Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fables: Peter & Max

I probably didn't really need to give this the Fables bit at the start, but Peter & Max is a Fables product, it's a standalone novel.

I'm always a little wary of comic writers branching out into novels. I'm sure there are exceptions, but most of them don't seem to work very well in the standard novel format. I was hoping Bill Willingham would be one of the exceptions. In his favour was the fact that Peter & Max was related to his concept of Fables, and no one knows that better than Willingham.

Before getting into the plot, some words about the presentation of this book need to said. Fables is, as a product, with the collections, one of the classiest, best presented works I have seen in the field. Peter & Max is the same. I'm not sure how much Bill Willingham and his regular inker for the comic, and illustrator on Peter & Max, Steve Leialoha, had to do with how this book was published, but it seems like a lot. Vertigo really pulled out all stops to put out something well worth the price. So far it has only come out in hardback and I'd like it to stay that way. The same level of quality could not be achieved with a mass market paperback. The dust jacket shows the picture on the left side of this post and hints at the darkness within, without the dust jacket the black cover is etched with the picture of Peter & Max. The paper is thick and has an aged look, it is also of high quality grade. The printing is clear and large enough to be easily read. Steve Leialoha's line drawings throughout the book complement the story, and as it becomes darker so does the art, changing from something you'd expect to find in an Enid Blyton to pictures that would not be out of place in some of Fables darkest issues.

The story is about the Piper siblings; Peter (yes that Peter, the one who picked a peck of pickled peppers and was also very fond of pumpkins) and his older brother Max. It begins in the Fables world with which readers of the series are familiar and regularly goes back to the Homelands at about the time the Adversary took over and caused a rift between Peter and Max, causing them to take wildly different paths in life. The climax is the final confrontation between the brothers.

You do not need to have read any of Fables to appreciate and understand Peter & Max. Willingham explains his comic creation wonderfully for anyone who was not already familiar with the concept. There are a few in jokes that will be more easily understood by readers of the series and they'll connect more with Frau Totenkinder, who is the only regular Fables character that has more than a fleeting cameo.

Like with all of the Fables work I cannot recommend this too highly. If you've never read any of Fables Peter & Max would be a good place to start, and if you have read Fables then you already know how good it is and should be getting a copy of Peter & Max as soon as possible.

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