Wednesday, June 22, 2011

FABLES : Legends In Exile

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another edition of Comic Book Clash, where Comic books Clash for supremacy. This week has been kinda of topsy turvy cause originally, I had planned a review for the War of the Green Lantern's storyline, in honor of the recent movie. Unfortunately, I have yet to get my hands on the FINAL PART of that storyline. And you know me . . . I don't review stories unless they are complete. So today, we are going to do something a bit different.
     Do you like fairy tales? Do you like the grandeur of those classic fairy tales . . . whether its Beauty and the Beast or Snow White or even the Wizard of Oz. Do you look at those fairy tales and smile or laugh or even get a bit scared? Nothing wrong with that. People have been enthralled with fairly tales for centuries now. And why not? They are good stories that have been passed down through the ages of heroism and overcoming odds. And we are gonna look at such a book now. Yes! We are gonna look at the book that has captured the hearts and minds of many and is a cult classic now, even after 100 issues.

Today in Comic Book Clash, We are gonna look at Vertigo's FABLES.

Issues #1 -#5 (Legends In Exile TPB)
Story (arc) Name: Legends in Exile
Written by Bill Willingham; Art by Lan Medina & Steve Leialoha
Vertigo/DC Comics
Review by Frankie Rodriguez


      This review is gonna be a little bit shorter cause, to be honest, part of the background of the story is part of it in "Who Killed Rose Red?" So, I am just gonna exposite a little here about Bill Willingham's creation. Fables came out about a decade ago from Vertigo, the mature reader, non superheroic imprint of DC Comics. As such, the book has its fair share of violence and sex sprinkled in with mature storylines. And we are not talking Alan Moore levels of sex with fictional characters like he did in Lost Girls but just enough to realize that this book is NOT for kids. It is very much a mature book. It has fictional characters, no matter how they look, in adult situations.
      That said, the book gained momentum and has climbed upward since. The people who read the book have said nothing but good things about it. I have yet to encounter a single person who has read it that has had ANY negative feelings about the book. Non comic book readers have picked up the book and instantly became fans.
     Is Fables really worth all that hype? Let's find out. Sure I would have introduced characters by now but that is all going to be put into the story itself. Let's get started.


