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on 3 August 2003
This collects the first 5 issues of Bill Willingham's Fables comic. The run covers Bigby Wolf's investigation into the apparent killing of Rose Red in Fabletown - a community made up of refugees/exiles from the the lands of myth and fable. On paper the idea surely can't work but somehow it does by using characters that are imprinted on most children's consciousness from an early age. This is adult fare though even taking into account real fables propensity for the bloody and the macabre. It all fits together cleverly with a strange kind of natural symmetry. I n execution the comic walks the same paths of style as say Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen even down to the prose fairytale prequelling events at the back of the book, written and illustrated by Willingham. As with Moore's League it's all very much tongue in cheek. Bigby wolf is a good character noiring his way through the mystery complete with parlour denouement. Entertaining and well executed with some pretty neat art.
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Imagine if all the legendary story characters were living secretly in New York -- and they weren't quite fairy tale material?

In short, Prince Charming is a thrice-divorced lech, the Big Bad Wolf is now a werewolf cop, Snow White is an embittered government manager, and some very peculiar other residents crashing in a modern city. "Fables Volume 1: Legends in Exile" does an excellent job smoothly introducing the world of Bill Willingham's series, even as he spins up a pretty solid little murder mystery.

The daily business of the hard-nosed Snow White (a Fable government official whom everyone comes to with complaints) is interrupted when Bigby Wolf brings her some ghastly news: her estranged, wild-child sister Rose Red has been murdered, and there's no sign of her except for buckets of blood all over her apartment. The most obvious suspect is Jack, whom Snow White helps interrogate when she isn't dealing with her womanizing, impoverished aristocrat ex, Prince Charming.

But some of the details about Rose Red's death don't add up -- and as Bigby investigates further into the people who knew her well, he begins finding aspects of her life hidden from everybody. Not to mention an irate fiancee who wants revenge on Jack. As the Remembrance Day approaches, Bigby puts together the clues to a very bizarre case where not everything is what it seems -- and not everyone is doing what they claim.

Bill Willingham is an expert in taking beloved characters from legends, fairy tales and nursery rhymes... and then turning our perceptions of them on their heads (example: Beast and Beauty's marital troubles cause his curse to reassert itself). He's also created a pretty unique fantasy concept -- the Fables and their magic have been driven out of their fantastical homeland, and live as secret refugees in the middle of New York City. It's actually a pretty cool idea.

If it were nothing but a "cool idea" gimmick, "Fables" might be a fun read but not a great one. However, Willingham has a knack for weaving together action-packed, gritty plots with a touch of sex, plenty of splattered gore, and plenty of quirky twists (Pinocchio is angry about being a "real boy" who never grows up). And even as he carefully introduces the characters and their situations, he also spins up a solid murder mystery that intertwines with the other subplots like ivy vines on a stone wall -- splatters of blood, a padlock, a strange betrothal contract, and a missing body all take part.

And Willingham's cast is as large as the number of beloved free-domain characters allows... well, at least the well-known ones. The inhabitants of fairy tales and folk legends loom especially large in the story -- the hard-nosed, no-nonsense Snow White; the bickering Beauty and her Beast hubby; the flirtatious much-married Prince Charming (who spends much of the story seducing waitresses and selling unusable property); the grizzled cop Bigby Wolf; supposedly reformed serial killer Bluebeard; a rather embittered Cinderella, and so on. Despite the vast cast of characters, Willingham juggles them adeptly and gives each character a distinct personality.

