Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've had friends who have been trying to get me into Fables for years, and I was very receptive to the idea because as a comic book lover I want to be introduced to new comics. However, the problem with being a bibliophile is that my "to be read" list is like a living, breathing, amorphous thing that is constantly changing and expanding. It's very easy for me to have the best intentions of reading something I'm very interested in sooner rather than later, but many times I end up being distracted by some other book and not picking up a planned read until much later. And I was very interested in Fables. I'm a big fan of imaginative retellings of stories whether it's about history, the gods or, as in this case, classic fairytales.
The inhabitants of fairytale land have been driven from their homes by a powerful force named Adversary. For centuries, these inhabitants have lived in New York City where they lead double lives. To the outside world, to mundanes (a word used for ordinary citizens in the same vein as the X-Men's term "flatscan"), they appear to be regular human beings. However, beneath the facade, they follow their own rules as handed down by the "permanent" mayor, Old King Cole, and his second-in-command, Snow White, who is often left to handle messes. King Cole is quite the merry old soul and prone to empathy while seemingly not having the stomach to handle the true pressures of being a leader. He leaves difficult decisions to Snow's discretion.
They try to rule the folk fairly and in ways that will keep them safe, adhering to very strict laws about what is and isn't tolerated. One of the first rules we learn is: to live in the city, they must look normal. Glamours are available that will make a creature look human. The creatures who can't afford a glamour are shipped off to a place called "The Farm" because there is no way to hide them from the mundanes, and many of the folk have lost their fortunes due to having to flee their homes. So, many of them don't have the resources to help.
I enjoyed the story. I wasn't bowled over by it, but that's often the case with many introductory comics. There's a little bit of build up that has to go into getting a story like this one running. However, while introducing readers to some key players and elements in the comic, Willingham does incorporate a story that showcases the personality of the characters by having Snow's rebellious sister, Rose Red, disappear with the presumption that she may be dead. Bigby Wolf (the Big Bad Wolf glamoured and I already have a soft heart for the redemption angle that's been alluded at with him) is the acting sheriff for the folks and investigate's Rose's death.
I enjoyed what Willingham did with some of the characters I met. Jack of the Jack and the Beanstalk fame is a con artist. I can't help but like him. He's that petty con that always gets into a scheme when it's too late to be profitable. He's more bumbling than dangerous, and it seems that him and Rose Red, who loves to party, often get into trouble together if I have to go by Snow's exasperation.
I really loved what Willingham did with Prince Charming. So many princesses in fairytales marry a Prince Charming. In this story, he's the same person and has been married multiple times and could charm the venom from a snake if you left him at it long enough. One of the three little pigs, the one with the straw house, regularly crashes at Bigby's place when he escapes The Farm as a "reminder" of Bigby's strive toward redemption. Snow is just all around great. Smart as a whip and willing to make the hard decisions as fairly as she can even if she has to tread some vague lines.
There's something dated about the art to me, though. I keep having 80's comics flashbacks. It's not bad, but it just sometime made me feel like I was reading a story that's much older than this really is. Anyhow, I'm intrigued at this point and I will continue to read the series and see if it becomes a "must read" for me.
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