        We open the story with "Once Upon a Time . . . In the fictional land of New York City" as we see a cab speed in the streets of New York City. A man with long blonde hair, done in a pony tail is RUNNING out of the cab and into the building. The door man introduces him as Jack but he does not stop still he reaches the security office of Bigby Wolf. Wait . . .Bigby Wolf? Big B Wolf, as in BIG BAD WOLF?! Security office? Oh this should be good.
        Bigby asks Jack if he's climbed any beanstalks while Jack retorts if Bigby's blown down any houses. Bigby tells Jack he's busy when Jack reveals that something's happened. We cut to the Business Office, where S. White, yep, Snow White is talking with a couple . . . and not just any couple but Beauty and the Beast. And beast looks a bit  . . . beastly. Not too much but he's got horns, his eyes are black and long teeth. And Snow White, who is the deputy mayor of this section of NYC called Fabletown, isn't happy about that. Beauty and the Beast explain how hard it is to keep up their marriage after so many hundreds of years and that his slight reversion to his more beast like self is due to his wife being angry at him. Snow White, the jewel that she is, reminds the couple that they need to buy a glamour to cover that from the Mundy's (aka us regular humans) or that he will be transferred to "The Farm"; where all Fables that cannot have a human form live. Beauty goes on about how they cannot afford the buy the glamour while Snow White says she does not care.Beauty retorts that they will go to the Mayor, who is King Cole. Snow White explains how the Mayor does most of the showy stuff and how she handles all the main day to day business and they just had their appeal with City Hall. Boy Blue is dusting in the office when we see how MASSIVE the thing is. Seriously, Snow White's office is the size of a Museum. Beauty, insulted by Snow White's comments about her marriage, snaps back about her and the 7 dwarves which immediately has Boy Blue pulling the couple out of her office after Snow White gives a look that she was going to kill them; which Boy Blue confirms that you don't EVER mention the dwarves around Snow White. As the couple leave, Bigby comes by to see Snow White.
     We cut quickly to a restaurant where a waitress is smitten with a dark haired man. So smitten that when he admits he does not have money after she revealed that she wants to take him home, she still agrees to take him home AND pay for his check. When she asked who he was, he merely proclaims "Prince Charming, of course."
      Bigby goes over to Snow, telling her that he has bad news. Snow White states that she knows that her ex, Prince Charming, is back in town. Bigby says that this is about her sister, Rose Red. Snow White replies that she knows her's sister name and that she is not an idiot. Our Princess Ladies and Gentlemen. Bigby tells Snow White that her sister was a victim of violence. Bigby lights up a cigarette, looking all gruff with his unshaved face telling Snow White that Jack, who is Rose Red's boyfriend, told him about what had occurred. Snow White, at first, brushes it off, stating that Rose Red seems to be a big time party girl who has people over her apartment all the time. Then Bigby says that there was a lot of blood and that he's gonna investigate now; he was telling Snow White cause he felt she had to know. And Snow White and Bigby have a verbal tennis match for a minute till She threatens to fire him and kick him out of the building if she is not allowed to go with him to the crime scene. Well . . .EXXXXXXXXXXssssssssssuuume me Princess? Yesh.
      Before we see Snow & Bigby reach the apartment, we see Prince Charming . . . in that waitress's apartment . . .having sex with her. He says to her how he felt he needed to be as good in bed as he is in the battlefield. And I am paraphrasing. Back with Snow White and Bigby, they take a cab over to the apartment. Bigby states that he left Jack there to guard it so no one can contaminate the crime scene, which gives Snow White pause. She seemed convinced that Jack did it but Bigby says he is not sure. Snow White says she does not trust him and does not understand what Rose sees in Jack when Bigby says it was probably the fact that Snow does NOT like Jack that attracted Rose most to him. Snow White admits that her and Rose have drifted apart over the years and Bigby points out that Rose likes to embarrass her sister. Before they can continue, they reach the apartment with Jack. They open the door to see blood . . . LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of blood . . . with the words "No More Happily Ever After" written in blood on one of the walls. Bigby has Snow White hold his cigarette while he uses his senses on the crime scene and told them to stay outside. As he looks, Snow White asks why he's looking on the floor.Bigby tells them to shut up. He then picks up a lantern as well as an astray. He looks at the stereo which has . . . well, almost no blood on it. Then Movies in to the kitchen. There are holds on the refrigerator and Bigby found the padlock that fit those holes.
       Afterward, Bigby comes out, saying he is arresting Jack. Jack asks what for and Bigby says it does not matter. Jack swings at Bigby, who then twists Jack's arm around and takes him in. Snow White asks if he did it.Bigby says they will see.
           The next day comes and Snow White passes a janitor who is in an orange jumpsuit singing about a Frog going courting. Hmmm  . . . I wonder who he is? He says good morning to Snow White as she passes. In Bigby's apartment, he is busy waking up a pig. Literally. Bigby says to the pig that he (the pig) has to go back to the farm today and can't keep crashing on the couch. The pig says that Bigby owes him from blowing down his house. Bigby retorts that it was made of straw and that its ancient history. The pig says he is a symbol of Bigby's redemption and that he hates the farm as he lights a cigarette. Bigby states that if the pig leaves the farm again, he will officially turn in the pig then offers some breakfast.
