Monday, December 8, 2008

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#9 Warlord Of The Flies

Writer: Bill Willingham. Pencils: Mark Buckingham. Inks: Steve Leialoha. Letters: Todd Klein. Colours: Daniel Vozzo. Cover: James Jean.

pp 01-03 Capture And Compromise

This issue picks up right where the last ended, with Red placing Snow under arrest. Goldie wants none of that. Shoot her! There will be time for show trials later. No some reason Goldie always says ‘show trials’, never simply ‘trials’. She doesn’t seem to understand that show trials aren’t supposed seem like they are show trials. Dun steps in to reassert his authority. Snow will be chained up with Weyland and made to help him manufacture weapons.

p 04 To The Rescue

It’s the next day and the boys are only now coming to the rescue. Bluebeard, Charming, Blue, and Bufkin, the flying monkey. Bigby can’t come because he is barred from the Farm, but why is Bufkin there?

pp 05-07 Weyland’s Story

Snow, exhausted, sleeps for a few hours and then wakes to find Weyland hard at work. He explains that he had gone to bed one night and then woke up in the cave, chained and compelled by a ‘geas’ to make weapons. A geis is a spell that binds someone’s will. If they do something other than what they are instructed, some terrible curse will be unloosed. The geas spelling used here seems limited to Dungeons and Dragons, which raises new questions about Willingham’s sources and influences. Under the spell Weyland cannot escape or aid someone in freeing him. He must convert human weapons for use by animal Fables in order to facilitate their invasion of the Homelands. His spell, however, does not prevent him from freeing Snow so she can free him. And that’s exactly what happens. He makes a key to her chains and then she sets about freeing him. Sort of.

pp 08-09 Forces Gather

A menagerie of animals, led by a lion, listens to a report by Reynard. None of the animals are anthropomorphized or readily identifiable. Reynard held on to Shere Kahn’s tail for as long as he could, but once he was shaken off, he ran. The lion, addressed as King Noble, instructs him to find Snow. Unless she has survived, their only hope is to escape. With most of the Farm’s residents trying to stay out of the fight, they don’t have the power to stand against the revolutionaries. Br’er Rabbit and Mole, from Wind In The Willows, are busy inviting everyone to a rally. Attendance is compulsory. Unless they find Snow first, the loyal Farm Fables intend to escape during the rally.

pp 10-14 Reynard To The Rescue

Reynard follows Snow’s trail, finding Khan’s body on the way, and is soon at the cave. There Snow has been trying everything she can think of to free Weyland. She has made no progress at all. The fox arrives and suggests she try the key made to unlock her own chains. She initially dismisses the idea – that the key for her own lock, not his – but she does try it and Weyland is free! Free and annoyed, ‘It took you long enough, daft woman!’ The princess almost rears its spoiled head in response, but she lets him have one insult, given his frustration. She has a plan and, while she may be as technologically inept as I am, it’s a really good plan. First, she wants to know a bit about he Returnists’ communications ability – pretty much nothing, it turns out – and she has a question about the sleeping giants. She sends Reynard to tell all the loyal Fables to be no where near the rally.

pp 15-19 The Revolution Begins!

Dun addresses the faithful. As soon as they can figure out how to get to New York, they’ll take over both Fable communities and start openly training for the Return. Red stands to his left, Goldie, brandishing a rifle, to his right. The scene is interrupted by Snow’s arrival, under a white flag. She tells them to drop their guns, the revolution’s over. Not even Chicken Little is impressed. Snow takes out a cell phone, ‘Kill the barn.’ Fire falls from the sky and consumes the barn. The rebel Fables look up. There in the sky is Weyland riding a huge dragon. Then the three giants make their entrance. The Valley of the Big Sleepers has been emptied. Snow orders the rally disbanded. A two page spread reveals the entire scene, minus Goldilocks. She is no where to be seen.

pp 20-21 To The Rescue II

The Woodland posse continues to bravely hurry to the rescue. Sort of. Blue got lost, so Charming is now driving. And they have picked up some fast food. But they do make it to the Farm in time to see the Returnists being rounded up.

pp 22 Goldilocks’ Revenge

Snow is warning them to look out for Goldie, just as the missing revolutionary takes her revenge. It’s a gruesome last page, as Snow’s head is blown open by a rifle shot.

The arc has one more issue. Like Legends In Exile, this story is completed in four and then there’s the denouement, where things are wrapped up and the next arc is set up. But I’m getting ahead. This issue directly tackles a weakness common in comics storytelling. Particularly superhero comics. Now I am a big fan of Batman myself, but I know that the ‘with enough prep time’ argument is just a cover. An excuse to elevate him on to the same level as Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Green Lantern, the… Characters with actual superpowers. The moment writers give someone like Superman incredible powers they immediately set about finding ways to restrict those same powers. It makes sense when you’re trying to tell a dramatic and interesting story. The lead character can’t readily and easily solve every problem. That would be boring. But in a realistically told story, what hope would a megalomaniac industrialist have against a demigod? And by megalomaniac industrialist I meant Luthor, not Wayne.

Here a woman with access to incredible powers is put up against a bunch a sloganeering farm animals. Willingham sets things up well. The Returnists take control of the Farm with methods that have been used by revolutionaries for some time, violence and intimidation. Snow is cut off from her resources and captured. We’ve already seen that she is a mix of efficient administrator and whiney princess, so we’re not too surprised by her downward spiral. At one point it all becomes one princess-sized pity party. But once she’s given a chance to turn things around, she does so in a manner that is ingenious and obvious. We’re too used to seeing the hero take the most difficult way, really for no better reason than to ramp up the tension, but Snow quickly grasps that, while they have revolvers modified for use by a rabbit, she has three giants and a flying, fire breathing dragon. She understands that the Returnists’ have got as far as they have because Goldilocks is a psycho whose propensity for violence intimidates the others to silence, but she also understands that their need for secrecy means they have had no training. They are rabble, not an army. She overwhelms them with a display of great force.

Then there is the final shot. Literally. Not since Lorna Doone’s wedding has a single shot turned a celebration on its head so quickly. But that’s next issue and next week.


Westside Goth said...

The Animal Farm arc is damn fine one.

That scene with White, the Fox and Weyland was pretty funny.

So, hear about the TV series?

David Bird said...

I heard about it. I like the idea, particularly because it brings comics to TV instead of film, which I think is a better fit.

I wonder how they'll handle things like the identity of the Adversary.

Westside Goth said...

you heard that the original identity for the adversary was actually peter pan. but because of UKs copyrights which wasn't in public domain he decided against it.

David Bird said...

I've heard that too. It would have subtly changed things. The Adversary as a puppet master is quite a different thing than the Adversary as a boy who refused to grow up.