Sunday, August 14, 2005

FABLES #40

It's always the quiet ones.

This was the issue where Boy Blue learns who the Adversary really is -- and if you paid any sort of attention during the March of the Wooden Soldiers arc, then it was really no surprise. The how and the why were exceedingly clever for their subtlety, a modest tale of how little bit of wrongdoing for a greater bit of safety slowly and pervasively turned into a vast conspiracy that in turn slid seamlessly into a empire of terrible power and ruthlessness... that nonetheless is full of happy and mostly prosperous citizenry.

Bill Willingham drew from Roman history, Machiavelli and others to explain the rise of what the Fables have come to know as the Adversary and how that nemesis has maintained power for so long without any serious challenge. Instead of the monstrously big and powerful ruler Blue encountered (and decapitated) last time, Gepetto is a Wizard of Oz-type overlord, well-versed in theories of empire and warfare. He is pragmatic instead of bloodthirsty, comfortable and confident without needing material or emotional affirmation from his subjects, and remorseless in a way that de-emphasizes the inhumanity of what he has become. This is what happens when Jiminy Cricket isn't around.

If Gepetto is working from Gibbon's text, it's easy to imagine that Blue has been reading Sun Tsu. After the past few issues, it's impossible to think that Blue would accept his defeat so readily, even as all of his pillars upon which he has founded his beliefs are knocked aside one by one. The arrival of Red Riding Hood, unharmed and seemingly content, will prove another blow but Blue has come too far to be felled by shattered illusions.

For an issue with very little action and a whole lot of word bubbles, this was splendid.

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