Comic books are the modern equivalent of fairy tales.
Some even more than others.
I have no idea how it has escaped my radar for so long, especially given how many times we've brought up the topic of non-traditional comics that don't focus on people in tights (how do the guys not.....ummmm....embarrass themselves when they see the women in spandex all the time?) but I think we need to talk about a book by Bill Willingham called Fables.
Ladies and gents, if you're looking for something well outside of the normal stream of comic book fodder, that is brilliantly written, artfully illustrated and manages to be both mature and childish at the same time, then this is the book you'll never get tired of. The characters of our childhood have taken refuge on Earth, hiding from the Enemy who has conquered the fable worlds and driven the final survivors to earth, where they have secreted themselves amongst the Mundys (mundanes.) What follows is a systematic re-imagining of many of those fables you remember from your youth, and plenty that you won't recall at all. We're taken on an interesting journey through their culture and the changing dynamics of their relationships for a couple of years, and then just as we start to settle into a comfortable place where we think we have a handle on the culture they've built in Fabletown and on The Farm, we discover that there's more to this story than meets the eye.
The Fable leadership is making plans to deal with the Emperor who quashed their lands, and ultimately preparing to lead their eclectic assortment of allies into a perilous confrontation with the Enemy. The intensity doesn't slow down there either, because even once the war is over we find that danger continues to loom and ancient powers begin to creep back into the world.
The book is captivating, creative and fresh and I don't see it as formulaic or routine at any time. Willingham has captured childhood imagination and mixed in brilliantly with a mature glimpse into an impossible world. I find the characters both intriguing and refreshing in comparison to most comic books, and I would encourage you to explore the convoluted world of Bigby Wolf, Rose Red, Snow White, Prince Charming and of course, Jack. The cast is literally hundreds deep, and each arc brings into view an assortment of fables to examine.
This book is a sensational read.