       Prince Charming is getting dressed and singing as he is leaving the waitress's apartment. He leaves her a note saying how he had to leave to get luggage from Port Authority and asked her to: pick up his dry cleaning and do some laundry for him after he took her spare key and some money while he was out and that he'll be camping with her for a few days. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Prince Charming everyone!
       Bigby and Snow White outside in one of the gardens in the Woodland, the building housing the Fable town city hall and many of its citizens. Bigby and Snow White discuss the case as Bigby reveals that he is not sure Jack did it but wanted an excuse to hold him; yet confirmed that the blood all over the apartment is indeed Rose Red's. Snow White asks who Bigby thinks who did this as he reveals that it was a Fable because of the message on the wall. Snow White insists that she be there when they question Jack and Bigby says how she's been estranged from Rose Red for years. Snow White exclaims that his way of thinking makes her a suspect. Bigby replies that she is indeed a suspect and can do their interview now. Snow says she can't cause she has to go meet up with Prince Charming. Bigby says for Snow to hide her wallet. AGREED!
        Back elsewhere, you see this nice castle like area where Cinderella is fencing Bluebeard. Bluebeard mocks Cinderella, calling her a Princess, in which she retorts that he makes it sound like . . . well a feces sandwich.  Bluebeard goes on how sad it is that Prince Charming did not give her skills in fencing or anything before he left her when Cinderella goes on about Rose Red's murder.Cinderella then goes on how the rumors say that Jack killed Rose Red and was dancing naked in bits of blood and skin when . . . Bluebeard cuts Cinderella. Cinderella complains but Bluebeard says that this is serious business and to pay attention.
         Snow White meets with Prince Charming and it's as cordial as a chainsaw . . . or a date with Bane. Snow White tells Prince Charming to hurry up cause she has responsibilities, unlike him. Prince Charming says he is gonna auction off his royal title and lands and needs Snow White to spread the word. Snow White goes on about how that would be useless with those lands under the Adversary's Dominion. And Prince Charming goes on that many fables will jump at it cause of the possibility of getting those lands back. Snow asks why should she help him after . . . well, sleeping with Prince Charming yet realizes that he's a suspect.
         We cut to Bigby and Snow talking with Jack. When asked how long have they been together, Jack answers 4 years but Bigby points out a very public break up and how she was dating Bluebeard last year on Remembrance Day, which is almost upon them. Jack accuses Bluebeard and Bigby promises to get to him. Jack says that he slept the night Rose was murdered in his apartment but Bigby says that the security guard did not see him. After Bigby lists a crimes, including him killing the Giant in the original fairy tale. Jack states that Bigby can not use that under the General Amnesty. Snow confirms that then gets emotional and asks Jack if he killed Rose Red. Jack says no and how to look at Bluebeard and how he killed all his previous wives. Bigby points out Bluebeard's crimes are all pre-Amnesty deeds.
          Bigby and Snow White left, grabbing some chococlate as she wants Bigby to level with her if her sister is alive or dead. Bigby says he will tell her as soon as she is sure as they go to meet Bluebeard. Remember his first scene earlier, well, it seems that he had witches put his old castle into the space of an apartment. Thing the TARDIS but even bigger on the inside. An ogre butler had them meeting Bluebeard in a study where he welcomes them. Bluebeard asks if they have come for this years donation early. Bigby says no, slides out pictures of the crime scene in front of Bluebeard and flat out asked if he killed Rose Red. Bluebeard asks how dare Bigby when he retorts how dare he talk like that to a mass murderer.Snow White tells Bigby to stop it but Bigby continues to say that Bluebeard is not cooperating and wants to charge him with Rose Red's murder. Bluebeard says he will cooperate. Bigby asks if he killed Rose and Bluebeard answers no. When asked if he harmed her in anyway, Bluebeard again said no, never. Bigby asked about them being together last year as Bluebeard explains that they have been romantically involved . . . for a year.As a matter of fact, according to Bluebeard, Rose Red and he were engaged last year at the Remembrance Day. Bluebeard revealed a contract and he said he used it cause he gave Rose a considerable amount of money last year. Snow White confirms her sisters handwriting. Bluebeard ends his interview saying how hurt he is and that he is offering a million dollar reward for whoever finds and captures the person behind this.
