Friday, March 05, 2010

The Longbox: In Which Jon Discusses FABLES

For as long as I can remember, I've had an affinity for fairy tales. Whether they came from Aesop or Disney, I've always been a fan of the ones which were designed for children but could be enjoyed by adults.
Bill Willingham must've felt similarly because he's taken all of the characters from stories we were told in our youth and blended them together into a single universe. The only difference is that most of these stories are written for adults who still have deep affection for their childhood.
Fables is told with grandeur, delicacy to detail and wit. I adore it.
1001 Nights of Snowfall Cover

By the time I got hooked on the comic, the sixth collection of the series had been put out. Willingham and company have since completed seven additional collections of the Fables proper title, as well as six volumes of the spin-off Jack of Fables, the prequel graphic novel 1001 Nights of Snowfall and Peter & Max: A Fables Novel.
For this post, I will delve into the most recent releases: Fables vol. 13 and the Peter & Max novel.
Peter & Max: A Fables Novel
One of the most amazing aspects of the series is just how many characters from folklore, mythology and literature Willingham hasn't used yet.
This novel tells us the story of three of the more commonly known characters from children's folklore: Peter Piper, his wife Little Bo Peep and his brother Max.
I know. I know.
"Who the fuck is Max Piper?"
Trust me, you've heard of him. His famous fable reveal is responsible for one of the greatest self-inflicted facepalms I've ever given myself, a gesture I've become all too accustomed with since discovering this series.
This novel sets everything up like a classic children's novel of old, from the classic characters, the style of prose, and the inclusion of some beautifully rendered and placed black-and-white illustrations by Steve Leialoha.
Each chapter alternates between the present (basically up to date with the events of the main Fables title) and the past, where you learn how the three characters arrived at their current predicaments.
It's a story of brothers, of children becoming adults and of the allure and dangers of power, as well as two constantly repeated themes in the Fablesverse: the persistence of evil and the triumph of love.
Although the novel can be read without any knowledge of the Fables comics, the events of it will blend into the series soon. So, I recommend that you comic lovers seek it out. Aside from filling in the gaps for you, you'll get on hell of a story. It really was a fantastic read, and any big Fables fan will want know its story.
Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover
This is a nine-part collection includes three issues each from Fables, Jack of Fables and the miniseries The Literals .
Fables, which tends to have an epic feel to it, is by far my favorite of the two principal series. Jack is outlandish and sophomoric, but has found it's niche on my bookshelf as well.
Jack, who in Willingham's world is the hero of the all the "Jack" stories you've ever heard (Beanstalk, Candlestick, Frost, etc.), splintered off into his own title a few years ago and hasn't been seen in amongst the original Fables since that time. I didn't think I'd like his off-hand a-holery mixing with the main title's characters again, but it was needed with the farm folk and wolf children to take a little gravity out of the darkness Rose Red has found herself in at this point of the series.
Fables' Snow White
The portions featuring the Literals (trust me, these characters fit into the canon just fine but would be too spoilery to even begin to explain for the uninitiated) were also a lot of fun to read for me, as there was an all-powerful figurehead for every major storytelling category you could conjure. Fashioning myself as a writer and genre-freak, this was a big selling point for me in this chapter of the comic.
I suppose my only real complaint was the lack of interaction between some characters. The Page sisters and Rose Red. The Pathetic Fallacy and Pinocchio. Mister Revise and the Adversary. All were ripe with possibility, but I guess there was only so many pages to include everyone, so I shouldn't complain too much.
It wasn't the best collection of the Fablesverse (that honor belongs to the lengthy, but heartbreakingly magnificent Vol. 10: The Good Prince); however, it was yet another very good one.
In all, this was a highly enjoyable crossover and, the best part, things actually changed at the close of it.
The world of Fables shows no sign of halting its expansion. The Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love miniseries about Cindy going off on things clandestine is in the middle of its six-issue run (I will be waiting for the trade, like all other things Fables), another standalone graphic novel entitled Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland about Bigby finding -- well, that would spoil some things, so we'll just wait and see -- and there's also the possibility that ABC will go forward with a pilot based on the series someday since they've optioned it.

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