Friday, May 18, 2007

Review: Fables In Exile, Vol 1-3

It is rare that there are new ideas in fantasy series, but there it is, Fables In Exile, a series that deals with fairy tales. Everybody knows that these stories always end with And they lived happily ever after....

The series begins with a postulate that the fairy tale lands have come under attack from a mysterious Adversary (who's not actually revealed yet). All the fairy tale creatures (including Brer Rabbit, for instance) escape from the fairy tale lands into Mundania, most abandoning their possessions. But all are immortal, in the way stories are, and those that have chosen to live amongst humans adopt human guise, while those who can't live in a secluded area of upstate New York, hidden away from the mundanes.

I can't tell you how much I like the mix of whimsy that Bill Willingham brings to this story. He starts off having a very frustrated Snow White (one of the protagonists and the administrator of the community in New York) having to cope with a marital dispute between Beauty and her Beast. The dialog is beautiful, entertaining, and draws you into the fantasy. But the story is anything but whimsical. The first volume deals with Bigby Wolf's (yes, that's the Big Bad Wolf of the fairy tales) attempt to solve the mystery of the murder of Rose Red. The way the clues are placed and provided to the reader are delightful: those who are used to prose mysteries will be surprised that most of the clues are visual --- one has to read the art as carefully as the prose and the dialog in this story.

Volume 2 is centered around the other Fable community, the one with three little pigs, the three bears, their unhappiness with not being able to fit into mundania, and their plan to do something about it. The result is again an ongoing deluge of beautiful ideas, wonderful characters from childhood revisited, and a plot that keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Lovedeals with the consequences of the fallout of volume two, and we find out that fables are really tough to kill. It also begins to resolves a romantic entanglement that we've been teased with so far in the series. Now that you've grown to know the characters, Willigham plays with your expectations for them, and some of them will surprise you.

All throughout the art is consistently great, right up there with the best of The The Sandman, and the stories are consistently better. I kid you not. I think Willingham is a better writer than Gaiman, and the endings are definitely not lame, since he doesn't write himself into a corner.

All in all, two thumbs up, and worth paying full price at Amazon.com for these books if you can't find them at the local library. I've got the entire series on hold at my local library and I await them eagerly!
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