GN 16. Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham. Illustrated by Lan Medina and Steve Leialoha. 128 p. Published December 2002.
In Legends in Exile, the first TPB of the Fables series, we are introduced to a different New York City. One where the characters of our childhood stories have come to live in secret. In an effort to maintain their way of life, they have established Fabletown with Old King Cole as its mayor and Snow White as his administrative workhorse.
Jack (of Beanstalk fame) runs to Fabletown’s Sheriff Big Bad Wolf, restrained in the guise of a human. Jack reports that Rose Red, his on-again-off-again girlfriend, may have been murdered. Wolf takes Jack, a known troublemaker, into custody and tells Snow White that her sister may be dead. The two go to investigate, and find a ransacked apartment covered in blood with “No More Happily Ever After” scrawled on the wall.
Wolf and White follow a twisting line of clues, rumors, and suppositions, taking the reader on a journey through Fabletown and revealing its inhabitants. Along the way we learn that these few legends are all that remain after the armies of The Adversary forced them from their old-world homes. As they gather in their yearly rememberance of that tragic event, Wolf conducts his ‘big reveal’ regarding the mystery of Rose Red.
This first book of Fables is truly intriguing. In answering the question ‘what has become of our childhood characters?’, Willingham brings a realistic humanity to these tragic heroes. Furthermore, by tarnishing these legends with age, sorrow, and modern life, Willingham brings an added dimension of appeal to each character.
While enjoyable, I found Legends in Exile burdened as many first books are with world building and character generation. I’ve been told that the series really picks up as it continues, and its popularity supports that conclusion. What I did find fascinating was a short story printed in the backmatter of Legends in Exile. Entitled “A Wolf in the Fold,” this story reveals how Big Bad Wolf, a character usually portrayed as evil, has wound up among the good and innocent of Fabletown.
Rating: 3 out of 5