      We see Bigby with the janitor from earlier, Flycatcher and Boy Blue in an empty apartment with some cleaning tools and . . .a cooler full of blood? He says that the apartment is a floor above Rose Red's and to use the blood decorate the apartment exactly like  the crime scene downstairs and tell him how many pints did they use. Meanwhile, Snow White goes to the penthouse where she meets with the Mayor, King Cole. He says how terrible he feels about what happened to Rose Red and that he understand what she is going through. He then stated he received a call last night from Bluebeard complaining about Bigby bursting in and accusing him of murder. Snow White explains what happened and how Bigby's been doing on the case; even stating that he's interviewed the witch from Hansel and Gretel and even herself. King Cole says he feels bad but other matters need to be attended to; particularly Remembrance Day and how the contributions from Remembrance Day are their operating budget for the next year; with Bluebeard as their top contributor. King Cole states that Fabletown could tear itself apart cause of this case and to have it cleared up by the Rememberance Day Gala.
           We see Bluebeard sharpen then putting a dagger in his suit vest and leaving with a big plate. What? Um . . . okay. Bigby comes in with a computer, commenting how King Cole told him to get the case rapped up soon as well. He tells Snow White to go through them. She asks why as Bigby explains he is not good with computers. Then he goes on to tell her that he's got a plan on how to sell Prince Charming's title while solving this case. Back in the apartment building, Boy Blue and Flycatcher finish with their . ..  re-make of the crime scene. Bigby goes over the front desk with food to give to Jack when Grimble, the security guard says that less than 10 minutes ago, Bluebeard came with food under Bigby's orders. Bigby runs and transforms into his wolf form to find Bluebeard with a knife on Jack's throat. Bigby tells him to stop or he'll rip his throat out. Bluebeard boast on how easy it would be to kill him and that he demands satisfaction. Meanwhile, Snow White, holding a Vorpal Sword, with a goblin, the doorman and a flying monkey with her head down to the basement prison area. Bigby is back to human form with Jack restrainted as they meet the group. Bigby has the doorman and goblin take Jack to his apartment while he explains to Snow White that Bluebeard decided to take Jack's place behind bars. Snow White boasts about the Vorpal Sword, which can kill with one cut and Bigby tells her to put it down before cutting off her head. Bigby says that he needs her to go with him to the Remembrance Day Gala in order to solve the case. Bigby gets a call in his apartment when he goes back downstairs. Bigby sees Snow White and tells her he was hoping she was not there. He reveals that a minimum of 5 pints of blood was spilled in Rose Red's apartment, stating they can't hope that she is alive.
      Time passes as Remembrance Day arrives. Beauty and Beast, now human again, arrive for the big event. They enter and Beauty wants to get at the lottery . . . the lottery to win Prince Charming's title and lands. Beast points out that they already have worthless money and lands in the Homelands but Beauty said that she married into money and she wants her own title and lands. Prince Charming is pleased with how the lottery is going. Snow White explains that it selling very well, making 300 grand by the morning and making double right now. Prince Charming tries to flirt with Snow White but she reminds him that those charms don't work on her and that enjoy his last evening of being a former somebody before becoming just another nobody.
      It is at this point we get background on Fables itself told in speech with them starting as separate fables from different lands and how diverse they were. Till the Adversary began his attacks, taking fable land after fable land, growing in power. And notably, the Adversary had conquered the land of OZ (the Emerald Kingdom) and Nardina (Kingdom of the Great Lion) as seen and told through the speech. They realized they united too late. So as many fables and possible came to our world when New York City was still New Amsterdam. And how in this world, in Fabletown, they set aside pass sins and grudges to work together and make a home for themselves, free of the Adversary and his armies. We find that the story was being told by King Cole, who then raised his for a toast. And we see that the toast is not just in Fabletown but other places where Fables dwell, like the Farm. Cinderella goes over to a boy in a seat, who does not look happy. The boy happens to be Pinocchio, who speaks of his rage at the Blue Fairy who took his wish too literally; he's stuck as a boy and he wants to grow up and get laid. Awwww . . . kids today.
      Meanwhile, Bigby uncuffs and frees Jack & Bluebeard. Bluebeard heads out on the advice to show how good of a citizen he is with his annual donation while Bigby tells Jack to be helpful by doing an errand. Bigby finally arrives at the ball, dressed in a tux and his hair slicked back but . . . did not shave. Snow White and Bigby dance for a bit, with Bigby admitting he never danced before and stepped on Snow White's feet. Suddenly, many of the Fables were looking at them. Bigby and Snow White retreat. Bigby says how he's starving but does not see any food left. Snow White admits that she knows the cooks leave the best stuff for themselves locked away. Bigby has a huge light bulb over head moment, telling Snow that's it. The clue he needed he tells her. He then says for everyone who wants to know who killed Red Rose to go upstars after the drawing for Prince Charming's title and lands.
       Bigby goes for a swim in King Cole's pool when Jack comes up saying that he's done Bigby's errand . . . and won the lottery with just one ticket. Meanwhile people filter in as Bigby starts the big reveal. He starts saying how detectives love to do the big reveal on who did it, with where, with what, how and why and this was that moment. Jack comes over with a girl with long black hair. Bigby walks over as everyone, including the Mayor, Bluebeard, Prince Charming, Boy Blue and Flycatcher all arrive to see him reveal the murderer of Rose Red is . . .



