Monday, December 29, 2008

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#14 - The Mouse Police Never Sleep

Writer: Bill Willingham; Pencils: Mark Buckingham; Inker: Steve Leiahola; Colour: Daniel Vozzo; Letterer: Todd Klein; Cover: James Jean.

pp 01-11 Spring Time In Fabletown

A mouse sticks its head out of potted plant and gives the all clear to its sergeant. A tiny man, sitting in a saddle on the mouse’s back and wearing a uniform reminiscent of a London bobby, says, let’s get this ‘distasteful business over with.’ From the d├ęcor, we know they are in Bluebeard’s office.

It is spring in Fabletown and the days continue to fly by. Bigby and Snow are out for a stroll, with Blue pushing her wheelchair. The Deputy Mayor is holding the Sheriff to a promise. If she can walk up and down Bullfinch, the center of Fabletown, three times under her own power, he’ll stop babying her. She is using two forearm crutches.

We see the many businesses of Fabletown. We’ve seen Edward Bear’s Candies and the Eggman diner before. There is also Nod’s Books, possibly named for the children’s poem Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Or it could be named for the Land of Nod. Many children’s stories are told at bedtime. The store is promoting its ‘Comics Nook’. There is also Lewis Antiques, named, perhaps, for Lewis Carol, the Chateau D’If Fencing Academy (the Chateau D’If is a real place and an important setting in The Count Of Monte Cristo), and the Yellow Brick Road House, its name inspired by The Wizard Of Oz. We also see the Grand Green Florist Shop and the Ford something. The sign cuts off so I am not even guessing. Grand Green could be understood as Green Giant, the mascot for the frozen vegetable company.

Snow is trying to talk business, but Bigby has little to report. She asks about his field agents, the Tourists, whose job it is to keep tabs on Fables who do not live in Fabletown or the Farm. We’ve met one, the scarecrow Feathertop, in the short story ‘A Wolf In The Fold.’ But there is nothing to report there, either. Up on the Farm Red is settling in to her new job, and rejecting Jack’s attempts to reunite. The last bit of information Bigby has to share is, by his own admission, just gossip. Charming has taken up with Briar, wife number two, again. Snow doesn’t care and the Wolf says he is glad to hear it. She tells him to lay off. She’s not interested.

Inside the fencing academy the students are settling in for a rare treat, Bluebeard will fence Prince Charming. Bluebeard is the town’s best swordsman, but he may well have a match in the Prince. But not today. Charming goes down, five to zip. Bluebeard manages to be magnanimous and gloating at the same time. Charming can’t wait to leave.

While they duel Sergeant Wilfred, of the Mounted Police, continues his mission. He doesn’t like espionage, but his mount, Corporal Rex enjoys getting away from the Farm. Willingham had originally hoped to use Captain Hook instead of Bluebeard and the idea remains alive within the man’s office. There is a hook on display, a painting of a tall ship on the wall, and even Bluebeard’s journal has a sail boat illustrating the frontispiece - Wilfred popped open the locked diary, volume two thousand!, with a knife - the illustration is small, but it reminds me of ‘Tales Of The Black Freighter’ from Watchmen. That may just be my imagination, but check it out and compare.

pp 12-22 Revenge

We aren’t told what’s in Bluebeard’s journal, but we do see who is in his bed. It’s Goldilocks, revolutionary and fugitive. Bluebeard insists he has a plan to get her out, but is playing it close to the chest. Meanwhile, his guest has been filling her time by making unwelcomed sexual advances to the help. It turns out that Hobbes isn’t interested in human women, so even that is going nowhere. The blonde menace is beside herself with boredom. That changes tonight. Wilfred and Rex spot her and rush off to report. She spots them, running down the clock, and a madcap chase ensues. It ends with Bluebeard tripping and smashing face first into the floor and Rex skewered to a door on a knife thrown by Hobbes.

Bluebeard hadn’t believed Goldilocks when she went off in pursuit of the spy, but seeing the saddle on the mouse he decides the time to act is now, before the rider can make his report. He rouses Snow and Bigby to the Sheriff’s office and reports that Jack has tried to sell him an illegal magical item. He holds up what looks like an old perfume bottle. He opens it, releasing a green vapour that puts the two under his control. He is unaffected. That could be in the nature of the magic. It might be something in the bandage the fall left over his nose. We aren’t privy to the orders he gives them, except the hypnotic suggestion that, should they survive, ‘everything was Jack’s fault.’ Snow immediately goes to the Mayor and tells him the she is going camping. With Bigby. Cole is distressed, but doesn’t stop them. Finally we see Bluebeard giving his instructions to Goldilocks. She can’t bring a gun on a flight, but she will have a strong glamour with which to hide her identity. Once the two are far from civilization she is to kill them and make sure their bodies are never found.

And that sets everything up for some big resolutions: Bluebeard’s revenge, Goldilocks’ revenge, and the budding, if yet to actually be developed, romance between the Princess and the Wolf.

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