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Fables #9

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham (p), Steve Leialoha (p)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book open with Red Rose & Goldilocks openly debating what is to be done with the recently captured Snow White, as Red isn't willing to kill her sister, while Red's opposition is the only thing holding back Goldilocks' itchy trigger finger. After it's decided to chain Snow up alongside Weyland Smith, the group heads off to continue their plans for the impending revolution, and we see Weyland's quick to exploit a loophole in the spell that keeps him from doing anything to aid in his own escape, as he fashions a key that opens the locks on Snow's manacles. We then see Snow makes a considerable effort to find a way to free Weyland, before Reynard the Fox arrives to point out the idea that the key that opened her chains will probably open his as well. With their freedom secured, the complete confidence in the chains' ability to hold them captive, results in there being no guard. We then see Snow puts in motion a plan to end this revolution in a single move, as she awakens the sleeping giants & the dragon, and she then approaches the gathered members of the rebellion to let them know that if they don't surrender, she'll let the giants do their best Godzilla impressions on the Farm. However, the quick surrender is far from being the end of this story.

Comments:
I guess the best word to describe this issue is wow!!! I mean this issue goes along happily presenting itself as the big finish to the Animal Farm arc, and everything looks to have been resolved in a fairly clever fashion, when Bill Willingham delivers a moment that easily rates as one of the most shocking scenes I've ever seen in the pages of a comic. That final panel has me thanking the lucky stars that the next issue ships one the vary same day I'm writing this review, so the wait isn't going to be all the agonizing, but you can bet which title will be first on my reading list when I get back from the comic shop. Now there's still a chance that Bill Willingham might have some trick up his sleeves that will reveal this final panel was simply a cruel trick being played on the readers, but if this scene holds up then the status quo of this title has been rocked to its very core. I mean this is a scene that will be pointed at as the moment that changed everything, and will forever leave readers on the edge as if Bill Willingham can do what he does at the end of this issue, then he has given himself the freedom to do anything. I mean this is like killing off Superman & not bringing him back, or leaving Batman crippled for life. It's simply not done.

As much as I want to discuss the big shocker that ends this issue, and the implications that this moment will have on this series, I'm going to make a tremendous effort to devote this column to the discussion of the rest of the issue. Not that the rest of the issue isn't worthy of discussion, as it nicely wraps up most of the crisis that had developed on the Farm, but that final scene is so overwhelming that it makes focusing on anything else difficult. Still, this issue does a pretty nice job of establishing the idea that Rose Red isn't quite so bad, as she makes an active effort to hold off the trigger-happy Goldilocks. There's also a highly amusing escape plan as we see for all her intelligence, Snow White is completely unable to spot the patently obvious, as her mind simply isn't geared to look for the most obvious solution. This in turn results in a highly amusing one-sided conversation, as Snow tries to question Weyland Smith about how she can help him escape, and when she finally puts the pieces together his exasperation over how long it took her to do so is absolutely hilarious. There's also the way that Snow comes up with for quashing the revolution, as it's a fairly simple solution, but it's also an extraordinarily effective one.

Mark Buckingham continues to prove himself as the ideal artist for this title, and with his departure/removal from "Peter Parker: Spider-Man" I sincerely hope his stay on this series lasts beyond this current arc. His ability to deliver the various emotional states of the cast is very impressive, from Goldilocks' vigilance, to Snow White look of stunned disbelief when it dawns on her how easily Weyland Smith can be freed. One also has to smile at Weyland Smith's look of concern when Snow is attempting to bash his manacles open with a hammer & a pick. There's also the idea that a large part of this book's cast is animals, and yet the art has very little trouble detailing the various emotional states of the characters, while avoiding the more obvious ones such as bared teeth, or raised fur. However, the real detail that makes Mark Buckingham such a nice fit on this title is his ability to capture the big moments, as the double-page spread where Snow reveals her plan for quashing the revolution is very impressive, though one wonders how she kept the approach of these allies a secret. Then of course there's the final page, which I've studied quite intently in my failed attempt to discover the clue that indicated this scene isn't what it appears to be.

Final Word:
This is an issue that acts to set this book into a rare group of titles where one gets the feeling that the writer has complete freedom to do whatever they want, as the only other title that has shown an equal willingness to use this freedom has be Marvel's "X-Statix". I mean for all intents an purposes this issue looked to be the final chapter of this Animal Farm arc, and if it had ended one page earlier than it did I would've been praising this book as a solid finish to a very enjoyable arc. However the final page of this issue catapults this arc to a whole new level, as the price that this victory looks to have cost is a complete shocker, and if this scene stands then I have to say that Bill Willingham will have me utterly convinced that he is willing to do anything in his pursuit of a story that will keep the readers on their toes. I mean we're only nine issues into the series, and Bill Willingham has already made it clear this book is not afraid of making big changes, and shocking moves designed to starve off the feeling of complacency.



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