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4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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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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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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on 30 March 2016
The positive first: this book has some really nice artwork, great draughtsmanship and nice colour work. BUT the story is boring, it's like a Scooby Doo plot! I didn't care about any of the boring, lifeless, predicable, 1 dimensional characters. The entire premise is simply a reversal of the traditional archetypes of Western fairy stories. Yawn. The purple prose similes and bad dialogue might impress some. I have no desire to read any more in the series. If the artwork had been shoddy it would have been unreadable.
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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 25 June 2013
Despite the many trials the fables go through, and the dark and bloody events that have befallen some of them, many of the books in this wonderful, imaginative, clever series have been quite light and jolly. Fables 18 is anything but.

The cubs, once an amorphous unit, a high-energy bundle of wolfy, childish glee and mischief, are starting to come out of their shell. In Fables 17 we learned more about Winter and Ambrose, here other cubs are highlighted. Therese is tricked into going on a magical adventure with terrible consequences, out of which she eventually fashions her redemption.

I don't know whether it's because I have my own children that I found this book particularly troublesome, but the idea of 8 year olds being lost to their families and having to make unbearably hard, adult decisions upset me to the core. But don't let that put you off. I don't know if this book signals a turn towards darker, more real-life themes and conundrums (real-life in the sense of problems being grey and knotty rather than black and white and easy to solve), or if it's a one-off. Either way, Willingham's superb imagination, pacing and turn of phrase, coupled with excellent art, mean that Fables remains the stand-out comics series at the moment.
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on 31 March 2015
Plot - excellent - a few detective cliches but I feel they are probably deliberate and a play on the genre.
Ink-work and Art Work - B E A utiful to quote Truman.
Dialogue - excellent, zingy and genuinely funny

Whether you are into comics or not this is an excellent purchase.
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on 24 March 2016
Not very inspiring and somewhat childish. It suffers from the fact that most readers know about the characters from their childhood and therefore go into the story with a bias that makes it difficult for the author to pull in a different direction. If you like very casual storytelling then by all means read gi for it. Otherwise I would recommend looking elsewhere.
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