The Fables comic book series is all that is right with the US comic book industry. It is brilliantly constructed, features some of the most likable characters ever drawn, and it actually (get THIS) ends! A comic with a finale?! WHAAAAAAA?!? And it ends very well, I must state. Well.... It doesn't end well for all the characters, but it's a fulfilling resolution with assloads of closure from the reader's point of view. But it does end shittily for numerous characters. Good and bad.
I started reading Fables quite a while ago (it'd been an ongoing monthly series from 2002 through till 2015), but I had originally ignored it because its premise sounded so dumb. "So there's this city block in modern day New York that's populated entirely by fairy tale fable characters who have to deal with their past problems and with living in the real world," I was originally told. Yeah, that sounds ghey. I mean, I just described ABC's abysmal Once Upon a Time TV show. Ugh. But what I found out later, by way of a friend who was really into the whole Fables world, is that these storied folk (featuring Mayor Old King Cole, Deputy Mayor Snow White, Sheriff Bigby Wolf, and a small town full of other ex-magical-world beings) are living in our mundane world due to their being chased out of their Homelands by an evil tyrant with an unstoppable army, determined to bring unity (and oppression) to all... That sounded much cooler than Snow White, and Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, and the Evil Queen just acting like typical soap opera-ish sluts for an hour at a time (seriously, fuck you, Once Upon a Time, Your show is just awful garbage).
Anyway, so we are slowly introduced to our enormous cast of characters (including Little Boy Blue, Jack Horner, Rose Red, Bufkin [the flying monkey], Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast, Frau Totenkinder [the witchiest of all witches], Cindy, Briar Rose, Flycatcher, Bluebeard, Pinocchio, Rapunzel, Dr. Swineheart, the Magic Mirror, Ozma, Prospero, Morgan le Fay, Weyland the Smith, Thumbelina, and Clarathea [a dragon turned crow]), and we first see them as they act and live, immortal as they are, in modern America (with human Fables living in Fabletown in the middle of New York City, and those who can't pass for human [including talking pigs, badgers, and foxes] having to move to The Farm, in upstate New York).
The first tale of this multi-chaptered universe is a detective story in which a human Fable is murdered (quite messily), and Sheriff Big Bad Wolf (aka the Wolverine-like Bigby) has to team up with stick-up-her-butt Snow White to solve the crime. As far as pilot episodes go, it wasn't too bad, and the huge world and backstory that it alluded to intrigued me greatly. WHY are these characters living in the mundy world? Who/what chased them out of the Homelands? What is this Fabletown truce that they keep referring to? Why are supposed fabley enemies living in the same apartment complex and working together? Then I continued on, and things only got much, much better the deeper that I fell into the world of living parables.
Fables is epic. Fables is extraordinarily deep. Fables is a masterful game of chess with about a hundred or so players on the board with something important to do during the course of the narrative. The way that the writer (Bill Willingham) introduces, then ties together what seems like an infinite amount of characters into the story, has them butt heads, and then come together, using their famous abilities to fight The Adversary (amongst others) is goddamn awe-inspiring. Every issue moves the story forward, every character that we meet is important in some way, and the big finales? Well, there are several main plotlines that we see throughout the series' 13 year run, and even though they each end, they all lead right into the next one. And the last BIG story that involves all of Fabletown (and every last character) ties right back into the very first issue... And everything, every story, every thread, everybody who makes even the smallest appearance has an applause-worthy finale... Okay, well, not EVERYBODY, but Willingham does his best to wrap up the majority of the players' scenarios.
What I loved the most about Fables is how brilliantly Willingham merged some real-world thought processes and tactics with magical problems. The Fabletown crew lives in the real world, and they are fully aware of real world weapons and ideas, and they use them, along with their own natural magical abilities to deal with their obstacles and enemies. Everything, every plan, every trap set by the Fables against the Adversary is ingenious and beautiful to behold. Willingham put a whole ton of thought into every plot thread in this thing, and it really got me rooting for the good guys more than any other piece of fiction I can think of at the moment.
