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Fables: Legends In Exile

I still read the weeklies that come out every beloved Wednesday; graphic novels are great, but we didn’t start reading comics one 120-page volume at a time. I’m sure others besides me have memories of standing on line at the supermarket, twirling a spinner rack full of Spider-Man and Batman comics and trying to figure out a way to slip an issue or two into the cart without our respective mothers noticing.

While I get my comics from an actual comic shop nowadays, I still get that feeling of getting away with something whenever I go and pick up my weekly stash. The only problem with the weeklies is that reading them month-to-month, I rarely get the chance to write a review for them, as I refuse to pay for a collection I already have in issue format. This means that with the books I very much enjoy and cannot wait to read every month (Powers, Boneyard, Green Arrow, Planetary, etc.), I never buy the collections, and never get to shout to the online rooftops how damn good they are.

Until now.

Fables is one of the best written comics being published today and writer Bill Willingham should be ranked amongst the peak of writers working in the industry because he consistently brings intelligence, wit, and an inspiring ability to craft detailed plots to a book that could have gone horribly wrong.

The story is what would happen if all our favorite bed time stories were alive and kicking in the modern day. Beauty and the Beast share a modest apartment in Fabletown, a small subsection of New York City; The Big Bad Wolf is now the local police force; Little Boy Blue is a handy secretary, and Snow White is deputy mayor of a community full of fairy tale people, all living secretly among us.

Things are running more or less simply in Fabletown, until Snow White’s sister Briar Rose goes missing and is presumed dead (a presumption made likely by the amount of blood covering her apartment walls). Now Bigby Wolf and Snow White are trying to find the killer, running down the list of known Fables who might be the culprit, while still preparing for Remembrance Day, the day when the Fables remember how they escaped the mysterious Adversary, leaving their homelands behind in favor of this world. It’s a murder mystery.

Willingham really knows how to turn a story on its ear, and I have to admit to some bias when reading Legends In Exile because I know how some of the plot threads that were strung in this first volume pan out in later issues. See, Willingham is actually telling anywhere from two to three main stories when he writes a story arc. Legends not only follows the investigation of Rose’s murder, but also shows the reader what the Fables are and how they’ve adjusted to life in our world, while simultaneously fleshing out their history and introducing several story hooks to keep their audience on board. Who is the Adversary? Why did the Fables leave their homelands? Why don’t Fables appear to age? These small questions help create the world that the Fables inhabit and the details of the world is one of the reasons people keep reading.

Willingham has tapped into a great idea when he decided to use these fairytale people to tell his stories; part of the fun of the series is figuring out which characters are actually some of the heroes and myths from yesterday. Everyone knows the Big Bad Wolf, but does anyone know the story of the Fly Catcher? Or of Bluebeard? Willingham has clearly done his research and created a well structured background for his stories to happen in.

Also of note is his speech work. Willingham writes good dialogue, especially between Snow White and Bigby Wolf, whose underlying respect for each other keeps them from killing each other when in the same room. And there is no bastard like Prince Charming, who manages to talk himself into anyone’s bed, and out of someone else’s before dawn. Making Prince Charming the same prince from almost every fairy tale that included damsels being rescued by dashing young lads with anti-narcotic kisses was a great idea. Almost charming. Every woman from Snow White to Cinderella hates the man with hilarious passion.

The artwork is fine, but I do believe artist Lan Medina jumped editorial ship after the first story arc. His artwork is serviceable. He reminds me of a slightly more detailed Steve Dillon, when it comes to characters and character design, minus the gore. Medina also manages to use lighting to great effect, shifting to more blurry and muted scenes during a flashback.

Fables is definitely worth your time, as a monthly or trade collection, and DC is only charging $9.95 for the first five issues. Pick it up and see what your favorite fairy tale characters have been up to nowadays. It’s part of the fun.

Robert Sparling

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