Man, I really wanted to like this book. I tried to like it, all the way through, but save for a few moments of amusement I was largely unimpressed. This is not The Unwritten, sadly, and maybe my love for that comic colored my view of this one? I’ll need to do some SCIENCE to find out.
In the meantime, let me tell you why this book should have been awesome:
First, I mean, fables. I have really grown to enjoy satires/homages of fairy tales and the like, and that’s exactly what this is. In this comic series, the inhabitants of, like, any imaginary story have been exiled from their respective homelands by some mighty Adversary and now live mostly in NYC, except for the non-human ones (or non-able-to-pretend-to-be-human ones) who live on a farm upstate. Which sounds kind of ominous, actually, I hope they’re okay. In this particular volume we have Old King Cole as the mayor of Fabletown, Snow White as his deputy, the Big Bad Wolf (aka Bigby) in pretend-human form as a cop/detective-type, and lots and lots of other favorite characters doing many and varied things. Oh, and Bluebeard shows up and I totally know who he is this time! Thanks, Neil Gaiman!
Second, it’s a murder mystery. Bigby’s case here is the mysterious disappearance slash probable murder of Rose Red, whose apartment is covered in blood almost like that one episode of Dexter and whose man-friend Jack (of Beanstalk fame) is eager to find out whodunnit. I love murder mysteries, and in this case I get to actually see the crime scene for a change! Graphic novels are cool like that.
So, fables and murder. Fantastic. But, here’s why it failed for me: the writing. It was very comic-book-y with the emphasis on all the important words but also sometimes on words that seemed to be fine on their own and I was like, wait, what? He said that sentence how? Does he speak English? (Does he speak English? Does he speak English? I could do this all day…)
Ahem. And then also Willingham tried to be all cutesy and self-aware with the dialogue and it comes out instead all verbose and clunky and awful and like absolutely no one anywhere would actually talk, and I am like, omg chill out, which is easy for me to say from this end of an extremely run-on sentence but WHATEVER. It’s a comic book! I want to look at the pictures!
Example: Bigby says to Snow White, “This isn’t about Prince Charming. It’s about your sister, Rose Red.” And of course no one talks like that unless they’re Expositing, and so Snow White calls him on his BS and says, “This may surprise you, Mister Wolf, but I’m not entirely an idiot. I actually know my sister’s name.” Unfortunately, this is ALSO not how anyone talks unless they’re putting on a show for a listener, of which there are none that are not the reader. A simple “Yeah, that’s her name, what about her?” or “Do I have another?” would easily have sufficed, but no-oooo, and that’s how the whole rest of the book goes and it is tiresome.
The concept and the general execution are so good, guys, and if you are more forgiving of terrible dialogue than I am you will probably really like this series, which I imagine goes on in the same vein. But I can’t do it. Let me know how it goes?
Recommendation: Fables, MURDER, pretty pictures. Is this your bag?