Newest Review: ... and drawn, for the most part, by Mark Buckingham, though over the course of the series, artists may change. There are 17 collected editio... more
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Fables: Legends in Exile - Bill Willingham
Member Name: princesschickpea
Fables: Legends in Exile - Bill Willingham
Advantages: great original concept, familiar well defined caharcters, great art
Disadvantages: weak opening storyline
The world of comic books may seem strange and alien to some people, and perhaps the preserve of a dominantly male fan base. But it's not all spandex and capes, and Fables is one of the best examples of the scope of this form of graphic storytelling. Originally published in monthly single issue comic book form in starting in 2002, Fables is now on 100+ issues and still going strong. 'Legends in Exile' is the first collected edition, or graphic novel. It is published by DC's Vertigo imprint which is marketed to towards adult audiences, and as such, Vertigo books can contains graphic violence, profanity and depictions of sexuality. Fables contains quite a lot of gory violence and sexual references, and although these are never gratuitous, by no means is this a book for children (arguably, very few American comic books are suitable for children anyway.) Fables is written by Bill Willingham, and drawn, for the most part, by Mark Buckingham, though over the course of the series, artists may change. There are 17 collected editions available in paperback, or the same stories are also available in 6 deluxe hardback editions, which cost substantially more. Each paperback contains about 5 issues of the comics, which is around 140 pages.
As the title suggests, Willingham takes childhood fairy tales and gives them a very modern, and adult, twist. He focuses on those stories of persecution and exile (and it's surprising, when you think about it, how many fairy tales deal with these darker subjects.) The premise is simple and intriguing. A group of fairy tale characters, including such notables as Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf, have escaped the mysterious Adversary who enslaved their homeland, and have sought refuge in modern day New York, living secretly among the normal folk (or mundies as they refer to us.) Those of you familiar with the TV show 'Once upon A Time' may recognise this central concept, though the creators of the show claim any similarity is coincidental. The fact remains, however, that the similarity is strong, and fans of the show will love Fables.
'Legends in Exile' deals with the apparent murder of Snow White's party girl sister, Rose Red, and is set up as an old fashioned detective story. I'll not spoil the plot for you, but I heartily recommend you try and get your hands on a copy. This is perhaps the weakest of the series, setting up the status quo and introducing characters, and as a result, the story does suffer somewhat. I won't pretend that the resolution of this initial story arc is particularly satisfying. However, stick with it, and once you've moved on to volumes 2 and 3, you'll be hooked. Willingham's writing is full of charm and humour, but at the core is also a grim darkness that sometimes comes to the surface with devastating effect. The art is also outstanding, leaning towards gritty as opposed to the Disney perfection we might be used to, and as the series progresses, the backgrounds and frames to each page become works of art in and of themselves. In graphic novels, the writing and art must work hand in hand for it to be a success, and Fables certainly gets the balance right. Don't let the fact that this is a graphic novel put you off - the words and pictures work in tandem. It is not the same as reading an illustrated children's book.
The world of Fables is ambitious in scope and all the more engrossing for that. There are several spin offs to get hold of too, featuring Cinderella as a spy and Jack Horner dealing with classic American tales. If you commit fully to Fables, you'll not be short of reading material. The series has won multiple awards, and it's not difficult to see why. Adults and perhaps, well-read older teens will love revisiting old childhood friends, and seeing just where they ended up. If you love 'Once Upon A Time' or 'Grimm' you should definitely give it a go.
Summary: A trip down memory lane to visit the fairy tales of our childhood is not as wholesome as expected