Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham (p), Steve Leialoha (i)
As the three mystery men set about buying some guns, we see Jack is having a difficult time convincing Bigby and Snow that these three men are out there and look to be rogue fables with dangerous plans. Meanwhile Little Boy Blue finds his depression is lifted when Red Riding Hood pays him a visit and apologizes for her earlier rejection of him. We then see the two enjoy each others company before Blue makes a discovery that puts him in a bit of a bad spot. Meanwhile Prince Charming continues his bid to become mayor of Fabletown, and these plans are starting sound a bit ominous.
I want to say the "Nutcracker" when it comes to the fable that Bill Willingham is drawing on when it comes to this story's villains, as while I've only seen the story once and that was when I was a little kid who had no interest in sitting through a ballet, the elements that this issue offers up do seem to match my rough recollection of a story about a one-legged solider, and his battles with evil rats. In any event, it doesn't really matter all that much as my lack of knowledge about the fable that Bill Willingham is drawing upon allows me to be surprised by the big twist in the final pages with its eye opening revelation about Red Riding Hood. The issue also manages to have some fun with the idea that these characters exist in a world where Fables are a reality, as I had to smile at the scene where Jack actually points out that he knows the Boy Who Cried Wolf which defeats the whole point that Snow White was trying to make. There's also a wonderful little moment where we see Prince Charming is busy making plans and his plans include installing a new sheriff and Chief administrator and his choices are a rather clever parallel to the Bigby and Snow White. This issue also explains how Bigby survived his encounter with the woodsman at the end of his encounter with Red Riding Hood, which I've been curious about ever since the character was first revealed in the pages of this title. Now all we need to know is how he emerged from his encounter with the three Little Pigs and I'll be a happy camper.
Mark Buckingham is about as perfect a match one could hope for on this series, as he has a animated style that fits the fairy tale elements of this book, but he's also a very effective artist when is come to the delivery of the more serious-minded aspects of the story, such as the panel that shows us the body of the gun shop clerk when the three mystery men are done with him, or the equally sinister panel where we see Little Boy Blue is attacked by a truly painful looking attack. The highly expressive art also helps to deliver the story, as I loved Snow's reaction when Jack answers her question about the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and Red Riding Hood's reaction when she's introduced to Pinocchio makes it clear that this is a very important bit of information being offered up. I also love the way the panel designs are used to reflect the characters in them, as Old King Cole gets a tea pot design, while Prince Charming gets a more heroic looking shield. Heck even the page numbering gets in on the design elements, and of course as always the cover is a lovely bit of visual design.
There's nothing much wrong with this issue, but I will say that I found Little Boy Blue's behavior in the final pages to be a bit silly, as after learning some important information that the Fable community needs to know, he decides the smartest thing to do is directly confront the one person who would want to keep what he knows under wraps. Now I realize that this scene falls under the same rule that has the heroine running up to the roof of a building or hiding in a closet one can't get out of when they are being chased by the ax murderer, as it's more exciting when they do this rather than the sensible thing, but I have to say I found myself openly wondering why Blue picked such an inopportune moment to confront her with the information he discovered about her. I mean this is the type of information that would actually be put to better use if she wasn't aware that he knew it, and as this issue reveals the only thing his telling her he was on to her game managed to accomplish was to force her hand, so that he ends up being a liability she has to deal with, rather than a potential ally that she believes she's manipulating. I also have to question the intelligence of the clerk at the gun shop, as I don't think one could encounter customers who project a more ominous quality than these three. I realize he could be a greedy little man with visions of money dancing in his head, but surely he would have some reservations about the customers who wanted to buy one of every kind of gun he carries, or when they started asking about where they could buy bombs.
Oh Give Me Guns, Lots Of Guns:
This issue takes us to the point of the story when the villains are forced to move against our heroes, and Bill Willingham has managed to set the pieces into place so that it would appear our heroes have no idea what they are facing. I mean there's a great little scene where Jack is trying to give Bigby information he needs to know, and because Jack is a born scam artist who has always been working an angle in the past, Bigby's normally razor sharp senses seem to be off their game. Of course given Bigby has a history of revealing he knows far more than he lets on, this could very well be his way of testing if Jack is telling the truth. In any event the final sequence of this issue manages to tie Red Riding Hood and the three mystery men together, and it's clear that Little Boy Blue has discovered something that is sure to get reader thinking, as his comments make it clear that there's more to Red Riding Hood than one would've expected going in. The subplot involving Prince Charming's run for mayor is also moving along nicely, and this issue makes it clear that should he get the top job this book is going to undergo some dramatic changes. The material involving the three mystery men was also rather cute, as it's clear they are strangers in a strange land.
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