Fables Volume 1 – Legends in Exile
In lieu of the 100th issue milestone, I’ve decided to re-read through possibly the greatest Vertigo title ever, second only to Gaiman’s Sandman masterpiece. For those who have read, or are reading, you likely know this already; for those who want to begin reading, I’ll do my best to get you on board without giving away too many spoilers (can’t make promises though), because this comic is absolutely stupendous.
I really don’t know where to begin. Willingham’s Fables universe is extraordinary. The quick introduction would be: imagine all the fairytales and folklore that you grew up knowing as a kid were real people and animals and creatures, actually living. Willingham has taken these treasured literary characters and given them new angles and back stories, appearances and motives, and has put them all together living in a secret community in New York City. That is, of course, save for the ones that can’t pass as human, they live at ‘the Farm’ upstate, i.e: the three little pigs, the three blind mice, the tortoise and the hare, etc.
Though there is a plethora of ‘main’ characters and an even larger amount of supporting characters throughout the series, the first five issues of the Legends in Exile story arc revolve around Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Rose Red and Jack Horner; the former two of Big Bad Wolf fame and the Seven Dwarfs tale, with the latter two being Snow White’s younger sister and Jack the Giant-Killer (and Beanstalk, and Jack Frost, and Jack & Jill, and Jack be Nimble, etc). How Willingham has adapted and changed these characters is clever, witty and interesting. Bigby, formerly chasing little pigs and red riding hoods, is now Fabletown’s official Sheriff, while Snow White is the Deputy Mayor. Rose Red is a party girl and sort of outcast, while her boyfriend Jack has lost all his grandiose and is a bit of a loser.
Issue #1 begins in NYC’s Fabletown, with Bigby, Fabletown’s sheriff of a couple centuries, receiving grave news from Jack Horner that his girlfriend, Rose Red, may have been murdered. If thus far you’ve begun to think of Fables as a sort of children’s book of old nursery characters, here’s where I try and tell you the very opposite. Willingham quickly makes it evident that this comic is going to be dark, dramatic, occasionally witty, but always very sound in its quality of writing and engaging in its pace. This first arc plays out as a classic whodunit, rife with characters such as the grizzled veteran sheriff, through to the seemingly innocent and mourning spouse. It is gripping in its story, interesting in its constant display and introduction of familiar faces, and the artwork by Leialoha is fantastic. Fables is an ongoing masterpiece; pick up this first trade and join in on possibly the greatest modern comic being published.