Books: Graphic Novel | Fantasy | Fairy Tales

Wide Awake (2012), Hidden Kingdom (2013), The Return of the Maharaja (2014), Cinderella – Of Men and Mice (2014), Fairest In All the Land (2013), The Clamour for Glamour (2015)

Wide Awake (2012) Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Matthew Sturges, Shawn McManus

Wide AwakeIf you know me at all, you know that I love Fables.

However, I have not loved the spin-off comics. I straight-up dislike Jack of Fables, nor did I like Cinderella (though Cinderella was not written by Bill Willingham.)

So I was slightly nervous when I preordered Fairest.

First off, the cover. I love the art of the cover. It's beautiful and I love how all the women are rendered. That said, I don't understand this cover. I'm pretty sure that Snow White and Rose Red are sharing the front cover with Briar Rose, but they don't appear in this volume at all. And the Snow Queen, who plays a large part in this tale, appears only on the edge of the back cover. So, as much as I enjoy this cover in the way the women are drawn, I do not at all see how it matches anything between the covers.

So what is Fairest? We start not with Briar Rose, but with Ali Baba. He's wandering the ruins of a great city, searching for any unlooted treasure. The "treasure" he discovers is a bottle imp, who tells him of the location of a great treasure, which turns out to be the sleeping forms of the Snow Queen and Briar Rose.

For the most part, I believe this story should be able to stand on its own. I am not certain, however, the wooden soldier will make much sense to those who have not read the Fables series.

That didn't bother me, however, as I very much enjoyed Fairest, and am looking forward to the next volume.

Published by Vertigo

Rating: 8/10

Hidden Kingdom (2013) Lauren Beukes, Bill Willingham, Inaki Miranda

fairest-hidden-kingdomThe first volume of Fairest was about Briar Rose and the Snow Queen. This volume features Rapunzel, and her search for her children.

Like the first volume, Wide Awake, this is a stand-alone story. It's set before most of the events in Fables, and although there are parts referring to the Adversary, the main story arc–Rapunzel's search for her children–is a complete and separate story arc, and should be understandable to those who have not read Fables.

A reminder: these are NOT stories for children.

Published by Vertigo

Rating: 8/10


The Return of the Maharaja (2014) Sean E. Williams, Stephen Sadowski, Phil Jimenez

The-Return-of-the-MaharajaI am a huge fan of Fables, but I have not cared for all the spin-offs–especially Jack of Fables. I despise Jack, and can't stand reading about him.

But I've enjoyed Fairest, and so had Vol 3 on pre-order, and actually sat down and read it when it arrived.

First: take a look at that cover. Take a close look at it. Notice anything?


How about this picture then?



See it yet?

Nalayani is AWESOME. And she is drawn gorgeously. Check these out:








Funny thing is that the cover got Nalayani's attitide right, but it's one of the only pictures that makes her look Caucasian, which is really too bad. But I suppose I'll take getting the attitude right first.

So what else can I say about The Return of the Maharaja? The story was somewhat weak, but I totally didn't care, because the parts that were weak involved one of my least favorite characters, back from the dead.

SPOILER (rot 13)

Yeah, I hate Prince Charming.

Despise him.

I don't care that he sacrificed himself. He's an asshole.

And yet, in this story, I found myself not hating him so much.


But seriously. The art… it simply blew me away. I love Nalayani and I fucking ADORE how she was drawn. She is amazing. She is awesome.

She was so wonderful that I didn't care that her supporting story was somewhat weak, because I liked her so much.

Can you read this without having read the first two volumes of Fairest? Most certainly. Can you read it without having read Fables? That I'm not so sure about. There is a LOT you'd be missing if you hadn't read Fables–a lot of important stuff, some of which pertains to the portrayal of the characters (see above spoilers and my opinion of the male lead.)

But the art… absolutely marvelous.

Please note: there are salacious bits here. They're understated, but they're definitely there. Fables has always been an adult comic, and that hasn't changed here, but I don't think I'd hesitate to give it to a 17 year old.

Absolutely marvelous.

Published by Vertigo

Rating: 9/10

Cinderella – Of Men and Mice (2014) Mark Andreyko, Shawn McManus

Fairest_Of_Mice_and_MenI've been hit or miss with the Fables spin-off series. I hated Jack, didn't much care for Cinderella, but have quite enjoyed Fairest. But I was hesitant when I saw the latest volume of Fairest was Cinderella.

