Happily Never After? A Graphic Novel Review of Fables: Legends in Exile

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Over the past few years, I’ve read a few graphic comic books recommended by one of my good friends. Since last year, he’s been talking about this series of comics called Fables, written by Bill Willingham and published by Vertigo Comics.

In these stories, fairytales are real, not every princess found an everlasting happily ever after, and the villains of the past have reformed. After facing an enemy, various characters have been exiled to our world into a place called Fabletown, buried inside of New York City. The Adversary is never specifically named, other than a tyrant who dominated the Fable world land by land. The first volume hints at the destruction of their old world and eventually reclaiming their lands; it makes me curious to see if these Fables start a war of epic proportions.

The fictional characters who survived the tirade integrate among the humans (or “Mundys/Mundanes” as they’re called) and those who are unable to blend in live at The Farm in upstate New York. Other than finding out that The Farm is a rather detestable place, the reader doesn’t know much, and the story focuses more in on the other characters, living amongst the human race.

In the first volume, Snow White is Deputy Mayor of the city of Fabletown, and boy is she a piece of work. She and Prince Charming have split, due to his infidelity with her sister Rose Red, and Snow White possesses a sharp tongue and little appreciation for others. When Bigby (A.K.A. the former Big Bad Wolf) tells Snow White her sister is the victim of a violent crime, Miss White immediately latches onto the case.

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Bigby, who has the ability to appear human, is as rough around the edges as Snow White. He too has suffered for hundreds of years, but fortunately he’s found his niche as the Fabletown sheriff. From the get-go, the reader gets the idea that Bigby is sharper than the average wolf and possibly has the case solved from the minute he leaves Rose Red’s blood-streaked apartment. He accuses Rose’s boyfriend, Jack (yes, the one from the Beanstalk) as well as Bluebeard, who is a renowned nobleman with an affinity for slaughtering his wives and who was previously involved with Rose Red. There is something under the surface, however, and you realize that Bigby is not letting on all he knows. Throughout the story, the reader is also introduced to recognizable fairytale figures, like a divorced and ass-kicking Cinderella and the distraught couple we once knew as Beauty and the Beast.

In the meantime, through witty quips and insults, Snow White follows along every step of the way, drawing her and Bigby closer as the pair interrogate the suspects and attempt to find Rose Red’s killer. Naturally, the reader sees a hint of a love story, and by the end, you have the “Ah-ha” moment on all accounts.

I don’t want to give away the ending, just in case this strikes the fancy of someone in class, so I’ll move onto the appearance and writing.

Seeing as I’m not a huge fan of comic books, I can’t say much for the artwork, but overall, it was interesting to see how the artist portrayed each character. If they weren’t identified through conversation, the reader certainly wouldn’t recognize their faces, but then again, this is no Disney spin-off; this is a dark world where all the fables have been humanized to the extreme. The dialogue was also funny and engaging, even though it ventured on the cliché side when it came to the con-artist, Prince Charming. The sex scene near the beginning is downright silly – the girl actually cries out, “Yipee! My hero!” It had me laughing, as did Prince Charming’s pick-up lines. The parodies/new versions of Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, and others also had me cracking up. Of course, people never consider what happens after the “happily ever after” and Fables does a nice job of making the stories real – Could true love last three hundred years? According to Willingham, not so much.

ImageI was apprehensive when my friend handed me these comics, but now I’m looking forward to reading through the series.

Happily Never A…

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