Where To Start With Fables
A series such as Fables is incredibly daunting. The 150 issues in the main series alone are enough to keep newbies from getting into it. Which is why I recommend that you don’t start with issue #1. Sure, you could, but I want you to love these characters, not feel obligated to them. Instead, pick up 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Snow White regales the murderous sultan from Arabian Nights fame with the true stories of the Fables. The collection of shorts acts as a prequel, not spoiling anything in the future but rather introducing the multi-facets of these beloved characters. The different art in each story helps set tone as well. This way, if you don’t seem to like it, you’re only one book in, only a few hours of your time at the most. And if you do like it, you now know tidbits that will enhance the story as you go along.
If you’ve gotten this far, if you’ve read the 1001 Nights of Snowfall and have started the original series, you may be wondering where to go from here. I’ll be happy to tell you!
If you’d like the story to remain spoiler free, then you’ll want to start the video game, A Wolf Among Us, early on in your adventures. Why? Bigby and Snow are still in the government, and so is Ichabod Crane, which dates the series pretty early (Crane has already been removed by the time issue #1 of Fables has started). The game, however, focuses mostly on Bigby, so no matter where you are in your reading, you’ll be getting new information and new characters. While the game lacks action, it takes new turns based on your decisions. You control Bigby, often given multiple choices of what to say or do in a situation, forever altering the game play. I did my best to make Bigby a good guy (it’s not always easy; sometimes, you just have to smack a toad around).
Once you hit issue #50, then you’ll want to start on Jack of Fables. From then until its fiftieth issue, the series run side by side with each other, crossing over at one major point. You definitely don’t have to read them in their coinciding order, but it does make the crossover all that more rewarding and intense.
Issue #75 brings about the end of The Adversary and a good point to take a break from the series. May I suggest you read the novel, Peter and Max. The novel stands out as a highlight of the Fables canon for many reasons. It focuses on characters never before seen in Fabletown and expands on the Homelands at the same time. Most of the story takes place centuries ago, which keeps the whole rest of the comics spoiler free. Afterward, it’s time to pick up Wolves of the Heartland, another Bigby related story. He travels America, looking for a possible relocation of Fabletown. On his way, he comes across other wolves a lot less likely to cooperate than he’d like.
Lastly, between issues #100 and #150, is your perfect chance to read the Cinderella stories and Fairest. I’ve talked in great detail about the Cinderella spin-off, so let me focus all on Fairest right now. Realizing that most fairy tales focus on a female protagonist, Willingham created another spin-off to his story where he focuses on characters which had before just been referred to in the background. We get the back story of Rapunzel, the continuation of Sleeping Beauty, the romance of Lumi, and the hidden darkness behind Beauty. This is largely my favorite part of the series. All princess stories with adventure, love, magic, tragedy? Please, there’s nothing better for me.
Whatever you do, save issue #150 of Fables for the last thing that you read. It makes the rest of the journey that much sweeter.
Let’s talk about that ending a bit. Willingham and company did something so special when they ended the series, something that most writers don’t even think to do, whether they write for comics or anything else, that this finale has gone down (in my opinion) as the best finale I’ve ever read/seen/heard/stumbled upon. That’s a bold declaration, I know. But it’s true. They wrote for the fans. Before you give me “Sandman this, Watchmen that, TV, TV, TV…,” let me explain. Countless writers and artists worked on this series and its extensions and Willingham included many of them in the finale. That’s a huge feat when you think about it. Name the last series you read in which it included more than 50 writers and artists combined. This wasn’t just a comic; it was a neighborhood mural for the comics industry. It also concluded the stories of hundreds of characters, paying tribute to everyone’s favorites, be they main stars or cameos. No one was forgotten.
My Favorites by Far
The Cubs – While most of the prophecy had become obvious after Winter, Therese, and Darien’s parts were revealed, it was fantastic watching the rest unfold. I enjoyed Ambrose’s the most. He was a character easily forgotten, but maybe more important than the other cubs. He grew to marry Lake (more properly known as the Lady of the Lake), together having their own litter of cubs. I am a sucker for happy endings, and to me, his was the happiest.
Jack – They brought Jack back for a three page spread! This was a huge surprise considering his series had met its end. With the ending of the universe passed and Jack being part Literal, he was able to create an entirely new universe for himself and Gary to command. It was completely charming and characteristically Jack.
Snow White and Bigby – Nearly ending with a war of two sisters, Fables had taken a fairly dark turn. It continued to escalate the stakes killing off Bigby, pitting Rose Red against Snow White, and seeing many Fables lose their lives (some for the second time). With Rose figuring out the happiest of all outcomes for herself and her sister, she traveled worlds away, keeping them apart and the rest of the Fables safe from a world-ending war. Flash forward centuries later, and the Wolf clan had grown exponentially. Every Wolf gathered for a family reunion, making this the first time a Rose and Snow had seen each other since their fateful parting. But this isn’t about Rose and Snow. This is about Snow and Bigby maintaining a love for centuries. This is about the two of them being the heads of a family which spread themselves through hundreds of worlds. This is about that final line they share which sums up them, and the whole series quite well.
There really aren’t any finales I’m disappointed in, to be honest. The characters that died did so fittingly. The ones that lived, lived on in glory. The ones that were resurrected didn’t know how much they had been missed. The finale of Fables itself was befitting of the decade plus time and gave the world what they had been waiting to see.
It’s a difficult thing, to watch something you love so much end. These characters become so familiar to you that you care for them more than some people you’ve met before. To create that kind of passionate following is no easy feat. It comes along once in awhile and it forever enriches the lives of many. So, thank you, Fables, for enriching mine. I hope my story ends with half as much love as yours did.