        You hate me right now, dontcha? Please don't. I do not like to spoil good mysteries and this one is definitely a great one. Lan Medina's pencils and Steve Leialoha's art is the right amount of light and fun with sexy and dark rolled together. And while Medina's pencils are the beginning shapes of this wonderous work, it is Leialoha's inking that helps keep the tones and attitudes right for each character and each emotion they want to display. Everyone looks and feels district. There is no cookie cutter that everyone looks the same in this book. And Medina & Leialoha hold that true to Snow White, to Bigby to Prince Charming to Flycatcher. Everyone is distinct. A great job by the team of Medina and Leialoha. There panel work for some of the more  "fable" like settings or scary or sexy tones are something that has become a style point of the book.
      Sherilyn van Valkenburgh does good job with the colors, making things vibrant when the mood or setting is right; keeping New York City being New York City but making the Homelands look as mystical as they are supposed to. When Prince Charming was . . . with the waitress, it was toned in a very sexy, dark manner. When Bigby turned into his wolf form alone with Jack and Bluebeard, it was colored in a scary, this guy is gonna rip my throat out manner.
      Bill Willingham. Dear God. I am gonna say this. I am a BIG FAN now. This book convinced me that all the hype this book has had for the past decade is worth every accolade.The characters are very much 3 dimensional while retaining their mythic-like standing as we meet them all. And Willingham does a great job of give great, realistic voices to the fables. Snow White, the overworked woman behind the man for years and will take crap from almost no one. Bigby Wolf, the detective with a shady past who works hard on his future and his present by being the best he can in what he knows how. Prince Charming . . . dear God, the man is a jerk. Seriously, I can hear legions of women . . . and men, thinking on how much a turd this guy is. Why? Cause we've all met this guy. The guy who think's he's God's gift. The guy who thinks because he is charming and with you means you are to do his every whim.
     And the characterization were not only great but the world building itself. These are fables who became refugees. For all the times we visited their worlds, it was only through stories and movies. These are fables coming into our world and learning how to live; with the complexities of who they are on top of everyday life. Add the murder mystery where Willingham laid out some very overt clues without insulting the readers intelligence.He also made quite a few statements on Happily Ever After and on the institution of marriage as well as the whole judge a book by its cover. Well crafted beginning to what may become a legend in and of itself before too long.

   Over all, Fables is a vastly enjoyable, deeping enriching reading experience. The characters are relateable while still keeping their "magic" from whatever story they originated. The situations are both real with multilayered meanings. The art is solid, consistance and enjoyable. And you really feel lost in their world. These characters become so easily connected to you that you will feel some kind of personal connection to them. Plus, the mystery is soooooo good that I CAN'T spoil it from worry of having you all NOT deciding to pick up the issues or trade.

  So with that, I am proud to give Fables: Legends in Exile a World Heavyweight Title Contendership. 


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