Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 10, 2014
Once upon a time, the fairy tales we all grew up on, such as Little Red Riding Hood and The Sleeping Beauty, were not viewed as children’s stories; they were horror stories. It wasn't until two brothers, ironically known by the name Grimm, collected and toned them down that they found their way to the nursery. These days a popular trend in fiction is to re-imagine popular fairy tales for adults simply by taking them back to their roots. In some cases this works well (a notable example being Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples), but in other cases, not so much. Fortunately, the ongoing comic book series, Fables, or at least the first volume of the series, seems to fall into the former’s camp as an entertaining and appropriately dark read.

Published by DC comics’ younger sibling, Vertigo (also known for the critically acclaimed Watchmen and the Sandman series), Fables depicts the characters of famous fairy tales living in modern day New York City, centuries after their homelands have fallen to an unnamed and unseen Adversary. The inhuman members of the Fables community live upstate on “The Farm” but the majority of the community lives in an apartment complex where Old King Cole acts as Mayor and Snow White acts as his deputy mayor and prime decision maker. Their goal is to keep the Fables community operating in peace without alerting the ordinary, mundane people of New York City to their existence.

However, all is not well in the Fable community as Snow White’s estranged sister, Rose Red, has suddenly gone missing. She recruits the community sheriff, Bigby Wolf a.k.a. The Big Bad Wolf (reformed of course), to help her find her sister and the person behind her disappearance. The list of suspects ranges from Rose Red’s delinquent boyfriend, Jack (of beanstalk climbing fame), to the infamous serial killer, Bluebeard, to Snow White herself. If that’s not enough, Snow White’s ex-husband, Prince Charming, is back in town and hoping to recruit Miss White for a plan of his own.

All this makes for a fun, unpredictable mystery story with genuinely funny and charismatic characters; Snow White and Bigby, for instance, are both interesting characters on their own but have great chemistry as the odd couple, and--without spoiling anything—it looks like Bluebeard may turn out to be something of a villain in future volumes. Other well-known characters make cameos in this volume too that suggest their having roles in future stories. Be warned though, this graphic novel does contain some profanity and a brief (and thankfully non-graphic) panel depicting Prince Charming in bed with a woman, all of which don’t seem to serve any purpose other than to remind the reader that, despite its fairy tale cast, this volume is not for children. Never the less, it’s hard to find any other fault with this volume and I look forward to reading Volume 2.

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