Mature Reading: Fables

Fables #1-96
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, and Craig Hamilton

Once upon a time, there was a land where all the fairy tales you grew up reading were real. All your favorite characters lived side by side and everything was happy. That is until The Adversary appeared, a shadowy figure who gathered the aberrant armies of these realms and effectively took over. Those storybook characters afraid of what he would do now that he was in power migrated to the world of the Mundies, or our world. On a couple blocks in New York City, cloaked with expert magicks, is Fabletown, the home of the exiles. Here they plot a way to take back their homeland while dealing with discovery at the hands of the Mundies and their own evil fable brethren. This is the setting that kicks off Bill Willingham’s magnum opus (still being published today).

While the series is an ensemble piece, the main characters would be Snow White and Bigby Wolf (Big Bad Wolf). Snow is Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, the mayor is Old King Cole. Snow is in charge of settling disputes between the Fables and dealing with security issues in the neighborhood. The first arc of the series finds Snow believing her sister, Rose Red to have been murdered. She enlists the help of Bigby Wolf, who has taken a human form and is the acting sheriff of Fabletown. They go after suspects Jack Horner (Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Frost, Jack Be Nimble) and the murderous Bluebeard. Its revealed in the end that Rose Red has been faking the whole thing, which drives a wedge between she and Snow.

Also amongst the cast are Boy Blue; Snow’s personal assistant, Flycatcher; the janitor in the mayor’s office and the former Frog Prince, Pinocchio; permanently stuck as a little boy due to the Blue Fairy’s spell, and Cinderella; a shoe store owner by day and super spy by night. Snow will come into conflict with her, and many of the other fable princesses’ ex-husband Prince Charming. In upstate New York, there is a farm dedicated to the talking animal fables, the ones who couldn’t blend in in the city. The Farm is the site of an animal revolution in the second arc, with Goldilocks leading them in revolt against Snow and her forces.

The first 75 issues of the series are focused around telling the story of how the Fables came to be in the Mundie world and how they fight to return to the homeland. Willingham showcases a deep breadth of knowledge by incorporating fairy tale characters who are probably unfamiliar to most but are actually found in old folktales and amongst the Brothers Grimm collections. I’ve always enjoyed the darker aspects of all those stories and characters, and that’s what we definitely get in this series. Fables has proven so popular its garnered an ongoing spin-off (Jack of Fables) and two mini-series (Cinderella, The Literals). The Jack of Fables series further expanded the Fables universe by bringing in characters like Humpty Dumpty, The Oz and Wonderland characters, as well as introducing a family of beings who can rewrite history. There’s even the Genres, the embodiment of genres of writing. If you are looking for a clever, funny, and many times exciting series written for mature audiences, I think Fables will definitely satisfy you.

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