This series continues to tie in with Fables, so we see glimpses of the other Fables, instead of just a focus on Cinderella.

fairest-mice-pageWe also get to see more of the mice, some of who played an important part in Cinderella's original story (I did find the idea of what one of the mice made into men would do once he found himself human both fascinating and amusing.)

One of the interesting thing about this series (and this volume in particular) is how the female characters are portrayed. They are beautiful and shapely, of course, because that was their defining factor in their origin stories, but they have moved well-beyond that, now well able to defend themselves (and in the case of Snow, her children).

For example, we see Cinderella tied up and in her underwear, but she is not portrayed as weak or helpless, which is a pleasant change of pace for comics.

And Snow is able to be both maternal (she loves and adores her and Bigby's children) and protective–both in a reactive and proactive manner.

And these are skills that it has been made clear throughout the series that both women have honed over the centuries–not innate skills.

Is this the best volume in the series (and its extended family)? No. Not even close. But it's decent, and it's also important.

Published by Vertigo

Rating: 7/10

The Clamour for Glamour (2015) Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham, Russ Braun, Meghan Hetrick, Andrew Dalhouse

Fairest_The_Clamour_for_GlamourAnd now, the final volume of Fairest.

Like the previous volumes, this timeline is simultaneous with that of Fables, so although there aren't any spoilers in either direction, you kind of need to know what was happening in Fables to completely understand everything here.

That said, there was a stand-alone story–that of Reynard the Fox, who has received an enchantment to change into a human shape. He talks a good game, which is causing unreset on The Farm–Prince Charming promised all the Fables at the Farm enchantments so they could leave the Farm, but saying so does not make it so, and King Cole is having a difficult time with the Fables who are demanding what they were promised.

It's interesting, but it was also difficult to read, knowing it was the final volume. (And also because unlike the first volumes, they were complete stand-alone stories.)

Published by Vertigo

Fairest In All the Land (2013) Bill Willingham

fairest-in-all-the-landAlthough this is supposed to be a stand-alone in the Fairest series, I think in many ways it is more of a Fables story. Unlike 1001 Nights of Snowfall, I wouldn't recommend this to someone who hasn't read the series. There is a lot happening that either depends upon knowledge of Fables for complete understanding, or gives away much of the Fables story. Additionally, I think part of the story refers to events in the not-yet-published Fables Volume 19.

But, if you're already familiar with Fables (with, perhaps, the exception of the last compiled volume) then you should have no difficulty reading Fairest in All the Land.

With the loss of the Business Office, The Magic Mirror and many magical devices were lost to Fabletown. Luckily, there are severed heads and the Barleycorn Girls–ahem–Barleycorn Women–to keep the The Magic Mirror company, and so he regularly tells them stories, since he can see almost anywhere in the universes.

But then he discovers something disturbing.

Someone is killing the great beauties of Fabletown. Bigby and Beast are both unavailable, so King Cole (once again Mayor of Fabletown) calls in Cinderella to see if she can catch the murderer.

A lot of reviews have panned Fairest in All the Land because it has a LOT of illustrators. Most chapters/stories are only a few pages long, and so there every few pages the story changes style. Perhaps because I tend to pay less attention to the drawings/illustrations than I should, I didn't mind the constant change at all, and in truth kind of enjoyed it.

I liked seeing the different takes each artist had on the characters, and for the most part I didn't have any trouble with the changes messing up the flow of the story with one exception. Tula Lotay drew Ozma much older than any other artist has ever portrayed her, so it took a second reading to realize who Cinderella was walking with. But otherwise, I quite enjoyed the changes.

And I quite enjoyed The Magic Mirror and seeing things from his Point of View. (Did you know that whole rhyming thing was a lie he led those who possessed him to believe? It reduced the amount of work he had to do, so he fooled his owners into believing questions had to be asked and answered in rhyme.

"My talent is rudimentary at best. I confess to being more of a barroom rhymer than fancy salon poet. More Robert Service than John Keats, if you will. But I enjoy it all the same."

So despite some flaws, I quite enjoyed Fairest in All the Land, and now REALLY can't wait for volume 19 of Fables. (Just a few more weeks!)

Rating: 8/10