Monday, February 2, 2009

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#20 - Red, White, And Blue

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

pp 01-03 Roomies

Blue wakes up. It’s past noon, apparently. He jumps from his top bunk and impales himself on the spear of a wooden soldier left out on the floor. Unimpressed, he decides to tear a strip off his roommate Pinocchio. This is our first look at the private lives of either of these two. We know they’re both ‘boys’, but I was surprised to see the bunk bed.

Pinocchio is dressed much like a school boy, though he is wearing a winter jacket inside his apartment, and reading Frankenstein. He tells Blue there is no need to shout, and then begins to make two points. The first is that those wooden soldiers are his only memory of his father, Gepetto, who could be dead or enslaved for all he knows. He treasures them and would never leave them all over the floor. Unlike Flycatcher, who has no respect for his feelings and keeps sneaking in to play with them. The second is that if Blue didn’t sleep so late on his days off, Fly could never sneak into play with them in the first place! Speaking of Fly, he’s left a message. Bigby wants to see Blue, ASAP.

pp 04-11 Charmed

Riding Hood is giving an account of her escape. After being abused by the Adversary’s men, she was sent into slavery. Then, after what would be two centuries, given the chronology given by Blue in ‘The Last Castle’, she was able to escape through the Oz portal into Canada. Interestingly, it doesn’t link into Kansas. Some goblins followed her through, but she managed to escape them, thanks to the sacrifices of the Fable guards, and make her way to New York. Cole is beside himself. She is the first escapee from the Homelands in over a hundred years!

If the mayor is being charmed, Charming is trying to exercise a little of that namesake attribute himself at Edward Bear’s Candies, the local confectionary. He begins with a line from The Music Man, but quickly brings things to a point. For the first time ever Fabletown’s coffers are overflowing, and what is Cole doing with all that money? He’s sitting on it, treating it as though it were his own personal fortune. It’s not right! Mundies enjoy a cradle to grave welfare state - this is George W.’s America he’s talking about, remember - but Fables have to fend for themselves. Why, if Charming were mayor he’d spend it on their needs. Free glamours for everyone! Just sign his petition.

But if the day sees things moving ahead for Cole and Charming, it is about to derail for two people. The obvious person to confirm that this is Little Red Riding Hood is, of course, is Little Boy Blue. But their big moment is as full of recrimination as it is surprise. How could he have left her there for the soldiers to abuse? He’s worse than they are! At least they didn’t pretend to love her.

Snow to Bigby: ‘This didn’t turn out well.’

Bigby: ‘On the contrary, it makes perfect sense. It’s precisely the right move for her to make.’

pp 12-13 More New Arrivals

A storm has hit Manhattan, and not just the metaphorical kind. Three men walk down a rainy street. They are dressed like Secret Service agents and are indistinguishable, except for their hair colouring. When a hot dog vender offers to sell them his wares, they become enraged. The idea that they eat food is somehow deeply offensive. They refrain from disciplining him, however, because they are under instructions to avoid the local authorities and to find two things: Bullfinch Street, the center of Fabletown, and guns.

pp 13-19 Suspicions

While Cole is showing Riding Hood her room in his personal penthouse, and not coming across at all creepy, no…, Bigby is sharing his suspicions with Snow.

He starts by reminding her that he fought in both world wars. Apparently, most Fables chose not to get involved, but he’d been living in America a long time and felt he owed it to his adopted homeland. He assures her that he never revealed his true nature to anyone, but we’ll later learn that isn’t exactly so. Sometimes they would plant a spy among the enemy. Interestingly, they show the Americans planting one among the Germans. In most stories it’s the other way around. To make it all the more convincing, they would sometimes chase the spy right into enemy hands, or they would deliberately wound him, or both. Remember Riding Hood’s stories? When she first escaped into the last castle she had goblin riders on her trail, and they wounded her, but didn’t kill her. When she escaped this time, four goblins followed her right through the portal.

Bigby then points out three problems with her account. First, when the Adversary’s armies said they would kill everyone, they meant it. So why didn’t they kill her? It’s unheard of. Second, the gate she came through was blocked from the other side, by the Adversary and not by them. How did she get through it? Who opened it for her? And third, where did she learn to drive? And an eighteen wheeler? There aren’t any cars in the Homelands. For that matter, where did the goblins learn to drive?

Okay, so none of it constitutes proof, but his suspicious mind at least has some reasonable grounding. While he does look for proof, he asks that she try to keep the Mayor in check. He is just a little too eager to accept their new refugee.

pp 20 A Beginning

Charming and Hobbes return with sixty-seven signatures. He is full of optimism and sure that his pitch will work even better at the Farm. Maybe they should get a flag?

As they enter, Bigby is leaving. He tells Grimble that he is going away for a few days and gives him some instructions.

pp 21-22 Old Acquaintances

Cole is dining his guest and assuring her that the amnesty process is almost complete. She will need to talk with Bigby, but the Mayor assures her that he’s changed from their last meeting. At first she’s confused, she doesn’t know who he means, but then she realizes that it’s the wolf that ate her grandmother. ‘First you subject me to the boy who abandoned me to be raped and enslaved, and now you’ll have me interrogated by the wolf who tried to kill me? This world is madness!’

Madness? Yes! Colin’s warning is about to come to pass and our new visitors are only the first in a wave of… Well, that would be telling!

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