Monday, July 18, 2011

Fables: Legends in Exile

Cover by James Jean
Fables: Legends in Exile (2002)
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciller: Lan Medina
Inker: Craig Hamilton, Steve Leialoha
Colorist: Sherilyn van Valkenburgh
Letterer: Todd Klein

So at work we sell Fables, the on-going comic series by Bill Willingham about fairy tale and folklore characters struggling to survive in the “real” world after being forced out of their magical homes by the Adversary.

Now there’s a ton of Fables comics, so I was always overwhelmed by them and never bothered to pick one up. Furthermore, I am a huge fan of folklore and am always disappointed whenever I read like a modernized fractured fairy tale work. They’re never that much fun or even that well-written but after the series was recommended to me, I decided why not and try my hand at the first Fables graphic novel, Legends in Exile.

This novel follows the murder mystery of Snow White’s, now the deputy mayor of Fabletown, twin sister, Rose Red. The apparent murder occurs within weeks of Fabletown’s annual Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the residents’ exodus to the real world and the timing couldn’t be worse for the high-powered and extremely busy Snow White and her boss, King Cole. Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf, investigates the murder and disappearance and in the process, accuses and alienates several prominent members of the Fabletown community, such as Jack Horner and Bluebeard. It’s all very dramatic.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel, though I felt that the mystery was a little weak and the solution a bit too convoluted and ridiculous. If anything, the main plot of the comic took a back seat to all the characters and the dynamics of Fabletown. I was much more interested in learning about the community’s history and the power players in it. I also enjoyed seeing these classic characters re-imagined in contemporary ways, such as Prince Charming being a promiscuous ne’er-do-well and Beauty and the Beast having a rocky marriage. The mystery plot didn’t hold me but the characters did.

I especially liked the dynamic between the professional and very serious Snow White and the seemingly lackadaisical Bigby Wolf. While their relationship was definitely nothing I’ve never seen before, it was still fun to explore in these very traditional characters.

The art, also, was nothing to write home about for me. Medina’s work was not bad or weak it was just so familiar to me. That’s the thing with comics though, there tends to be a set traditional way to illustrate them so unless it’s really terrible or crazy, it’s just mediocre. But the art didn’t distract me from the story or anything. It was just sort of there.

Like I said, the ending was sort of “eh” and I suppose I’ll pick up the next issue when I get the chance but only to see more of the inner workings of Fabletown. I didn’t love this novel but it kept my interest to a degree. I think I still am just uncomfortable with contemporary re-workings of classic fairy tales. I’ll have to work on that.


  1. Haha, I completely agree.. I had more fun reading about the characters' adjustment to the 'real world' than about the actual plotline of this graphic novel. Just an FYI though, the plot does get a little better throughout the next issues. Or at least, more intricate and involved and interesting and other adjectives that start with 'in'.

  2. @Justin Eee! I didn't know you read Fables too. I thought you just read Y: the Last Man.

    I'm sure the plot does improve so I will definitely keep on reading. Ari convinced me to give it a shot actually. Love your adjective choices, btw.

  3. Yeah, the first book is the weakest, both in plot and art, but necessary to lay the foundation for future reading.

  4. Haha, I had to pick something else up after I finished Y: the Last Man but still got shifts on cashwrap. I'm quite pleased with Fables though, definitely a good choice to pick up.

  5. @Pat Hughes I figured as much. I already read the second one and while I'm still not crazy about the series, I did enjoy reading it.

  6. I agree, but this first collection is like a pilot of a show; trying to tell a story but, more importantly, trying to introduce the characters and insanity that will ensue as the series goes on. I think you'll enjoy how the players are flushed out and the interesting relationships that develop.

  7. @Ari I think you mean how the players are FLESHED out. I don't think Willingham is just going to get rid of characters. But enough snideness.