Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Sergio Davila
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
FABLES has been one of my favorite stories of the past decade and Willingham one of my favorite writers. I was crestfallen in 2013 to hear that FABLES was going to end with issue one fifty and Bill’s Kickstarter, BIFROST, failed to connect the nine worlds coming up just short of its goal (you can read my interview with Bill on that here).
Then on the heels of these set-back announcements, came the whispers of Bill trading Grimm for gears and Snow White for steam with a new book called LEGENDERRY from Dynamite. I politely declined an interview opportunity with Bill because after BIFROST melted I didn’t want to jinx the guy. So, for one of the very few times in my recent comic history I had no idea what to expect when this adventure dropped last Tuesday.
My visceral response is…it’s good. Bill is twisting the Green Hornet and Kato properties into a Baz Luhrmann Moulin Rouge like frenzy. I’ve never been a huge fan of the ole’ Hornet and again without any prior knowledge I traversed most of the book without a concern for these brand trappings. Honestly, the connection didn’t click until I saw the teaser for the next issue and actually examined the cover when I sat down to write the review. I simply found myself too entranced in the mystery and this world that was, but has never been to be distracted by anything else.
We’re never given a specific time or place for LEGENDERRY, but Davila paints for us a city so grand in scope we can only guess its New York. Horse drawn carriages and Victorian garb adorn this city, but the vibe is clearly the roaring 1920’s. 90% of the book takes place in the Scarlet Club, a grand palace reminiscent of the dinner clubs where the elite would meet to rub elbows, dance and of course get sauced on the finest liquors. The main difference is there’s no persnickety prohibition in this world to inhibit the imbibing of libations. No, what brings the constables to this club, on this particular night, is a young woman being chased by a gang of mechanized thugs.
Another chief difference in this world from our own is everyone packs heat; this includes the owner of the Club Scarlet, the lovely Miss Pendragon. Ironically, her date for the evening, one publishing heir gadfly by the name of Britt Reid (yes, I should have gotten the hornet connection sooner – sue me) is sans protection and at least for this issue seemingly without any skills…outside the bedroom. I have no doubt this will be rectified in issue 2.
What really drove home the mid twentieth century vibe (when the book wasn’t laced with bodices and clockwork that is) was the choice of narration for the title. All exposition and a good chunk of the forward action is narrated by “wireless” personality Felix Avalon. This Howard Stern of the day has eyewitness accounts of the doings at the Scarlet club along with the bloody aftermath when Miss Pendragon is done protecting the premises with her sword. We like to think reality entertainment is a new phenomenon, but this is a nice reminder that our Grandmothers were just as glued to the happenings of celebrities as our wives are to the Krapdashians. Grandma simply didn’t have to watch a sex tape first.
My only “complaint” about this issue is there wasn’t a lot of steam driving the punk. Granted, I’m only a cursory fan of this geek sub-genre, but what I’ve read and been entranced with the most in the past was modern digital marvels made more massive by being analog. Show me a super computer 4,000 stories high so it can match the wits of my iPhone or an airplane that makes the Spruce Goose look like a Cessna…or…something…that would require a billion laborers to complete and make me drop my jaw in awe.
I’m sure my wish is coming, but for now I was more than content with Willingham’s ability to shift voice to emulate a more formal and eloquent time. Reading Pendragon and Reid debate the finer intricacies of martini making in the opening pages was sheer poetry in motion. Davila draws a beautiful book from clothes to the few Buck Roger’s style zap guns in the issue. Again though, I want more steam powered cowbell. I’m also going to applaud Dynamite for developing a nifty hook that actually makes me give a shit about the Green Hornet. I’ve enjoyed past dalliances with Green Hornet titles we cover on the weekly podcast, but none could hook me past that issue. LEGENDERRY has no such problems in bringing me back. Even if I come back just to piece together why the hell Legend, Dairy and LEGENDERRY are all spelled wrong.