Friday, April 9, 2010

Fables: Legends in Exile

Years ago I used to really love graphic novels. I hadn't read many since I stopped collecting comics. Joss Whedon's Fray and the two adaptations of George Martins Dunk & Egg stories were about it. Then I started rereading Cerebus and the medium once again became of interest to me.

I'd heard about Fables and I like the idea of a new twist on familiar stories, so I decided to try the first collection: Legends in Exile. This contains the first 5 issues and it's a self contained story. It may have started life as a limited issue series. The collection also has a prose story at the back which explains some of the background behind the relationship between 2 of the main characters.

The character list reads like a role call from the Brothers Grimm. Our main protagonists are: Snow White, who is now the power suited operations manager for Fabletown. Fabletown is where the fairy tale characters fled when their own lands were invaded. It's located somewhere in New York City, they regularly interact with humans, who they refer to as Mundanes or Mundys (shades of Piers Anthony there). Bigby, the head of Fabletown Security, this is actually the Big Bad Wolf of Three Little Pigs fame (he may have been the same one from Little Red Riding Hood, but that's not made immediately apparent in Legends in Exile, there is a definite Little Pigs connection), these days Big Bad looks and acts like a private eye from a 1940's noir film, although he can call on his inner wolf if he really wants to. Jack of the Tales, a failed entrepreneur (Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, they're all one and the same), his girlfriend and sister of Snow White, Rose Red, Fabletown's party girl. Snow's ex-husband Prince Charming, whose title and charm have worn thin in Europe, so he's come back 'home'. The villain of the piece is Bluebeard, serial wife murderer. Various other characters make cameos, and I'm sure they'll be covered in future collections.

The story is one that suits Bigby's incarnation, it's a noirish whodunnit. Rose Red has gone missing and as her apartment was covered in blood she's suspected dead. The cryptic message in blood on her wall suggests that a fable was responsible for the deed. It's up to Bigby to solve the crime. He's assisted/hampered by Snow and at some point nearly every major character becomes a suspect with the smart money being on Bluebeard, although it doesn't really suit his pattern.

It's all brilliantly written and wonderfully illustrated. Bill Willingham (writer) and Lan Medina (artist) deserve every skerrick of praise they've been given for what they have created.

The pages in the middle of the collection that talk about the invasion of their lands and the exodus are things of beauty and the demise of some of fantasy's most loved creations brought a lump to my throat.

The ending of the 5th issue will have you running down to your local comics store for the next collection. I know it made me do exactly that.

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