My introduction to the Fables universe was via the Telltale Games series, The Wolf Among Us. The comics finished earlier this year but apparently Warner Bros. is developing a film so there is life in the franchise yet.
I loved the tone and aesthetic of TWAU, and so was quite keen to try the source material. Having just finished the second ‘deluxe’ volume of the series (there are twelve in total), I’m very pleased that the original artwork is generally as gorgeous, characterful, and seedy as the game it inspired. There are occasional issues which seem to have been done by different artists, and which look different, but for the most part the look is consistent and very appealing.
For those who don’t know, the Fables universe is one where fairy tale characters are real and live among us in secret, having been driven out of their own world/s by someone known only as The Adversary, who seems to be the Big Bad to end them all. One of the main themes in the stories is the contrast between the romantic history of some of the characters and their mundane, downtrodden or degenerate lifestyles in the real world. Many of the Fables are very powerful, verging on immortal in some cases, but almost all are poverty stricken and wallowing more or less in despair and a sense of what they lost when they left their old lives behind.
So, the mood on the whole is pretty dour, but there is a lot of entertainment on offer. One of the advantages of a set-up like this is the limitless scope for different kinds of stories and plots. Volume two opens with a story where ‘Jack of the Tales’ (he of the Beanstalk) is fleeing the American Civil War and, in the space of a few short pages, encounters the Devil, the Grim Reaper, a beautiful Southern belle, and a bunch of undead animals and reanimated war veterans. The artists’ range is impressive as is the combination of characters and storylines and it makes for enjoyable reading.
There is an overarching story of sorts centred on the efforts of Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad one) and Snow (White) to manage and police the motley and disreputable Fable community. I’ve been surprised so far that a number of fledgling antagonists seem to have been killed off quite early; but my worry is perhaps premature. It’s hard to permanently kill a Fable: the belief of the ‘Mundys’–that would be us–keeps them alive, and the bigger the character’s reputation, the harder they are to kill. This is fine, but after a certain point you kind of need to know when someone is really dead so you can move on with the story. Otherwise death starts to lose its meaning. This is less a problem with the comics than it is with the game, though, which used this plot point more than once in its first couple of hours.
The last thing I heard about the Fables movie was that Jane Goldman was attached to write it. I like her work on Kick-Ass and X-Men so hopefully she will do a good job with this, too. The source material seems pretty impressive so far and I plan to stick with it. With another ten volumes of the deluxe edition to go, though, we’ll see. These things ain’t cheap! But overall, there’s no question this is some of the most mature and engaging content I’ve read in graphic novel/comic format, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.