(2006) Bill Willingham, Titan Books, £17.99, hrdbk, 144pp, ISBN 1-84576-299-1
This is a stand-alone graphic novel spin-off from the hugely popular (and rightly so) Fables series. It is set a century or so before the beginning of the regular title (which has so far has seven volumes of collected trade paperbacks) and features Snow White. She has been sent to the Arabian Fables' homelands to seek an alliance with the Fables-in-exile in New York againast the Adversary. But the Sultan captures Snow and intends to marry and then kill her. As in the original 1001 Nights Snow delays her execution by telling the sultan stories, and it is these stories which provide the bulk of material here and give us, the readers, some of the background to the characters of the ongoing series. Charles Vess and Mike Kaluta provide the art for the illustrated text framing tale; John Bolton paints "The Fencing Lessons", a tale of Snow's marriage to Prince Charming that outlines some of the true facts behind the 'seven dwarfs' story; Mark Buckingham illustrates "The Christmas Pies", featuring the fox Reynard; James Jean provides the visuals for "A Frog's-Eye View", which provides background on the Flycatcher; Mark Wheatly's art on "The Runt" tells the origin of Bigby Wolf and explains his relationship with his father, the North Wind; "A Mother's Love" drawn by Derek Kirk Kim is a short tale introducing Colonel Thunderfoot; "Diaspora" with Tara McPherson's art is a tale of Snow White and Rose Red which frames "The Witch's Tale" with Esao Andrews which tells the tale of Frau Totenkinder; Brian Bolland is the artists for the short "What You Wish For", a cautionary tale; and the volume is rounded off with Jill Thompson illustrating "Fair Division" which explains why Old King Cole is so well-beloved of the Fables' community. Needless to say, all's well that ends well, with Snow passing on her duties to Scheherazade... Fables is a brilliant title and if you haven't encountered it yet you have some catching up to do (not to mention you're missing a treat), but this volume provides an easy, non-continuity linked way to get onboard. As for exisiting fans of the series, you will absolutely love this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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