“Peter and Max: A Fables Novel” by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Steve Leialoha (Vertigo, 2009)

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Peter & Max is the first of what will hopefully be a number of spin-off novels from the award-winning comic book series, Fables, created and written by Bill Willingham.  Fables is the incredible story told in pictures and words of the lives of the fables who have been forced out of their home world by the Adversary, as well as a number of monsters and beasts, and now live in our world.  They’ve resided in the grand state of New York for a number of centuries now.  The human-looking, ordinary fables, as well as those who can transform into humans (such as the Big Bad Wolf, Bigby), live in a square block of New York City known as Fabletown.  Protected by wards and spells that keep ordinary humans away, these fables enjoy an average everyday life in this busy city.  For all the animal fables that would cause the average person to run screaming for the hills when said fable started talking to them, they live at the Farm, a large piece of land located in upstate New York.

A lot has happened in the pages of Fables, many battles and wars, and catastrophic events; new fables have been born, while others have died.  But as much as skillful writer Bill Willingham has already told, there is much back story and history that the author has barely hinted at.  Enter Peter & Max, the riveting, fascinating story of Peter Piper and his older brother Max.  The story begins with the discovery that Max is now loose in our world, and it is up to Peter to stop him.  The reader is taken back in time, going through Peter’s and Max’s lives, as Peter becomes close to Little Bo Peep, his future wife, and his skill at playing the pipe.  At a relatively young age they are separated, and while Peter grows to become a skilled and intelligent person, Max is taken under the claws of a wicked witch and taught evil things and evil ways.  In a big showdown, Peter is barely able to best Max who flees to other lands, while Bo Peep is left horribly handicapped.  And now Max is back, in our world, wreaking havoc, and this time Peter will have to end him once and for all.

While Peter & Max isn’t written in quite the same colorful, moving style as the comic book series, Bill Willingham continues to show that he sure knows how to tell a story, keeping the reader hooked from start ‘til finish.  The words are accompanied by some wonderful ink-black illustrations by Steve Leialoha, whether they are single or full double-page spreads, or small depictions on the corner of the page, that continue the mood of a fairytale that you never want to end.  Peter & Max is a necessary addition for any Fables fan looking for something new and different for the series, as well as anyone wanting to discover the series for the first time; the book is a perfect introduction.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 3 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

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