Graphic Novel Review: Fables Comic Book Series

After much insisting on the part of many parties and after reading this lovely article by Bill Willingham about Once Upon a Time, Fables, and retelling fairy tales,  I bit the bullet and decided to try reading another comic book series.

I hate reading comic books.

Every attempt in the past has failed as I eventually just give up on the soap opera that is the comic book industry. But I buckled down determined to enjoy this series about the retelling of fairy tales. I love retellings, I love fairy tales, and I quite enjoyed the story that Bill Willingham presents.

I still hate reading comic books.

I have my reasons. 1) I speed read 2) comic books are impossible to speed read and 3) comic books require taking time to look over the pictures and find hidden messages in the art. If I wanted to play Where is Waldo, I would buy that book instead. But because I absolutely loved Fables as far as story telling goes. It is well written, full of interesting characters, and has a well thought out universe. As a result, I’m setting aside my hate of comic books and will try to just review the story. Also, I’m addicted to Fables now and plan on reading the whole series, so that lets you know how good the series is. That I will read it despite the medium in which it is presented.

Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Summary: Fairy tale characters have been exiled to New York where they live in a secret community run by Snow White. King Cole is the actual mayor of Fabletown, but he is just a head-figure and Snow White actually runs the day to day workings of the town. Rose Red, Snow White’s sister, is dead. Well, at least her apartment is trashed, blood is everywhere, and not one is telling Bigby Wolf (aka The Big Bad Wolf) the truth. Snow White hires Bigby as a detective/old western Sheriff to investigate her sisters disappearance or death as no body was found at the crime scene. Bigby begins to question the Fables in Fabletown and as a result Bill Willingham and Co. begin to build a story through the eyes of Bigby searching for Rose Red.

My Thoughts: Awesome universe, awesome reason they have been exiled to a more modern place. I love the interplay between Bigby and Snow White. I liked that not only was it a retelling of old stories but a murder mystery to boot. I liked Bill Willingham take on Prince Charming who often appears in different fairy tale stories. I quite enjoyed the set up of a fun, strange, and intriguing new universe full of wonderful and quirky characters. I had to wait a long time to get Vol. 2, and I was quite annoyed.

*Spoilers* Each tale builds on the one before and it is impossible to talk about Vol. 2 without giving away the ending of Vol. 1.  You have been warned.

Vol. 2: Animal Farm

Summary: Rose Red did not actually die in Vol. 1, but instead was running a scheme with Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk). They are punished to community service. Snow White takes Rose Red to the farm in upstate New York where the non-human or tiny Fables live out of sight of Mundys (Mundanes, as we pore regular non magical fairy folk are called). There is an uprising on the farm from the Fables who feel that it has become a prison. They try to take Snow White prisoner, but she escapes with the help of a wily fox. Meanwhile, it appears as the Rose Red has joined the ranks of the dissenters and takes up arms against Snow White.

My Thoughts: It is always fun to see how the other half live. In this particular tale the other half includes, lions, foxes, and bears- Oh My! I also had never thought about how a tortoise would try to fire a gun, so this story gave me food for thought. I enjoyed that the emotional and character chemistry this volume was between Snow White and Rose Red. I’m always down for a bit of sisterly fighting and working on issues. I think it just as important as any pseudo crime partnership/romantic exchange. I really like Snow White as a no-nonsense, extremely tough woman, who doesn’t just sit down and cry but works towards escaping from a bad situation on her own brain powers. You have my vote Snow White.

*Spoilers* Each tale builds on the one before and it is impossible to talk about Vol. 3 without giving away the ending of Vol. 2.  You have been warned.

Vol. 3: Storybook Love

Summary: Briar Rose has a problem, every time her finger is pricked she falls asleep and so does everyone else in the area. She can only be awaken with True Love’s kiss. Bigby Wolf has a problem, a Mundy has discovered the Fabletown community and threatens to expose them. While the Mundy thinks they are vampires, Bigby knows he needs to get rid of the problem so he enlists the help of Briar Rose. Meanwhile, Goldilocks who was one of the ring leaders in the revolution against Snow White and Fabletown on the Animal Farm, has gone missing. While the other ringleaders have met with a timely death, Goldilocks escaped. Bluebeard, the richest man in Fabletown, decides he can’t have Snow White and Bigby Wolf always in his inevitably shady business so he drugs them. They wake up in the woods with a killer after them.

Not Another Sexy Vampire
Screen Still from Interview with the Vampire

My Thoughts: This volume was a little more convoluted. It was full of a lot of, let me tell you the story behind this custom etc. Which while making for a fun quirky volume full of interesting tidbits and back story, makes it hard to review. Then there are the two main stories of the volume, which while sort of interconnected aren’t really reliant on each other. Some of the Briar Rose stuff felt extraneous, but it was still interesting. I like how Prince Charming pops up enough in this volume to show that he really does understand Snow White, he was married to her after all. And so we understand just a little more about what drives her.

Ok. So I am going to say one thing about the art. Where is Bigby’s mouth. Like in every panel he is pressing his lips together so they disappear? He walks around like that constantly? Is this supposed to mean something? Am I over thinking this? Most certainly. But this, this is why I don’t like reading comic books. While some of the artwork is only so-so, (seriously can Snow White wear something not from the early 90’s X-files page?) the cover art for the issue and the volume are quite lovely. However, can we just see Bibgy’s lips sometime? I mean how is Snow White supposed to eventually kiss him if he has no lips! Just saying.

7 thoughts on “Graphic Novel Review: Fables Comic Book Series

  1. Thank you for reviewing this so I now never have to read it. Seriously, I wanted to read it, but I have a hard time reading books that I am not enthralled with the art, or aren’t really about good eventually beating the snot out of evil. SO thanks.

    • I actually think you would like this story line if you gave it a chance. And I think the story is more subtle than just good triumphing over evil, just as life is more than the good guys always winning. What does happen with each volume is that the “good guys” are smart and interesting and figure things out and the “bad guys” don’t get away with everything.

    • Um…yeah, not so much.

      For what it’s worth, I generally love the art. And *spoiler alert* they do beat the bad guy at the end of the arc. ‘Cause, y’know…fairy tales. 🙂

      Our tastes are pretty similar. I think you should give it a chance.

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  4. This comic actually got me addicted. The first arcs are okay but the later issues 30-ish to 50-ish, are much, much more exciting. In truth, I felt like I was breezing through some of the early issues just to get to the action-packed arcs. Unfortunately *SPOILER ALERT*
    once you get to the later issues you get that heart wrenching experience of having characters you slowly fell in love with suddenly get hurt, killed or have all sorts of shit done to them. The sad parts got so overwhelming that I stopped reading around issue 80-90. I mean, will someone just give them a damn happily ever after. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s an interesting read.

    • Michelle thanks for commenting! Fables was definitely an interesting read. I found also at some point I was tired of reading about bad things happening to some of my favorite characters so I stopped reading at a point where most of them had somewhat of a happily ever after and that is where the story ends in my mind. LOL

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