Bill Willingham started off the Fables series on a strong footing with "Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile," which combines a quirky fantasy concept with a solid murder mystery. Definitely a good read.
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on 27 April 2014
I realise I am rather late to the Fables party, but am definitely glad I finally arrived. The simple premise of fairy tale creatures living amongst the 'mundies' in contemporary New York seems ripe for a kids book, however this is far from child's play. A dark and rich story of murder and intrigue unfolds within the beautiful artwork that has at once the feeling of classic illustrations and modern comic art at the same time. There are a few moments as the Big Bad Wolf prowls through his list of suspects where the story can be a little clunky, although I am convinced these teething issues will be ironed out in the future issues.
Overall this is a fantastic book, and hopefully series. I'll be sure to let you know soon.
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on 7 December 2015
3.5 stars

I usually don’t read comics or graphic novels – or haven’t for a while. But I have been playing the game "The Wolf Among Us", and it made me want to read this.
I keep thinking that my opinion on this series might be biased because I already felt attached somehow to the characters from having played the video-game – which was a prequel to the comic book series. This first volume was not what I was expecting: not as dark, not as violent, not as complex. There is also the fact that I am not sure how I’d have felt if this was my first contact with this mysterious ‘Fabletown’.
The book blurb is a bit tricky too: It gives us the background information in the beginning, however very little of this episode is dedicated to the actual background history of the series. If you are curious about the premise, you might be disappointed when you get an episodic murder mystery instead.
The characters are the best part for me. They are nothing like in the folklore, and they have unique quirks (You have to love the Big Bad Wolf). The chemistry between Snow and Bigby is intense, addictive, and even hilarious – but I guess I knew that already. Was this book funny? Yes, it was. I might have a weird sense of humor so take it with a grain of salt.
Overall, I think I was expecting the episode contained in this volume to be darker, more complex, more ‘adult’ perhaps, and to develop a bit more of the original premise. Still, this story is part of a pretty imaginative and creative world, and the series deserve all the credit for that. Plus, you get to spend some time with amazing characters that never cease to surprise you. I know that the world-building has more depth than what it was shown here, and I wonder when is this going to be shown / explained in the series.
In the end, it was a light, fun, and entertaining read, which I believe might turn into something more complex if I continue the series – which I will!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 January 2014
Rose Red is dead - who killed her? It's up to Bigby Wolf, Fabletown's gumshoe, to track down the killer.

What I really like about the first volume of Fables is that it doesn't read like a first volume of a multi-volume series - it reads like a standalone book. I'm sure Rose Red plays a big part later on but this book is concerned more with the done-in-one murder mystery than it is in explicitly detailing to the reader all about the world of the series, etc.

The genius of this approach is that Bill Willingham introduces the cast of the series, gives us their characters and their situations within the self-contained story, so it manages to do everything a first volume should while also presenting itself as a standalone book, meaning everyone from casual readers looking for a good story to those who're in for the long haul can get something out of this first volume.

I'm not usually one for crime dramas/police procedurals, and the reveal at the end isn't at all original, but the story in this first volume is an entertaining whodunit thanks to its colourful cast. Our grizzled (and he is grizzled!) detective is Bigby Wolf (aka the Big Bad Wolf) who, along with Snow White, Deputy Mayor of Fablestown and sister of Rose Red, sets out to bring Rose's killer to justice.

Rather than meeting a series of nondescript characters during the investigation, you're introduced to someone you'll remember from your childhood in each scene - it's Beauty and the Beast! Is that... Bluebeard? Jack - like Jack and the Beanstalk? Willingham's taken their character and twisted it just so, so that they're familiar but new at the same time. We've seen it done numerous times before (probably most famously by the Shrek movies) but it works in this comic because of Willingham's strong characterisation and inspired writing.

Lan Medina's wonderful designs help in realising the characters. They look like you'd expect to a degree so they're recognisable when you first see them but have just enough nuance to them to make you look closer. I especially liked the jaded talking pig who returns from the farm to the city to crash on Bigby's couch - Bigby owes him after blowing his house down!

And when you're wondering how what when etc., Willingham provides just enough background information on how the Fables came to live in our world so that it's sufficient for readers to enjoy this book alone with room to explore it further in later books - again, ingenious! I'm sure some readers will feel the brief section on The Adversary wasn't enough but I'm also sure it's explored more in the dozens of other books that follow this.

