‘Fables’ is a long-standing series of comic books that revolves around classic fairytale characters. It modernizes them by taking them out of their natural elements and throwing them into 21st century North American society.
It’s an intriguing concept because it gives readers very familiar characters such as Snow White or the Big Bad Wolf and puts them in more relatable terms: for instance, Snow White has now taken up the task of managing Fabletown, an underground community in the heart of New York City, while the Big Bad Wolf is now a police investigator.
This particular book has potential, being a murder mystery, but it feels like a lot of the story was cobbled together all-too-casually. I found that the writing could be lazy, with some awkward exposition inserted lamely along the way – especially at the beginning. It was meant to situate readers, I know, but it was done in ways that are too forced and unnatural for my taste. I’m sure there could have been smoother ways to bring us up to speed than this.
I also found that the characters could have been fleshed out differently. Some of it is amusing, such as Prince Charming becoming a bit of a gigolo, but most of them aren’t quite the way that I would have imagined them – it’s as though they are completely different from the ones we’ve always known (at least, in pop culture) and are those same fairytale characters in name only. I would have liked for these characters to at least have closer connections with the mental picture I had of them.
The artwork is professional, classic, reminiscent of ’70s comics. It’s good, but it’s not great; the overall result is not nearly as impressive now as it would have been some 30-40 years ago, before airbrushing was a standard and before a lot of the art and layouts became computer-bound. I think it would have been a notable effort in those days, but not so much now. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t do better, and it certainly bests Archie Comics, but it didn’t dazzle me.
I adored the basic premise of ‘Fables’, the notion of using characters from classic literature as the base for these stories, but it appears to only be used as a gimmick here; there is no real sense that this was essential, that the story wouldn’t be achieved without that background. So why bother at all? As well, I found the mystery in this particular book even less exciting that a ‘Murder She Wrote’ episode. Things could have transpired the way they’re written here, certainly, but it was anti-climactic to me.
‘Fables’ was hardly the spellbinding read I was hoping that it might be (especially given its 10-year run and how popular it is at my local library! ), but it’s well worth checking out – it may, after all, connect with someone who has different sensibilities or expectations than myself. And I will no doubt give the series another shot. It deserves at least that.