Monday, March 2, 2009

Issue By Issue: Bill Willingham's Fables

#24 - The Letter

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

pp 01-05 Morning On The Farm

It is morning on the Farm and everyone is snug in their beds. A group of birds, I wouldn’t call it a flock because no two are alike, are snuggled up together, predator and prey alike. The (new) Three Little Pigs are asleep in their cottage. Bagheera is asleep in her cell. In the barn a milkmaid sleeps on her stool, while the cow that jumped over the moon, and the dish and the spoon, all sleep beside her. Weyland, also in the barn, is asleep under the tractor he’d been working on. Peace and quite everywhere? Not a chance.

Red gets up. Yes, she’s been sleeping in the barn. She and Weyland were ‘working on a tractor all night.’ There’s a new euphemism for you. One of Bo Peep’s little sheep is bouncing around being annoying. As Red enters the office she is met by Mr. Badger. I assume it’s Mr. Badger from Wind In The Willows. I don’t know of any others. Apparently Badger had an encounter with Missy Skunk. He swears it wasn’t amorous, but no one believes him. Even Red has taken to calling him ‘Stinky’. They relieve Mustard Pot Peter, who covered the night shift. He has had a busy night. Baba Yaga’s chicken legged house has been running rabid all night and they’ve had no luck trying to bring it under control. We cut to an image of the house with many characters hanging on for dear life. There is Puss ’n Boots, card soldiers from Alice In Wonderland, Reynard, Chicken Little, a crocodile with a collar, and various monkeys and farm animals. There is also the Sunflower that has shown up in several backgrounds. Apparently he is from an English nursery rhyme about a sunflower constantly bothered by bees. Pete would have contacted Red, but he couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in her room.

Now why would the home of Baba Yaga, the notorious Russian witch, suddenly be so agitated?

pp 06-10 Blue And Red Riding Hood, Again

Pinocchio and Flycatcher are meeting with Snow. Bufkin, Honest John, the Woodland’s doorman, and Grimble are there too. Blue has been gone five days. He might have eloped, but everyone is worried. Bigby isn’t there, so they’ll have to organize the search themselves.

Blue, of course, is the fake Riding Hood’s prisoner. He is ashen and bloody. She has been torturing him for information and, while he has resisted far better than she anticipated, it looks like she is done with him. She tells him of the real Riding Hood and of her surprise at seeing him alive. She had hoped to maintain her disguise longer, but running into two people who knew Riding Hood, Blue and Bigby, shot that plan down. Frankly, I can’t see how she thought she could keep her secret with lackeys like Hugh, Drew, and Lou. When they question whether Blue is conscious enough to hear her, and she tells them their senses aren’t as acute as hers, they take the comment as an insult too great to bear and would have killed her if she wasn’t as powerful as she is. They are like that all the time. There is no course except immediate action with these three around. By way of apology they offer to make a stew of Blue, but she has other plans for the bugle boy. Besides, she’s happy eating the babies they have been stealing for her.

pp 11-22 Crash Mode

Snow is awakened in the middle of the night. It’s Bigby. He is at the North Canada Gate. The one our fake Riding Hood arrived at. It has been opened from the other side - the Adversary controlled side - and the garrison has been slaughtered. A great many have crossed through and it looks like an invasion is imminent. He tells her to put Fabletown in ‘crash mode’ and that he’ll be there as soon as he destroys the gate.

Cut to our three wooden soldiers arming themselves. ‘It is my fondest desire to bust a host of caps into multitudes of fleshy personages.’

Snow has convened an emergency meeting. It’s mostly characters we’ve seen before, though we do see Muffet’s husband, Mr. Spider. Cinderella wants to know what’s going on. She has been out of town a few days and everything is upside down. So this it when her trip to Paris happens! It would have made sense to bring her story up an issue, but there is no point in rehashing that. Snow announces a ‘full security lockdown’ and reminds them that they have practiced for this eventuality. Beast reminds her that it has been centuries since the last practice. Cole suggests they suspend the election. Mrs. Spider wants to know where Bigby is. He is usually in charge of these things.

Snow tells them to stop panicking. She is about to assign them their roles when a shot is heard. It’s the three wooden soldiers. They are carrying a naked and bloodied Blue and have shot Trusty John. Jack is there, shouting about how they didn’t believe him and now look! Here are his attackers! The wooden soldiers dump Blue and proceed to read a letter to Fabletown from the Emperor. He compares the community of exiles to the prodigal son, an interesting reference to the New Testament, and assures them that, while he is busy with other lands, he hasn’t forgotten them. He is sending an envoy, whom he still addresses as Red Riding Hood, and a garrison of soldiers. The soldiers are to collect every magical item they have. Resistance will cost dearly. The only one who does anything while the letter is being read is Charming who goes to comfort John. Snow went to Blue before they started reading. The wooden soldiers announce one more thing. They will also be collecting Pinocchio, ‘the first carved.’ Now this would go some ways to explaining Hood’s surprise at seeing him. You’ll also remember that the three claim to be carved in the Emperor’s image. Lots of clues in this issue!

The three leave, warning the Fables that they have twenty-four hours. Snow orders Blue and John taken to the hospital. Meanwhile, Pinocchio is packing. He hopes that leaving will avert a war, and warns Flycatcher that he was once wooden himself. ‘They’re tough, strong, need no food, or sleep, and feel no pain. We’re in big trouble.’ But there is something more important here. If what the wooden soldiers say is true, then Pinocchio has just gotten the first real piece of news about his father since he left the Homelands. Gepetto is alive, but he is also, Pinocchio believes, a slave of the Adversary.

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