ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” is getting mixed reviews: some people like it, and others hate it, and some are willing to give it a chance because it’s being produced by two of the writers from “Lost.” It’s drawn some comparisons to Bill Willingham’s Fables, but the producers claim that they’re “telling a different story” with the show.
After having read the first volume of Fables, I wish that they’d decided to adapt this for TV instead.
In Willingham’s world, the former residents of the Homelands — better known as characters from popular fairy tales — have been forced into exile because an Adversary has taken over their lands. The Fables, as they call themselves, now live in New York City amongst the “mundies” (mundane people like you and me) in a secret community imaginatively dubbed “Fabletown.” Unlike the wide-eyed innocents of the fairy tales most of us grew up reading, the residents of Fabletown are hardened, jaded, and about as human as fairy folk can get.
In this series, Willingham perfectly blends fairy tales and noir, which I would never have thought possible. His characters have a certain bite to them that’s missing from the ABC show. “Once Upon a Time” is still essentially about the fight between good and evil. The line between the two is deliciously blurred in Willingham’s series. While it’s generally accepted that Adversary = BAD and Fables = GOOD, that doesn’t stop the Fables from bickering amongst each other.
In the first volume, Legends in Exile, Willingham introduces us to the main characters. Snow White is the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown. While the Mayor, King Cole, is the figurehead, Snow’s the one who’s really running the show. She’s smart, tough, and determined. Bigby (short for “Big Bad”) Wolf is a reformed villain who now works as Fabletown’s sheriff. The two are forced to work together when Snow’s sister, Rose Red, goes missing. Bigby proves himself to be quite the detective, and the story moves at a solid pace while introducing us to various characters in the Fable world.
The story is smart and entertaining, a novel spin on the fairy tales of your childhood. The artwork is also pretty classic, which adds to the fun of the series. Legends in Exile read like an episode of a television crime procedural to me, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You know I loves me some “Law & Order.” If this volume is the graphic novel equivalent to a pilot episode, then I’m looking forward to the rest of the “series run,” so to speak.
On an unrelated note: I think I watch too much television.