Monday, February 9, 2009

Issue By Issue - Bill Willingham's Fables

#21 - Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One, But A Man Walks Into A Bar…

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

pp 01-10 New York Pub Crawl

We’re at the Branstock Tavern, Bullfinch Street. The Branstock is a great oak tree in Norse mythology. Beside it is The Glass Slipper Shoes, whose name origin should be obvious. At the bar Jack is trying to sell Alan Moore a line of beans. Okay, its not Moore, its King Thrushbeard, from the Brothers Grimm tale, but his appearance is obvious inspired by the Northhampton wizard. The story Jack is selling is that his Beanstock adventure only used one of his five magic beans. He still has the other four and each can take him to the cloud Kingdoms, a land of riches unspoiled by the Adversary. If Thrushbeard could bankroll him. Thrushbeard sees through this. If magic beans are so rare they wouldn’t have been traded to him at five beans a cow. And there’s no way of knowing that the Adversary isn’t already there and even if he isn’t there is no way Thrushbeard would trust his money with Jack.

Across town, at a mundy bar, Bigby drops in to see a blind man named Kay. Kay is a fable. He’s the little boy from the Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen. In that story trolls, demons really, make a mirror that reflects only the bad things about someone and never the good. In fact, it exaggerates the bad. The devils attempt to take this mirror to heaven to mock God, but it falls to the earth and shatters into tiny pieces, which then get into the hearts and eyes of people, causing them to see only evil in everything. In Fables Kay sees only the evil in people, and none of the good, but the evil he sees is accurate. Ideally, he could aid Bigby by uncovering the Adversary’s agents with nothing more than a glance, but he can’t. The curse of the mirror is too much for Kay and he has cut his own eyes out. They will grow back, but that will take years. He can’t help Bigby in his efforts to stop Red Riding Hood from ingratiating herself with the rest of Fabletown.

Interestingly, as Bigby leaves Kay reminds him that he has seen into the Wolf’s heart too and that the Fables community has no idea of the extent of the terrors Bigby committed. All pre-amnesty, of course.

Back in Fabletown Jack leaves only to be followed out by the three new arrivals from last issue. They know who he is and they were listening to his conversation with Thrushbeard. They want the beans. Jack tries to put them off as gullible mundies, but they persist and start beating on Jack.

pp 11-12 Bigby’s Preparations I

Cole tells Bigby of Riding Hood’s reluctance to talk. He isn’t surprised. It a good way to protect her cover story. The Mayor wants him to sign off on the background check and start digging up something he can use against Charming, but Bigby isn’t interested. He is convinced she is a spy and is going on a trip he believes will prove it.

pp 13-14 Mayoral Race Begins

Charming sends Hobbes out with election posters. They show him putting his tie on. The idea? I’m not sure. A new morning? We do see that one of the streets of Bullfinch is named Kipling, after the British author. You’ll recall that on the Farm, the Fables whose stories are collected in his works are called by his name, suggesting a connection between our imaginations and the existence of the Fables. Bullfinch, if I haven’t mentioned it already, and I don’t think I have, is for Thomas Bulfinch (one l), a nineteenth century American who collected together many works of mythology and legend.

pp 15-20 In The Back Alley

Hobbes passes an alley and we see one of the trio standing guard. They are continuing their negotiations with Jack. His face has been beaten to a pulp, but he manages to get away and up a fire escape. He sends one of them falling down onto another and the third decides to end the chase. We learn some interesting factoids about the trio. Their names are Hugh, Lou, and Drew. Yep. Huey, Dewey, and Louie. But the only ducks these three have any connection to are the decoy kind. In the fight we see that their hair, the only way to differentiate between them, isn’t real. They are wearing wigs. And that when they fall, they snap like wood. They agree to leave and do something they should have done first, get guns.

pp 21-22 Bigby’s Preparations II

Bigby is briefing Snow about his suspicions and what he’ll need from her while he’s gone. In stumbles a badly beaten Jack. He is carrying a wooden leg, left behind by one of the ‘brothers.’ Yes! These are the wooden soldiers! The Fables don’t realize it, but this is the first real clue to the identity of the Adversary.

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