Fairy Tale Friday: ‘Fables’ Collected Editions 1-3 by Bill Willingham
Since July is high season in Nantucket, I’ve been working a lot of nights, weekends, and everything in between. Among other unfortunate side effects (what laundry?), for me the high season translates to a lot less reading than I was doing in the early summer. Exhaustion has been my prevailing emotion the last few weeks, which means sayonara nonfiction. Farewell novels! So long short stories!
And hello Bill Willingham’s Fables series of comic books! Yes, comic books. This lovely series has proven to be the perfect capper to a long, tiring day (or week or month, as the case may be) of work.
Fables is a long-running comic book series that tells the story of (public domain) fairy tale characters who are ousted from their fairy tale world by “The Adversary” and forced to live for centuries in our “mundy” (short for “mundane”) world. About half of the characters end up in New York City, in an apartment building called Fabletown, while the other half—the ones who can’t disguise themselves as mundies so easily—live in upstate New York on The Farm.
And that’s just the basic set-up. Each volume in the series tells stories within this invented reality as well as carrying larger plot arcs forward. And each volume tends to take a different genre, with everything from noir murder mysteries to political thrillers to romance novels getting their day in the spotlight. It’s refreshing and makes for a nice change of pace even as you follow favorite characters along their larger story arcs.
On the whole, it’s a very enjoyable series that breathes some fresh life into the concept of “fractured fairy tales.” Indeed, for a series about fairy tale characters, Fables allows itself to go surprisingly (and excellently) dark when the occasion calls for it. There’s a fair amount of bloodshed and violence in all the stories, calling back to the less refined ancestors of today’s more Disney-style fairy tales. Honestly, I’m a fan of both versions and definitely appreciate the “for mature audiences” style of this particular series as much as the singing animal sidekicks style of the Disney ones.
So far, I’ve read the first three collected volumes (Legends in Exile, Animal Farm, and Storybook Love) and am slowly parceling out the rest (17 collected editions at present count!) until the series is scheduled to end in spring 2015. Of the three, I’ve most enjoyed Legends in Exile, where Snow White teams up with the Big Bad Wolf to solve the mystery of Red Rose’s bloody disappearance and possible murder.
As the high season rolls on, I’m definitely looking forward to more Willingham to see me through nights where I’m too tired to do much of anything, but still crave smart entertainment.