03 September 2012

Fables: Legends in Exile (Fables #1)

I never really got into graphic novels as a kid.  Eh, the snare guys in drumline (because if drumline consists of the "cool kids" in band, ergo the snare players are the kings) read Douglas Adams and Watchmen so I read those, too, since I wanted to be cool.

Douglas Adams was pretty good.  Watchmen made absolutely no sense to me.

I really wasn't into superheroes. I certainly knew about them and a little bit about the worlds from bits I read or overheard here and there but nothing really caught my interest.  So graphic novels were definitely a "blind spot" in my reading. 

Enter DC Comics and a Buy-2-Get-1-Free sale.  It included the Vertigo imprint which puts out graphic novel/comics series that friends had frequently recommended: Fables and Sandman.  So I poked through a few while on break one day and decided to pick up three books just to try on for size: Watchmen (because 30s-aged me should give it another shot given my 14yo-aged me's recollections - and I saw the movie thanks to a bored weekend and Netflix), Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, and Fables: Legends in Exile

Fables: Legends in Exile caught my attention immediately.  I've been reading a fair number of deconstructed/reconstructed fairy tales (Robin McKinley, Eloisa James, etc) so Bill Willingham's choice to force all fairy tales to move to contemporary New York City, where they live anonymously among regular people, was very intriguing.

In the backstory, a mysterious force called the Adversary invaded the land of fairy tales.  The defeated princes, princesses, beasts, magical animals, and the occasional villain were forced into exile among the "mundys" of New York City.  Those who can pass for human live in the City, a good number in an apartment building on the Upper West Side (known among the residents as "Fable Town") under the mayorship of Old King Cole and deputy mayor Snow White (divorced from her cheating husband Prince Charming) with Bigby Wolf as sheriff.  Those who cannot pass as human live on the Farm in upstate New York.

Legends in Exile opens as Jack (who I can't decide is Jack Horner, Jack Jump Over the Candlestick, Jack and the Beanstalk, or some other Jack - maybe all of them) comes running to tell Snow White that her sister Rose Red has disappeared.  And her apartment is covered in blood.  Snow gets Bigby Wolf to investigate - and he does, with a nod to the flourishes of older detective fiction.

There's a lot of introduction to get through in this volume with so many characters.  Charming was not only married to Snow White, but cheated on her with Rose, then married Cinderella then Sleeping Beauty (or was it the other way around?).  Bluebeard puts in an appearance.  There's apparently an issue with the pigs up on the Farm.  Beast is having trouble staying human because Beauty is upset about something (probably money, since all the fable and fairy tale characters lost their wealth when they fled the Adversary). 

Fables in Exile was so much fun to read.  Willingham is clear that he makes comic books for grown-ups, with adult themes, and that I appreciated.  I've read a few reviews that state the rest of the series gets better from here on out - wow - so I'll definitely check out more Fables volumes.

My only problem is that I read very fast - probably too fast for a graphic novel - and sometimes I don't know where to look!  Sometimes the story is told in details within the art, not the dialogue, so I definitely need to alter my reading style for this type of book.

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