It's taken me a while to get around to picking up Fables but I'm glad I did. It's enjoyable, original, and this first volume is a fine place to start giving the reader a good taste of what the series is about and a decent murder mystery too - I'm definitely on board for the second volume! If you've been putting it off because of the abundance of cheesy fairy tales with a 21st century post-modern take in pop culture, put those fears aside and give Fables a shot.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 January 2014
Rose Red is dead - who killed her? It's up to Bigby Wolf, Fabletown's gumshoe, to track down the killer.

What I really like about the first volume of Fables is that it doesn't read like a first volume of a multi-volume series - it reads like a standalone book. I'm sure Rose Red plays a big part later on but this book is concerned more with the done-in-one murder mystery than it is in explicitly detailing to the reader all about the world of the series, etc.

The genius of this approach is that Bill Willingham introduces the cast of the series, gives us their characters and their situations within the self-contained story, so it manages to do everything a first volume should while also presenting itself as a standalone book, meaning everyone from casual readers looking for a good story to those who're in for the long haul can get something out of this first volume.

I'm not usually one for crime dramas/police procedurals, and the reveal at the end isn't at all original, but the story in this first volume is an entertaining whodunit thanks to its colourful cast. Our grizzled (and he is grizzled!) detective is Bigby Wolf (aka the Big Bad Wolf) who, along with Snow White, Deputy Mayor of Fablestown and sister of Rose Red, sets out to bring Rose's killer to justice.

Rather than meeting a series of nondescript characters during the investigation, you're introduced to someone you'll remember from your childhood in each scene - it's Beauty and the Beast! Is that... Bluebeard? Jack - like Jack and the Beanstalk? Willingham's taken their character and twisted it just so, so that they're familiar but new at the same time. We've seen it done numerous times before (probably most famously by the Shrek movies) but it works in this comic because of Willingham's strong characterisation and inspired writing.

Lan Medina's wonderful designs help in realising the characters. They look like you'd expect to a degree so they're recognisable when you first see them but have just enough nuance to them to make you look closer. I especially liked the jaded talking pig who returns from the farm to the city to crash on Bigby's couch - Bigby owes him after blowing his house down!

And when you're wondering how what when etc., Willingham provides just enough background information on how the Fables came to live in our world so that it's sufficient for readers to enjoy this book alone with room to explore it further in later books - again, ingenious! I'm sure some readers will feel the brief section on The Adversary wasn't enough but I'm also sure it's explored more in the dozens of other books that follow this.

It's taken me a while to get around to picking up Fables but I'm glad I did. It's enjoyable, original, and this first volume is a fine place to start giving the reader a good taste of what the series is about and a decent murder mystery too - I'm definitely on board for the second volume! If you've been putting it off because of the abundance of cheesy fairy tales with a 21st century post-modern take in pop culture, put those fears aside and give Fables a shot.
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on 6 June 2011
The characters from the fairy tales that we all know and love have been driven out of their fantasy world by a sinister unknown enemy. Unable to return to their homes, they are now living in modern day New York City where they try to blend in under the watchful eye of Snow White. Problems arise when Snow White's sister, Rose Red, goes missing and her aparetment is found covered in blood. While she works with Bigby Wolf to solve the mystery, Prince Charming is attempting to raffle off his kingdom in the old world to raise some much needed money, and evertyhing comes to a head at the traditional Remembrance Day ball.

This is a cleverly written book because, while it has a plot that is neatly tied up at the end, it also provides only tantalising hints into the wider story which surrounds the fairy tale characters. I want to know what exactly happened to their world which made them flee to ours, and how that is going to develop. I want to know more about the characters and their somewhat strained existence rubbing shoulders with ordinary humans. I want to find out more about their traditions and cultures and how their fary stories continue to be played out in the real world. In other words, it provided the perfect amount of story to engage and satisfy me if I only ever read Legends in Exile, but at the same time it guarantees that I'm going to want to carry on and read more of the series because I'm so fascinated with the world.

