Following the trodden path of Gregory Maguire and others who have called on fairytales for inspiration, Willingham reinvents a select group of childhood characters in a modern light. This comic introduces a world—our own—wherein myths and legends have taken secret refuge after their worlds have been overrun by the dreaded Adversary. Attempting to blend into NYC, the community longs to survive adversity and drudgery. In the first collection, Legends in Exile, the big, bad wolf turned constable must solve the murder of Rose Red, estranged sister of Deputy Mayor Snow White. Willingham has developed an ideal world here. Characters have already been established and he gets to play with their personalities under the guise of their severance from their ancestral homelands. Willingham may pick and choose fables as he desires and add more at any time (“that character was always there” or “they just arrived”). The series is done with wit, grace, and charm, enlivening the characters with pathos and depth
You might wonder how the non-human fables fit into human society. Bigby Wolf is enchanted, but the rest live sequestered in upstate New York much to their discomfort and revolution erupts in Animal Farm, the second, bloodier, weaker collection.
The series picks up again, although still not to the level of the début, with tales of romance and deceit in Storybook Love. Here, if it hadn’t already become painfully obvious, the readers recognize that the happily ever after tales they have grown up with have be converted and perverted by our world into those of constant, base treachery, with some acts justified and others….
March of the Wooden Soldiers is largely a war story—and Willingham loves the war stories, relying far too often on them—that puts our community of fables in a showdown with the minions of the Adversary.
Bigby Wolf, one of the most developed characters in the stories, is the center of The Mean Seasons and we read about his exploits in protecting the fable community and attempting to establish a family. We also have a challenge to the guard of fable government, a murder mystery, and the removal of the very character who most of the series revolved around. There is a lot to like here, although I’ve had to come to terms with most of this title dealing with war scenarios.
Homelands is one of the most interesting collections for me, despite the absence of my favorite character. It is divided between the adventures of Jack (you know the one) as he goes Hollywood and those of Boy Blue as he goes hunting for the Adversary. No, I don’t know which is more dangerous, only that both stories are finely crafted.