Monday, December 22, 2008

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#13 Dirty Business

Writer: Bill Willingham. Pencils: Lan Medina. Inks: Craig Hamilton. Letters: Todd Klein. Colours: Daniel Vozzo. Cover: James Jean.

pp 01-07 Old Hates

Tommy Sharp, columnist for the New York Daily News, has the story of a life time: a community of immortals living in Manhattan. Vampires, of course. He makes the mistake of trying to get an interview with Bigby before breaking the story and that gives the Fables time to act. Using Sleeping Beauty’s curse, they put Sharp’s entire apartment block to sleep, with the intention of taking all his evidence away. Unfortunately, Sharp has been smart enough to email his evidence to secure locations. Part of the curse is that a wall of thorns quickly grows to encompass whatever spot the beauty, Briar Rose, is sleeping in. They haven’t much time. Plan A has failed.

Bluebeard has his own Plan B. Abandoning his job of guarding the building, he comes up to the apartment and puts a gun to Sharp’s head. There is some chest thumping, but Bluebeard backs down. Bigby has a plan, though it’s actually Jack’s. The Wolf must be pretty desperate to take up a plan of Jack’s. They leave, taking Sharp, his evidence, and the still sleeping Briar with them. They leave a crew, under Flycatcher’s watch, to get rid of the thorns.

Before leaving the chest thumping starts up again. Bluebeard mocks Bigby and his unwillingness to use violence. Bigby reminds Bluebeard that his reputation stems solely from killing defenceless women and his willingness to shoot a sleeping man on his toilet does not impress the Wolf at all. The scene doesn’t really resonant emotionally, but we do see Bluebeard walking away angry and crying. He has been deeply hurt. I don’t think Willingham put that across in the confrontation, but I am sure Bluebeard won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

On the way back to the apartment Bigby calls up Grimble. He has to find Pinocchio.

p 08 Revenge

It’s the morning after. Bluebeard is having his bath. He is sitting in a large hot tub with a hobgoblin scrubbing him down (‘Your back and bum now, sir.’). He is angry. He is going to have his revenge on the Wolf and soon.

pp 09-11 A Prince Is A Prince

Briar is still asleep and that’s becoming a problem. As long as she sleeps the thorns will keep growing and Flycatcher is having trouble keeping the mundies away. Charming has tried kissing her, but it isn’t working. He doesn’t love her any more. Not even a little. And the curse can only be lifted by a prince with some genuine affection for the girl. Fortunately there is another prince in the room. With a kiss, Flycatcher solves his own thorn problem and Briar wakes up wondering why her mouth ‘taste[s] like bugs.’ What did they eat in the Homelands? I mean, how does she know what bugs taste like?

pp 12-16 Blackmail
Sharp wakes up in the same cell Jack was once held in. Bigby has a three point plan. First, he shows the columnist two bite marks on his neck. Because Sharp thinks they’re vampires, it is pretty easy to convince him that he is now under their thrall. They control him. Second, Bigby shows him some pictures. Pornographic pictures of Sharp and Pinocchio. We never see the picture, so we’ve no idea how they are set up, but if anyone else tells Sharp’s story they will release the pictures and ruin him. Sharp can’t believe it. He would never do anything like this. But, then, he is under their thrall. Lastly, Bigby has a video recording of the boy’s confession to a child psychologist detailing everything Sharp allegedly did to him. Sharp cannot publish, or allow anyone else to publish, or Bigby will publish.

pp 17-20 A Charming Schemer

Charming has decided to turn over a new leaf. He will prove himself a new man. And he will do it by moving in with Briar and taking care of her. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s loaded. One of the blessings given her was wealth and even though she arrived in the New World penniless, she wasn’t penniless for long.

p 21 Any Prince Will Do

Bigby isn’t too impressed with that development, but when he calls Briar in he really isn’t too concerned with it either. What he wants to know is how she woke up at Tiffany’s. There was no Prince Charming, no Flycatcher. How did it happen? It turns out that a very affectionate police dog, named Prince, arrived on the scene and woke her up with a slobbery dog kiss. ‘Repeat any of this,’ she warns him, ‘and I’ll hate you forever.’ Interestingly, there is no mention of any thorns growing up around Tiffany’s.

pp 22 No One Changes His Basic Nature

Night time in the park. Tommy Sharp has hurried to his meeting with Bluebeard. Believing himself to be compelled, he is compelled. Bluebeard asks him if he has really destroyed all the evidence, even the stuff he’d hidden online, and once Sharp assures him he has, Bluebeard shoots him in the head. When he was ranting to Hobbes (during his bath), he said that no one changes their basic nature. He was talking of Bigby, but he could have been talking of himself. He was a violent coward before and he is a violent coward now.

Thus ends the third arc (not including the Jack tale, which, at one issue, hardly constitutes an arc) and the shortest one so far. It has a fun set up, but something goes deeply wrong with the resolution. The good guys set Sharp us as a pedophile by somehow posing him with a boy. True, the boy is centuries old, but he is a boy nonetheless. At no point in the story does Sharp come across as a real threat to anyone. What he is proposing to do could expose the whole community, true, but his longest appearance is sitting, asleep, on a toilet with his pants at his feet. And to stop this threat the good guys manufacture child porn? I said, in discussing issue ten, that these characters don’t share our twenty first century sensibilities, but this is really pushing it.

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