Monday, February 16, 2009

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#22 - Cinderella Libertine

Writer: Bill Willingham; Pencils: Tony Atkins; Inker: Palmiotti; Colour: Daniel Vozzo; Letterer: Todd Klein; Cover: James Jean.

pp 01-04 Girl Talk

Snow White, Briar Rose, and Cinderella all meet for lunch at the Stone Soup, a Fable restaurant named for a Grimm tale, in which some starving villagers are tricked into parting with some food, just a little from each, so that everyone can enjoy a meal. Its unusual, for a German folktale, in that nothing gruesome happens and everyone one ends up a winner. The three women are discussing what is really their only common point of reference, their ex. Cinderella is displaying the potty mouth that Bluebeard first took her to task for twenty issues ago. Snow says she isn't embarrassed by this frankness, but that's not true. She and Briar ask Cinderella was she is still so angry.

Cinderella argues that she has more of a right to be angry than they do. Snow was his first love. Neither she nor her groom had any reason to think he'd turn out to be such a heel. With Briar he could have convinced himself that his cheating on Snow was just a one time thing. It would never happen again. And the true love kiss that awoken Briar was proof that he really did love her. But once he got to Cinderella, he had no such delusions. He knew what he was and he used her.

But apparently Charming isn't the only thing getting on Cinderella's nerves. Her show store, The Glass Slipper, isn't doing well and she has decided to beat her creditors to her assets and spend them all on a blow out trip to Paris. She leaves the other two and immediately grabs a cab to the airport.

pp 05-16 Parisian Rendezvous

She books a room at a fancy hotel, slips into a negligee, and makes a mysterious phone call. She assures the other party that everyone in Fabletown bought her story and that none of them suspect the real reason for her visit. She reassuringly says, 'You're my Lord and Master, and secretly I serve only you!' She has a knock at her door. It's Ichabod Crane, of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame. And he looks like a crane. Tall, skinny, with a huge beak of a nose. She greets him with a shriek, 'Icky!' and jumps into his arms. He responds as a nineteenth century school teacher and pedant, telling her he hates diminutives. Cinderella turns on the tears and in a moment he's at her feet. 'I'm positively addled with my love for you!' Its only for her that he is willing to 'sell out Fabletown and the entire mundy world' to the Adversary. It seemed odd that Willingham would break up the Wooden Soldier storyline, with its impending attack on Fabletown, with the story of a pretty blonde's holiday in Paris, but maybe there is a connection. Other than Willingham's new found love of the word 'addled', I mean. Ichabod uses it here and wooden soldier Hugh used it in the last issue, after Jack knocked him from the fire escape. Odd.

Its the morning after and we've been spared the visuals of Icky naked. Well, almost. He's not wearing much besides the bed sheet. Cinderella is fully dressed. They've had some fun, but before they have any more, there is business. She has pulled out a great scroll on which Crane is promised the role of Governor-General once our world is conquered. Cinderella will be his consort, once they're married. The Adversary himself will perform the ceremony, though Cinderella cautions him to never call him that. All of his loyal subjects call him the Emperor.

The document signed, they go out for breakfast, but before they do she secretly makes a call, telling someone they'll be out for an hour. While they stroll the streets of Paris we learn a few things about Crane. He once ran Fabletown, as Cole's Deputy Mayor, and Snow was his assistant. But there was a scandal. Apparently, he made advances on Snow, which weren't appreciated, and there was talk of embezzling funds. He resigned to avoid charges. Once the Adver-…um, Emperor has taken over, Crane would like to hang Snow in a public square. He asks Cinderella for her story and she says that she'll tell him after they get back to the hotel. She admits, however, that she was already a spy when she came to Fabletown.

pp 17-22 Truth And Consequences

They return to their room and he is all over her, at least until they get through the door. Then she breaks her engagement and introduces him to her boss, the one Lord and master she secretly serves, Bigby Wolf. Crane is shocked, ‘You’re the Adversary?’ No. And Cinderella isn’t a spy for the Adversary, either. She is one of Bigby’s three secret agents, the Tourists. We’ve only met the first one, Feathertop, in a short prose story in the first trade. And we will meet the third one, but not yet. It turns out the Crane was willing to give the Adversary a complete run down of their strengths, including an inventory of their magical items. Crane pleads his innocence, arguing that he was trying to prove Cinderella was the traitor. No one is buying it. He tries to flee, but Cinderella lays him out with one punch. Bigby asks her to leave and then gets Crane to the window, where he tells him to let him know when he sees Cinderella. While he’s looking, Bigby raises a statue of Napoleon over his head and… outside a cab runs over a pumpkin. It’s a terrible mess. You’ll recall Crane was a victim of the Headless Horseman, who replaced his missing noggin with a pumpkin.

Bigby and Cinderella grab a cab, with him casting aspersions on the French. She accuses him of having rehearsed his insults and he doesn’t deny it.

It’s a fun issue, but an odd one. The title of the story reminds me of a 1973 James Caan film called Cinderella Liberty, but the two stories have no connection. When collected into a trade, it is put at the beginning of volume five. After the story it interrupts. So why interrupt the story? Perhaps in order to limit the number of times Bigby leaves Fabletown on business trips. He is also going somewhere in order to investigate Riding Hood’s story, but given their destinations, it makes for a very long trip. We do learn something of the history of Fabletown and we learn that the Adversary is properly addressed as the Emperor. I enjoy Atkins art for the most part. He has nailed Crane and done a great job with Cinderella. I especially like the image in the first panel on page seven. She is largely blacked out, except for her smile. Very much like something Eduardo Risso would do. You get to see who the hunter really is. But I don’t like his Bigby. Normally a dishevelled character, he looks positively greasy here. We will get to see secret agent Cinderella again, but next week we are back to our main story.

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