The concept is interesting (if a bit self-consciously silly at times) and it's much grittier than I had expected from a fairy tale adapt ation. I loved the little details that Willingham puts in about the characters: the Beast, for example, is only handsome as long as Beauty is happy in their marriage, so he keeps reverting to his beastlike appearance every time Beauty becomes annoyed with him (which happens quite frequently). The pictures aren't as pretty as I tend to favour, but I think they really suit the detective noir style of the story.
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on 15 November 2013
Here is another great volume from Willingham. With the crossover out of the way we can get back to doom and woe as usual. Here we learn how Mr Dark got into the box in the first place. Then in the second tale lots of exciting events unfold in Fabletown. Finally we return to Haven for a game of baseball, and a murder.

These are all great stories but the final one really tugs at your heart strings and presents you with a fierce emotional quandary. Willingham is a great writer and presents small personal tales just as well as shocking intrigue or epic drama. It is all about the deep and vibrant characters he has created.

The art is great with three artists presenting three tales. The Mr Dark origin story is a recollection from long ago. To make it stand out from current events they came up the brilliant idea of dropping the trademark borders. The art goes full bleed to the edges and it makes much more of a difference than you would expect. Another great choice.

Once again, Thumbs Up!
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on 21 November 2013
The main tale here touches on the dark side to most fairy tales and reminds you just how creepy toys can be. There is an excellent atmosphere and a brooding sense of trepidation and fear. The childish overtones really provoke your unease.

The other tale is one of those standalone pieces tangentially linked to the Fables plot. It is narrated by Ambrose giving a story within a story. There is little need for this technique other than to mark it as a Fables work and make us curious about the fate of the Wolf family.

Buckingham draws the main part expertly which has some wonderful colouration too. Gene Ha steps in to do the second story giving a very different feeling and some really dense tones. Special mention must go to the lettering as the small but clever choices add to both works.

Thumbs Up!
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This is a stand alone graphic novel which runs for 130 pages [approx] and tells a story involving a character from the popular 'Fables' comic series.
There's enough exposition in here such that it might work for those who haven't read the comic, but you are probably better off being familiar with that in order to get the most out of this.

For the uninitiated, Fables tells of various famous characters from fairy tales and the like, who have had to relocate to our world after theirs fell to an evil empire.

As with the comic, it's strictly for grown up readers, thanks to strong violence, language, and adult moments.

Set somewhen not long after the events of issues 87-91 of the comic, with the Fables having to relocate after Fabletown was lost to the evil Mr. Dark. Bigby is off searching for a possible new location for a new Fabletown. And is going to check out a place called Story City. Where the deceased fable Bluebeard had a lot of interests.

Bigby gets a few suprises in Story City. Meeting a face from his past. And finding the inhabitants are all Werewolves. Who all revere him.

But as he digs deeper into the secrets of Story City, things start to get dark and dangerous..

The book is divided into nine chapters, one of which retells the events of issues twenty eight to twenty nine of the comic, which saw Bigby on a mission in Nazi territory in World War Two.

The focus is largely on him throughout, and this is a pretty good solid character drama, looking at a man who is constantly struggling between various parts of his nature. And some of the folk of the city are doing the same. This results in a pretty memorable story as many are forced into making some hard moral choices. Bigby most of all. Like all good fiction, it makes the reader think as to what they might do in similar circumstances.

But whilst the writing is good the artwork can be a bit distracting. It has one artist on layouts. Two on pencils. And four on inks. Thus the look of it can change drastically from page to page. Some of them are very good indeed. Some of them not so strong. And the latter do rather distract.

This is still worth four stars even despite that problem, because it's a very well written and memorable story, and well worth a look for any fan of the comic.

There's a short afterword at the end from the writer which talks about how the story came to be. And the real Story City. It's worth a read.
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