Friday, September 21, 2012

Comic Review - Fables: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 1, by Bill Willingham

I've run across various volumes and offshoots of this series for the past few years, and finally decided to buy this deluxe volume on a whim and dive in. As a rule, I'm generally careful of pantheon comics that come to me with universal acclaim; The Walking Dead and Buffy Season 8 have taught me that I will be disappointed if I expect too much. However, while Fables isn't quite perfect, it is really, really good.

The first story arc of this volume begins in The Woodland, a New York City high-rise that serves as a kingdom-in-exile for the inhabitants of every conceivable myth and fairy tale. Driven out of their respective storylands by a mysterious adversary, these "fables" are trying to make their way in the world of the "mundanes" by sticking together in their own little community, ruled by Old King Cole and administered by a considerably more world-wise Snow White. The suspected murder of someone close to Snow threatens to throw a tenously peaceful community into disarray, so she leans on reformed predator Bigby Wolf to solve the case.

The second arc deals with an upstate farm that houses the more anthropomorphic Fabletown denizens, hiding them away from the mundanes. The forced seclusion and loss of their ancestral lands have made the farm fables restless; murmurs of revolution roil at the farm, fomented by two of the three little pigs and encouraged by Goldilocks. Snow takes a trip to the farm in order to ease tensions, but is drawn into a sudden, violent coup that could mean chaos both there and in the city.

I don't know what I was expecting when I flew blind into this series, but fairy-tale characters acting out hardcase mystery and quasi-political intrigue were pleasant surprises. Willingham plays most of this stuff pretty straight, and while the result isn't anything that moves beyond the realm of what one usually sees in comics, it's still novel and downright fun enough to keep me turning pages. The artwork is top-notch, particularly the consistent character work. The visual style seems a little comic-retro, somehow; Snow White looks like a 1950s model, and it definitely adds the right visual feel.

My only complaint is that the plotlines, for all of their excitement, are a bit superficial. This is compounded by melodrama that pops up in odd places; dialogue will occasionally take a stilted turn, and characters will artfully cry for a panel or two and suddenly stop. The comic doesn't lack for grittiness in the appropriate places, but I think it gets a bit too airy (and not in the fairy-tale way) in a few others.

As I said, though, I don't expect any different from a decent comic, and Fables is much better than decent. It's a cleverly written, beautifully drawn diversion. I'm definitely sold on the second volume.

Verdict: 4 / 5

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