Fables: Legends in Exile

Reviewed: December 17, 2004
By: Bill Willingham / art by Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
127 pages, $15.25

When the creatures of Faerie were driven from their homeland by the invading forces of the Adversary, they eventually did what most of the oppressed people of the Old World did, and came to the New World. The animal creatures live on a very private farm and wildlife preserve in upstate New York, while the human refugees (or those who can pass for human) live in a part of New York City which has street names like Bullfinch and Kipling and buildings with names like Woodland Luxury Apartments. If mundane humanity understood the place they;d probably call it Fabletown.

This is the premise behind an ongoing series which presents fairy tale characters in a somewhat different light. Imagine Jack as a social climber, for instance. How about Snow White as the tight lipped manager of the entire menagerie? Beauty and the Beast as an ill-matched couple with a serious problem - they don't get along well and whenever she is mad at him he loses his human looks.

The biggest change of all would be what happened to the fellow who became the security chief of the exiled legends. Gifted with a shapeshifter's ability to be human or beast, Bigby Wolf (you know, B. B. - like Big Bad?) is policemen and protector to those on whom he once preyed. His human model seems to be that of a Sam Spade style shamus, rumpled but noble.

So when it appears that Rose Red has been savagely slaughtered in her apartment, it's up to Bigby to find out why, how and who, a job he initially thinks would be easier if her sister, the boss, would just back off.

While this series is well drawn, it is essentially a writer's book, and Willingham has done a marvelous job with the premise so far. There are three collected editions so far, of which this is the first. It's not only a good fantasy, it's also a decent mystery.