Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One (Fairy Tale Fridays)

I'm falling woefully behind on my 2011 Fairy Tale Challenge and feeling uninspired by classic fairy tales last week, I sent out a Twitter request to Tif from Tif Talks Books asking her to recommend a tale for me to read and review.  I was expecting something along the lines of HCA or the brothers Grimm, but Tif surprised me by suggesting Fables the graphic novel series by Bill Willingham.  Even more surprising was walking into my local library and spotting book one of the hardbound deluxe edition of the series hours after it was mentioned to me!

Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One encompasses the first ten issues of the series.  The first five compose the story "Legends in Exile" (Chapter 1: Old Tales Revisited; Chapter 2: The (Un)Usual Suspects; Chapter 3: Blood Tells; Chapter 4: Remembrance Day; and Chapter 5: The Famous Parlor Room Scene (Sans Parlor).)  In this sequence, the characters and world are introduced and the reader discovers a neighborhood of New York City known as Fabletown in which all the classic fairy tale characters are alive and thriving in modern society without the general population having any clue to their existence.  As the introduction by Bill Willingham states, "Welcome to the woods: where all fairy tales take place - even those that don't."  Ruled over by King Cole and his second in command the ever beautiful Snow White (who has a less than amicable relationship with her ex-husband who is not-so Charming), things are far from happily ever after as the main plot of this section of the story involves a murder mystery and the subsequent investigations by Sheriff Bigby Wolf.

The story was bound to hook me in, but as with any graphic novel, the artwork is what kept me glued to the pages.  I love hardbound editions to graphic novels because not only do I love diving into multiple issues at at time but I love that the finishing on the inking and design gives them an even more vibrant look.  Color aside though, I think this is a series that would be enjoyable in any format since I really just loved the way the characters were conceived and drawn.  Take this example of a figurine designed off sketches from issue eight:

Which brings me to the second half of The Deluxe Edition, the story "Animal Farm" (Chapter 1: Road Trip; Chapter 2: The Guns of Fabletown; Chapter 3: The Pirates of Upstate New York; Chapter 4: Warlord of the Flies; and Chapter 5: Twilight of the Dogs.) 
"Animal Farm" comprised a much darker tale involving the non-human residents of the fairy tale community who, unable to blend into normal city life, have their own residence on a farm in upstate New York.  The title taken from Orwell's classic is no coincidence and the literary allusions don't stop with a revolt led by one of the three pigs.  I was really impressed with the more sinister feel of this set of tales.  Willingham creates a story arc that is constantly surprising and I know if I had read this issue by issue I would have been agonizing over each and every cliffhanger.  

All in all, I'm really glad to have discovered Fables.  I'm thankful both for Tif's suggestion that brought it to my attention and for the fact that my local library carries graphic novels.  I know some readers consider "comic books" to be some substandard form of literature, but I can honestly say that the storytelling I found in this series was as complex and intriguing as many of my favorite fantasy works and I find that well done artwork enhances rather than detracts from the narrative.  (This picture is the spread cover of the Deluxe Edition - just had to give another example of the creative and imaginative artwork found in the collection!)

Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One by Bill Willingham is the latest entry in my 2011 Fairy Tale Challenge (9 out of 12).  Are you familiar with the Fables series?  Is it one you're interested in checking out?  What are your thoughts on graphic novels as literature?  Does your local library carry them?

2 Response to "Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One (Fairy Tale Fridays)"

  1. Anne@HeadFullofBooks says:
    November 12, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I've had this book on my order form for months now and I couldn't bring myself to buy it. I think I will follow your lead and take a look at the public library and decide from there if I should order it. It came up on some list that I saw of the top graphic books of recent years.

    Anne@My Head is Full of Books

  2. Tif Sweeney says:
    November 25, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    I am soooo glad that you loved these!! I have only read through Animal Farm and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one. I love the story line, I love the familiarity of the characters, and I love the twists in the classic tales! And, of course, the artwork is brilliant! Love, love, love!! :)

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