Already a fan of the magnificent FABLES comic book series by Bill Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham, inked by Steve Leialoha, and also a fan of the comic book spin-off series, Jack of Fables, I was very excited to read the first Vertigo novel, Peter & Max: A Fables Novel. Set to be published in October 2009 by Vertigo, the on-the-edge imprint of DC Comics that has brought such classics as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series as well as many other superb comics such as Preacher, Y the Last Man, and 100 Bullets.
This book leads out of the imaginative world created by Willingham and his collaborators, where characters from fairy tale and folklore actually exist in other magical worlds, and are forced to escape the oppression of a great Adversary, where they create a safe haven, a magically protected area in New York City called Fabletown with an upstate branch called The Farm where those unable to hide in human form are forced to live.
An even greater expansion of the well thought out Fables world, the novel tells the stories of the Piper family, and more specifically of Peter and Max, two brothers destined for great things, some good and some evil. Both heir to their father’s magical flute, Frost, they are thrust into desperation as the evil hordes of the enemy force the fables of the magical lands to seek refuge. The Piper family is disrupted as well as the Peep family, including Peter’s childhood crush Rainbow (‘Bo) Peep. It seems their time of innocence is gone.
Spoiler alert – I don’t give away major plot points but do discuss the novel in more detail. STOP here if you’d rather not read more about the story. [Don’t worry I don’t reveal who the Adversary is to any who have yet to start reading Fables – but get on it already!]
Peter and Bo’s journey of survival is desperate and wrought with danger and deception. Meanwhile, Max, seeking vengeance and his rightful place, is forever tracking his brother. It makes for an exciting and epic climax as brother faces brother, spread out over many battles over many years.
Also, especially for fans of the Fables comic book, are the cameos of many of Fables’ popular cast, including Bigby Wolf, Frau Totenkinder, and other assorted residents of Fabletown. Told during both a modern battle, with flashbacks over several centuries and in various magical lands, the book is a journey to take, a magical tune to follow, that tells an incredible story.
For fantasy fans to delight in, Willingham’s text is a joy, and I was left only wishing for more cameos from the likes of all the Fables characters, as he has breathed such detailed life and back story into them all, even as I realize this book had to end, I wished it had not.
I think anyone can enjoy this fairy tale, and follow the pied piper and his tune. But for fans of Fables, this is an immense joy, giving so much more breathe to the world we’ve come to love.