In recent times, a lot of great stories have come from re-imagining, re-inventing and revising classic characters and settings to make them fresh and exciting, things like Wicked, The Looking Glass Wars, and Captain Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth. So it makes sense that the idea of a revisionist story would make its way into comics. Enter Fables, a comic which made its debut on DC Comics' Vertigo imprint in 2002. Fables tells the story of classic characters from nursey rhymes, fairy tales and other fantasy related stories throughout history (who call themselves "Fables") who have been forced from their homelands by an evil force known as The Adversary. After being forced from their homelands, the Fables flee to our world to New York City and establish an underground community known as Fabletown. Heading Fabletown's government as it's mayor is Old King Cole, with Snow White as his second in command. Along with them are at least a dozen other characters that readers will remember from their childhood.
The first story arc of Fables, the one upon which this article will focus, is collected in a trade paperback titled Fables: Legends in Exile and was originally printed in issues 1-5. The story begins when Jack (who is actually Jack Horner) rushes to the office of Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf in disguise as a human), the sheriff of Fabletown, to report that a crime has been committed at the home of Rose Red, Snow White's sister. Wolf then heads to the office of Snow White, where it is learned through a discussion she has with Beauty and the Beast that most of the Fables who were rich in the Homeland have lost all their money and that it is Snow White who is really in charge of Fabletown as she makes most of the decisions and King Cole handles being the public figurehead.
When Wolf and Snow White arrive at the appartment of Rose Red, it is a bloodbath and Wolf begins his invenstigation. Among the supsects are Jack Horner, Bluebeard (the infamous pirate who slew his wives on their wedding nights) and Prince Charming (whom Snow White divorced after he had an affair with Rose Red.) The story here, while mainly a murder mystery, is about a group of exiles struggling to survive in a world in which they don't belong. By the end, what became of Rose Red is revealed and the reader also learns more about how the Fables came to live in our world and about what happened to them as people since their famous stories took place. The details, though, are for you to read.
The writing by creator Bill Willingham is intriguing and well crafted. The way in which he intigrates the Fables into the world of the "Mundanes" is superbly creative. The art, mostly colored in soft pastels is masterfully done and beyond suitable for the story it illustrates. It should be noted that Fables is not for younger readers or readers who are easily offended. The Vertigo imprint of DC Comics publishes comics aimed at older readers and Fables contains coarse language, quite a bit of blood and a scene of frank (though not explicit) sexual activity.
Fables is still being published on a monthly basis, has spawned a couple of spinoffs and is collected to its current point in twelve trade paperbacks. Here in Vermont, it may be hard to find the monthly releases because, as stated above, the audience is smaller due to content, but the trade paperbacks can be found at Borders or Barnes & Noble. Of course, there is always the option of Amazon as well. This title is strongly recommended for not only fans of comics, but for fans of revisionist fiction such as Wicked or The Looking Glass Wars. So if you have a friend who's into that sort of thing, but who has never picked up a comic book, hand them a copy of Fables. They'll thank you.