Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, by Bill Willingham

I always encourage comic book-wary female readers to try Bill Willingham’s Fables. Not only is it unquestionably a story for grown-ups, it’s one of the few American comics I've encountered that boasts a truly involving romantic storyline. I love almost everything about this series—except for the internal artwork, which has consistently been competent but pedestrian (apart from James Jean’s covers, which are beautiful). This meant that I was tremendously excited about the recently released hardcover short story collection, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Not only was the writing bound to be awesome, but, with a list of artists that included Charles Vess, Tara McPherson, John Bolton, and James Jean himself, the artwork was sure to be equal to the story.

Unfortunately, the finished product was something of a disappointment. The Fables series is about a group of fairytale creatures that, after their homelands were taken over by an evil figure known as “The Adversary”, end up living in a secret community in New York. It’s a wartime story, but Willingham’s sly, witty style has always prevented the series from becoming overly dark. Many of the stories in 1001 Nights of Snowfall, sadly, lacked his usual edge, which meant that too much of the book is spent wallowing in gore. And while the artwork was beautiful, so many stories featuring rape, murder, and pillage just meant that I got to see lots of magnificently illustrated pictures of screaming women and heads on pikes. What’s so wrong with just saying, “They were lost”? Do they have to show us exactly what happened to the missing people in question, every time?

I’m not saying that the book is a waste of money: a couple of the stories worked beautifully (“The Christmas Pies”, “Fair Division”, “A Mother’s Love”), and several more were semi-successful (most notably “The Fencing Lessons”, which was gleefully nasty, but not quite gleefully nasty enough). The framing story was awesome. Illustrated by Charles Vess, it’s set during the Victorian Era. Snow White, acting as an ambassador for the Fables community, travels to the Middle East and is eventually brought before the Sultan, who has a bad habit of marrying a new girl every night—and then killing her in the morning. Eager to keep her head on her shoulders, Snow White tells him a story each evening, on topics ranging from her own unhappy marriage to the history of Old King Cole.

1001 Nights of Snowfall is a beautiful book, but it’s not for readers with weak stomachs, and it’s not going to bring any new sheep into the comic book-reading fold. If you’re longtime fan of the series, you're likely enjoy the gorgeous artwork and Snow White’s illuminating stories, but I wouldn’t suggest lending this book to any newbies: they’re not going to understand it, and it’s not going to help dispel the idea that comic books are violent, action-heavy stories, aimed primarily at fourteen-year-old boys.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


16 Nov, 2006 12:53 AM @ version 0

This series is awesome--particularly the first few arcs--but I think it's been getting LESS female-friendly recently, and I worry that certain storylines might end up left by the wayside as Willingham focuses more on the battle with The Adversary. I haven't given up hope, but I've never gotten over the Tim Hunter/Molly storyline in "Books of Magic". How could they just leave us HANGING like that?!? Who CARES about that freaking demon?!

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