For any comic series to reach 150 issues is an achievement. For a series to consistently publish 150 great issues is something else. For more than 13 years, the Vertigo series Fables by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and others did just that. And now it’s over.
In 2002, Fables introduced a new twist to classic fairy tales: The stories are real and the characters we all know escaped to our modern day, living in secret and thwarting everyday and not-so-everyday problems like bills, wooden soldiers, romantic trysts, sibling rivalries, political ambitions, and how to properly hide talking sunflowers. This fresh perspective led to a culture-wide reimagining of fairy tales that swept the entertainment industry, influencing film and television: Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Maleficent, Snow White and the Huntsman, and more all owe a debt to this long-running comic book series.
The decision to end such a series comes with high expectations from longtime readers (of which I am one!), and Vertigo does not shortchange with the finale. Instead of a 22-page final issue, Fables #150 is its own 150-page graphic novel, with wraparound cover, French flaps, full-color, and even a four-page prose story by Bill Willingham (for readers who enjoyed his prose novel spin-off Peter & Max), and a four-page, fold-out section that packs in just about everyone. There is also a sample script from the finale issue, an afterword from Bill Willingham, a key to the gatefold cover, bonus sketches and finished commissions—oh, and bonus stories from artistic talents like Neal Adams, Mike Allred, Gene Ha, Terry Dodsen, Joelle Jones, original series artist Lan Medina, and many more.
Regular fans will know that Fables has been leading up to a sister-versus-sister battle between Snow White and Rose Red, with all of Fabletown and Fabledom in the balance. The final issue delivers on that battle, with surprises, cameos, and welcome returns. It’s a beautiful way to close the storybook—I only wish it were longer, as the 80-page main story eventually gives way to less satisfying “last tales” that follow more peripheral characters with varying success. Nevertheless, leaving readers wanting more is a sign of great storytelling, and Bill Willingham is one such storyteller. To have him craft a wide-lens ending with a publisher willing to give him that room is a blessing. To have artists Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha turn in their best work on the series was imperative for fans, and there isn’t any slouching here; the pages are linger-worthy. Thank you, Fables team!
New readers are welcome to begin with Fables in the 22 paperback volumes, while devotees will want to begin double-dipping into the 11 (so far) deluxe hardcovers that reprint the pages at a slightly larger scale with bonus material. Then there are the spin-offs: Jack of Fables, the aforementioned prose novel, Peter & Max, the female-forward Fairest series, the recent Wolf Among Us tie-in to the videogame, and the Fables Encyclopedia.
And, don’t forget our interview with Bill Willingham.
P.S. That Fables itch can be scratched by Vertigo’s recent Hinterkind series, which takes Fables' approach and inverts it—what if humans lived in hiding from creatures from fairy tales? It’s very different but also very rich in world-building and action.