Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham (p), Steve Leialoha (i)
The book opens in the offices of Bluebeard, as we find a small mouse & a tiny human have been sent on a mission to read the villain's journal & learn if he means any harm to the Fables community. We then look in on Snow White & Bigby Wolf, as we see Snow is eagerly looking forward to her impending freedom, as Bigby has been acting as her constant shadow for months, and now that she's almost fully recovered from her injury, she's ready to cast off her overprotective baby-sitter. After a look in on Bluebeard as he manages to humiliate Prince Charming in a fencing competition, we get a quick update on the various problem areas in the Fables community, as we learn Red Rose has emerged as a fairly competent mayor on the Farm, while Prince Charming is busy sponging off Briar Rose's wealth. However, we then learn of a secret alliance between two members of the Fables community that have good reason to hate Snow & Bigby with a passion, and they both have a thirst for power that they believe will be realized if Snow & Bigby were taken out of the picture. However, when this secret alliance is discovered by the mouse & the tiny human spy, we see our villains are forced to step up their plans against our heroes, before the warning can get out. To this end we see a magic potion is used to send Bigby & Snow off into the wilderness, where they can be done away with.
This issue is largely focused on revealing a surprise alliance between two Fables who are looking to bring about the end of Snow White & Bigby Wolf. Now it's certainly a surprising plot twist, though now that I look back upon the issues where these characters made their initial moves against our heroes it's not to big a leap to ask the readers to believe that these two would gravitate toward each other out of a mutual desire for power. If nothing else what I found surprising is that this book has these two forced into making a move against our seemingly clueless heroes so soon after their alliance was revealed to the readers. I also have to wonder if Bigby Wolf & Snow White can even be killed, as previous issues have shown us Snow was able to survive having half of her head blown off because of humanity's collective interest in her. One also has to imagine Bigby Wolf enjoys this same degree of immunity, as I'm sure every child has encountered the Three Little Pigs & Little Red Riding Hood fables, and since Bigby Wolf was seemingly killed at the end of both those stories, there has to be something to the idea that he's able to come back from the dead. Then again our heroes are caught up in a spell that makes them quite vulnerable to attack, and the villain who had been sent to kill them is well aware of how difficult these two will be to kill.
The one element of this book that keeps this book near to top of my list of favorite titles is the clever way that Bill Willingham utilizes the various fairy tale elements in new, decidedly clever ways. This issue introduced us to the mounted police, who ride about of the backs of mice, and are used by the larger Fables to carry out acts of espionage against other Fables. We also get a better look at the role that Prince Charming played in the various stories, as we learn Snow was his first wife, followed by Briar Rose & then Cinderella, and one can assume every other fable that ended with a dashing young prince riding off with the fair young princess was Prince Charming making has way from fable to fable. We also have a Fable curse making its presence felt in the final pages of this issue, as we see one of our villains unleashes a mist that makes out heroes follow his every whim. Speaking of villains, now that I think about it I do have to wonder whatever happened to the more villainous members of the Fable community (e.g. the child cooking witches, wicked stepmothers, and mad kings), as while most of them were killed off at the ends of their respective fables, so was Bigby Wolf, so one imagines they are all still alive, and out in the real world with their wicked plots. In fact the more I think about it the more untapped ideas seem to pop up, and I can't help but believe this title is never going to run out of material as long as Bill Willingham is at the helm.
I was rather disheartened when Mark Buckingham left the book at the conclusion of the "Animal Farm" arc, as while I do like the rotating art, the simple fact of the matter is that I'm a huge fan of Mark Buckingham's work so I don't like it when he drops off the map, with no word of where I can see his work next. However his return for this two-parter would seem to suggest that I can expect this book to be a regular stopping point for his art, and this pushes my enjoyment of this series to an even higher level. Mark Buckingham's art is clean, but with a fine eye for detail, and his panel design work is some of the best in the business, as there's some very clever touches in this issue, from the fencing match between Bluebeard & Prince Charming playing out across the bottom of the pages, to the interlocking panel design that is employed when we first look in on our two villains as they carry out their villainous plotting. There's also some wonderful visual touches like the idea that neither of our villains can see very well without their glasses, or the sense of horror on the mounted police officer's face when his mount is run through with a knife. I also have to make mention of the lovely cover layouts that this book offers up, though once again I have to say the image did spoil yet another surprise, as it does reveal the identity of the mystery villain.
I honestly have to say this is fast becoming one of my favorite titles, as Bill Willingham has a wonderful sense of imagination, and a very strong sense of how to tell a story, as the cast members of this book are very well-defined, while at the same time they remain true to the fable origins. Now there have been some fun surprises along the way such as the Big Bad Wolf being cast as the head of security, while Goldilocks is a certifiable lunatic. However, the biggest appeal for myself is the way this series interjects all the various fable elements to for a larger picture, as how can one not love the idea of using a Lilliputian to spy on the activities of the big people, or having the villains use a magic potion to send our heroes off into the wilds where they can be killed. I also enjoy the quick pace of this series, as there's never really any issues where I get the sense that issue's are being padded, as every part of the issue has something to mull over, or else a scene where one has to admire how a particular aspect of a fable has been employed.
What did you think of this book?
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