This is my review of Fables: Legends in Exile (Book 1), a trade paperback collection of the comics series Fables (first 5 issues) published by DC Comic’s Vertigo line. In fact, this is my first review of anything, so if it sucks, well, let me know….
Fables is created and written by Bill Willingham, and drawn by Lan Medina.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting comics trades or graphic novels, and this particular series caught my eye as I was browsing in my usual haunt one day. Funny I hadn’t noticed this before, but Fables is supposedly a highly acclaimed comics series with accolades from all over the industry. And it’s from Vertigo to boot – I have lots of Vertigo stuff and I don’t remember seeing Fables in their catalogue, which they print at the back of every trade. Evidently the list isn’t complete.
But after the terribly disappointing League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2, I didn’t mind something completely off my radar this time. As of time of writing, there are 4 Fables collections on the shelf. As I always try to start from the beginning, I picked up Book 1.
The story is set in modern day New York. Fables are fairytale characters from stories that we’ve all heard in our younger days. Characters like Snow White, Bluebeard, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk live alongside humans in our world. These Fables escaped from their Homeland to our world after their respective universes were plundered and conquered by the Adversary. Apparently the Adversary had no interest in our world. The book didn’t say why, but it’s probably the pollution and noisy MTVs.
There are two broad categories of Fables; Fables with human guises live in New York and mingle with every day human beings (which the Fables call ‘mundanes’). Snow White, her sister Rose Red, Prince Charming, Jack and others belong to this category. Fables who do not have human guises, but have ‘glamours’ to conceal their true form and appear human-like also dwell in the city. Other Fables who do not have the means for glamour spells stay in the Farm, which is located far away from the city in a remote countryside, where mundanes are not likely to discover them.
The story starts with Jack reporting to Fabletown’s Sheriff, Bigby Wolf (from the big bad wolf who blew the pigs’ houses down fame) that Rose Red’s apartment had been violently ransacked, with blood splashed all over the scene and Rose Red herself missing. With Snow White, Fabletown’s deputy mayor, Wolf begins the hunt for the perpetrator and the missing, and presumably dead, Fable.
Many familiar fairytale characters make their appearance here, including Snow White’s ex-husband Prince Charming, Fabletown’s mayor King Cole, Pinochio, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. It’s interesting to see them in the context of the modern world; some have it easy, some hard. A good jog for your memory too, wondering from which fairytale each character came from.
The art here is lovely. The pencils by Medina are sharp and nice with vibrant colours, conveying the sort of fairytale feeling to the book. The plot moves along quickly, with nary a dull moment, and you’re kept guessing at every turn, just as an interesting whodunnit would. However, I do get the feeling that the storyline is rushed, and the motive for the crime a little thin. It could have been better with more possible suspects and red herrings thrown in. Nevertheless you’re still shown a good sample of the characters that inhabit Fabletown.
I like the whole premise of this series. It casts a very different light on the characters that we know and love from childhood fairytales. This collection’s whodunnit storyline may not be as richly detailed as you’d expect from a detective novel, but I believe it’s the medium’s limitation – there’s only so much you can cram into 5 issues of comics. It’s still very engaging and fun to read, and you really want to know what happened to Rose Red. The sharp pencils does not disappoint.
I’m looking forward to reading the second book (which will concentrate on politics within the Fables staying in the Farm, titled Animal Farm).
Note: Like any book from Vertigo, this isn’t children’s fare. Four-letter words are used, and you won’t want to give this to your favourite niece below a suitable age.