s coy about that one too, but he says it may help save Fabletown.

p 12 Crime Scene Recreated

In Greenwich Blue and Flycatcher finish their job. Or, at least the second part of it. Right down to the ‘No More Happily Ever After.’ Their idle chit chat reveals the Flycatcher’s old habits include flies. We actually haven’t been told he is the Frog Prince. The boys’ next step is to tally the amount of blood used and call Bigby.

pp 13-20 To The Rescue(s)

Bigby returns from Billy Bee hamburgers with Jack’s lunch. Apparently there was a 90s kids series starring Billy Bee, but looking at it I seriously doubt it’s the source of the name. It’s not in the public domain, anyway. There is a maker of condiments called Billy Bees. Their products would turn up on hamburgers. I guess I’ll have to wait for one of my enlightened readers to email.

Grimble, apartment security guard and former bridge troll, isn’t too impressed with Jack getting a second lunch. Bluebeard just went down to him with a platter of garlic roasted hen! Bigby drops everything, literally, and runs to the cell. The answer, then, was hot. Revenge is a dish best served hot.

Bluebeard is cutting Jack up with his knife. He is threatening to do it all night if Jack doesn’t talk. The Big Bad Wolf bursts in looking a little like Lon Chaney. Bluebeard isn’t impressed, ‘Nature cannot be denied,’ after all. An odd thing for a serial killer to say. The two alpha males debate who will kill who and whether Bigby can get to Bluebeard before Bluebeard kills Jack, Bluebeard offers to get Jack to answer all of Bigby’s questions, and Jack pleads for everyone to calm down and take things a little more rationally. Meanwhile news of events has reached Snow and she’s organized a rescue party. Bufkin the Flying Monkey has a mace, Honest John a baseball bat, Snow a sword, and Grimble has reverted to his true troll form. No weapon required. Seriously. He’s huge. I sure he wrenched the goats in half with his bare hands.

It looks like we’re in for the series’ first big bust up, but we’re not. The four meet Bigby and Jack coming up the stairs. Jack is going to be under house arrest – they’re locking him up in his apartment – while Bluebeard cools his heels in the cell. Very anti-climatic. Not that Bigby isn’t appreciative. Still, he’d just as soon not have Snow sword fighting with Bluebeard. She wouldn’t have stood a chance. Snow disagrees. Her sword is the famed Vorpal blade of Jabberwocky fame (after the garden statue, this is our second Lewis Carol reference). It fights for the swordsman, killing in one slice. In that case, Bigby tells her to be careful. He doesn’t want her accidental killing herself, when he is going to need her as a date to the gala, ‘It’s all very complicated and I can’t explain it yet, so just go along.’ Is he asking her for a date, or does he really have something up his sleeve?

Before she can ask he excuses himself and heads back to his apartment. A quick shower and the phone starts ringing. Outside Colin is sleeping in the bushes.

pp 21-22 More Bad News

The phone call is from the boys. They have his answer for him. He tells them to clean up both apartments, destroy everything, and that under no circumstances are the mundys to catch on. Only then will their day be done. He hangs up. You can tell their answer wasn’t the one he was hoping for.

He dresses and makes his way to Snow’s office. She’s hard at work on Jack’s computer. Jack invested heavily in the bubble after it crashed. He’s lost a great deal of money in yet another get-rich-quick-scheme. Bigby’s not concerned with that. The amount of Red’s blood found in the apartment was too much, ‘there’s no hope that Rose is still alive. I’m sorry.’

And that takes us midway through our first arc. It ends with an important revelation, but it doesn’t give us much more than that. We learn where we are in New York and we meet Frau Totenkinder. That’s about it. But don’t worry. The next issue features the Remembrance Day gala and reveals the killer!


Tor Hershman said...

That is mater fornicatin' beeeeautiful artwork.

Stay on groovin' safari,

David Bird said...

That's James Jean. A collection of his Fables covers is due out November 18.