The only thing that I didn't 100% love about Fables is how so many of my favorite characters (and I had several dozen favorites) died. Some died early on, some made it through the war, and some got killed rather horrifically just an issue or two from the last page, but every last death hit me hard. I liked those guys and girls way too much for make-believe drawings. I can't even talk about or drop the slightest hints as to who dies when and how, since you're SUPPOSED to feel every casualty, and this comic is right up there with Gaiman's Sandman as a work of monthly-produced art. You really need to read it for yourself.
Feel free to skip the Jack of Fables spin-off comic though. I just didn't really give too many shits about what Jack Horner was up to after he was banned from Fabletown. I thought he was a dick, and the Literals were just dumb. And the Fables crossover with Jack of Fables was almost skippable too, but luckily things got back on track almost immediately afterward.
I'm sorry if I'm not giving you too much information here, but that is intentional. This is one of the most amazing stories I've ever read, and I don't want to fuck up any of its intricate and intentional plot for you. Just read it. The trade paperbacks are pretty damn cheap, and it's great to be able to keep going once you start. You honestly will not be able to stop once you pop.
Oh, and you will also have to get the Fables: Fairest, and Cinderella side series to get the whole gooey experience. They may not deal with the main plot of Fables prime, but they add so much to some very important people in the main series. In them we get to see quite a bit more of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and the Snow Queen's back stories and personalities as they deal with issues outside of the main narratives, and they all pull in characters that we hadn't seen before, or had only heard of in passing, but who are pretty big fairy tale stars in and of themselves. Good times.
So do it. Go out and buy up all the Fables paperbacks sight unseen. You will thank me in the end. And if that's too rich for your blood, at least just try out the first two trade collections for a great indication of how large and intense this uber-series is.
So, Fables... Fairy tales... Snoooooow White... The Big Bad Wolf... In a comic book. And goddammit, if it didn't work.
I had my doubts going into this looooong comic book story, but the Rossman insisted. The first 4 or so issues were only so-so to me, but I gave it a total of 12 issues before I decided if I was going to stop or not. That was enough.
I won't say that this is the greatest comic ever since Watchmen, or The Dark Knight Returns, or that Richie Rich issue where he bought Canada in order to corner the maple syrup market and get into the panties of that girl who was always hanging around (what'shername?... Gloryhole?)... but it was fun. That's the key word here, fun. I haven't had this much fun with a book — comic or not — in a long time. There came a point where I simply had to keep reading, and putting the collections down became borderline painful. I had to find out what our Fable crew would do to combat the evil Adversary's overwhelming armies!
I also really liked the takes on the old and worn characters that they put on them here. Others would say these were "twists" on characterizations, but those people are retarded. There's really no twist to be found, only natural character progression here. Cindy's reasonings on why and how she does what she does in this world (that would be "being the world's greatest spy") make perfect sense. She's been in training and running missions for hundreds of years... Of COURSE she's the best in the world! When real CIA ops only have a maximum of 30 years in the field, there's no way they can compete with Cindy's centuries of attained skill. Now add that way of thinking to characters like Beauty and Beast, and how a couple that's been together for hundreds of years (even if they're totally in love), and how much shit they have to put up with, would act... Or how Fairy Tale characters with a knowledge of magic would deal with an army that would make Stalin shudder in fear. They put a lot of thought into this thing, and they kept it FUN.
That's all I really have to say about this thing. It was fun, and it was well thought out. If you still don't want to give it a chance, that's your problem. I tried.
I don't know what I was expecting from this comic, but it was not this.
I had already watched the first 3 seasons of the brilliant Once Upon a Time on ABC (#awesome!), and the Rossman had watched a few episodes with me, but then he told me that it was terrible, and that I had to read this comic about Disney Fairy Tale princesses dealing with the real world that was apparently written years and years before OUaT ripped them off. Whatever.
This Fables book was okay, but I just don't get it... Where's the drama? Why should we care about these characters who aren't sleeping around on each other constantly? And they don't look anything like the Disney Princesses that they feature! The plotlines aren't telegraphed from two hundred miles away either! It's just ridiculous!
I gave up on this comic when they really started pushing the war with the unknown Adversary as their main feature, and completely gave up on tawdry sexcapades between trampy princesses and slutty men. Lord knows we don't get enough of that sort of thing...