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Fables #22

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Tony Akins (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i)

Publisher: Vertigo Comics

The Plot:
As the ex-wives of Prince Charming gather together for their annual meeting we're given our first look at Cinderella, who looks to be a classic example of the bubble-headed blond. However we soon discover she's something far worse, as we join her in Paris as she meets up with Ichabob Crane, who is prepared to sell information to the Adversary, who Cinderalla looks to be actively working for. However a plot twist in the final pages turns everything on its head.

The Good:
While I'm a bit concerned this book is coming across as a bit unfocused thanks to its inclusion of two issues that could be considered standalone reads in the middle of an arc that had built up a promising head of steam, I will say that part of me is delighted to get these standalone affairs in the midst of a market place that seems more interested in offering up the five-seven part arcs that can be easily collected in trade paperback form. It also does hurt that this issue is a wonderful display of misdirection on Bill Willingham's part as we get a look at a dangerous situation in the making, in which a trusted member of the Fables community looks to be an operative of the Adversary, and they have made contact with another member of the Fables community who looks like they are willing to turn traitor in order to secure a position of power when the Adversary expands his reach once again. However, everything we're led to believe is thrown on its ear in the final pages, as we are shown everything is not what it appears, and in one of the more unsettling moments of the series, we see a main character of this book's cast does something that is sure to leave a sense of doubt in the minds of readers at just who much trust one should place in the idea that this character will always do the right thing. I also rather enjoyed the interaction between the two characters on the final page, as they make for a fun pairing.

Tony Akins has a nice expressive style that manages to perfectly sell the contrast between the sweetness and light visual that is Cinderella with the questionable nature of her actions in this issue. I also have to say I loved the visual of Ichabob Crane, as he looks exactly like the type of person who would sell out the secrets of the Fables community to advance his own interests, and one has to get a bit squeamish when Cinderella looks to be heads over heels in love with this man. The art also does some solid work on the facial expressions as Cinderella wears all of her emotions on her face, or rather the emotions that she wants you to see, as there's a great little moment she shifts from bubbly and cheerful to dead serious as she warns Ichabob about calling what he calls the Adversary. Now the level of detail isn't overly impressive, as the double page spread of the River Seine was a bit crude looking, but than again we do get those famous stone steps from "An American in Paris" which was a fun visual treat.

The Bad:
One element that I wish this book would get around to explaining is how a character whose fate at the end of their Fable sounded pretty final can be walking around very much alive in the pages of this series. Case in point the Fable who plays a key role in this issue is Ichabod Crane, and while I have to confess that while I've never read his Fable, the ending to Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow made a pronounced impact of my childhood as it was the first show I ever encountered in which the hero didn't make it out alive. As such the idea that Ichabod was killed by the Headless Horseman after a truly harrowing chase sequence is very much etched into my psyche, and as such it just seems wrong to have him running around in the pages of this issue. I've also encountered this problem with Bigby Wolf, who was killed at the end of his encounters with the Three Little Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood, but it's been established that the Big Bad Wolf is host to a pretty formidable healing factor, something which clearly doesn't extend to all Fables, as Bluebeard was killed by Prince Charming. Now I realize that Snow White was able to survive getting a bullet through her head, and that her recovery was explained by the Mundies belief in her character, but I simply linked this to her character having been given a happily ever after ending, and as such the Mundies have every reason to believe she was still alive. This theory doesn't hold much water when it comes to Ichabod though as I'm sure most Mundies would hold to the theory that he was a victim of the Headless Horseman.

She Looks Like An Angel:
I love it when a comic is able to catch me off guard, and when an issue is able to do it twice within the confines of its twenty-two pages I have to give the writer full credit. This is a lovely display of how a writer can play with the expectations of the reader, as we're introduced to a situation that is clearly spelled out as evil plotting between two unsavory Fables, but after one adjusts to the idea that these two characters are members of the evil camp, the issue pulls off a masterful plot twist that changes the entire situation. There's also a wonderfully chilling moment where we see a trusted member of the Fables community does something that is quite unsettling, and one is left with the impression that not only have they done this before, but they have very little compunction about doing it again should the need arise. We're also given a solid introduction to the last of Prince Charming's conquests, and I have to say Cinderella makes for a wonderful femme fatale. One has to love her introduction where she details why she's the most unfortunate of the three women who hooked up with Prince Charming.



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