Review: Peter and Max, Bill Willingham

I won Peter and Max from Cecelia of adventures of cecelia bedelia – thank you!  I was having a terrible day, and when I got home I had not one, BUT TWO packages on my doorstep.  One was Peter and Max, and the other was a package of two books and a bookmark from Jeane.  It was amazing.  It caused my day to stop being terrible, and be awesome instead.  (True story.)

If you haven’t read Fables, you should really do that.  In fact, go do that now, and when you have finished, you may come back and we can discuss how we are going to cast the television show they will eventually make of this graphic novel series.  I already have cast most of the parts in my head, but I am not satisfied with some of them, and I am willing to negotiate.  (Don’t you wish the lovely and talented Enver Gjokaj were taller?)

Peter and Max is a prose story, with occasional illustrations by Steve Leialoha, about Peter Piper and his brother, Max, who you pretty quickly figure out is the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  The story goes between the past, exploring Max and Peter’s relationship and Max’s descent into evil, and the present, as Peter tries to find and stop Max.  There are rats and thieves, and (spoiler, sort of!) Bo Peep is an assassin, and the pipes fight, which is cooler than it sounds.

When, about twenty pages in, I flipped back and read the end, and I thought: Well, that’s going to be an anticlimax.  All the build-up to the Final Battle Against Max and it’s not – let’s just say it’s not quite as Gandalf-and-the-Balrog-or-Harry-and-Voldemort-epic as maybe I was expecting from how scared everyone sounded about Max being back in town.  However, when I read through the book, and got to it properly, I found it was not an anticlimax at all.  Action-wise, I was right, it’s anticlimactic; but as far as the emotional journey of the book goes, I think it works just perfectly.

I think if I had to pick one thing about the Fables series that I do not love, it’s how everybody acts tough all the time.  I mean everybody acts tough, every single character, which I guess you are meant to put down to their all having lived so long?  But when I read the dialogue – and it’s more noticeable in a novel than in the comics – the characters all sound a bit the same.  I liked Peter and Max, but the flaws of the comics were present in the novel, and in the novel they jumped out at me more.  I suppose because I didn’t have the pretty drawings to distract me?

Other reviews:

adventures of cecelia bedelia (thanks again!!)
Stainless Steel Droppings
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
The Written World
with Tales of a Capricious Reader
Largehearted Boy

Tell me if I missed yours!


I mean, not really mwahahahahaha.  I didn’t particularly need an evil laugh there, just because I finally read the seventh volume of Fables; though it was nice to read it, and it reminded me how cool and fun the Fables books are.  I stayed up last night to read it, which I thought would be okay, and I’d still get eight hours of sleep, but I wasn’t counting on a) the fact that I was going to start, and then insist on finishing, Ordinary Victories, and b) how much there were going to be wild dogs fighting furiously outside the house all night.  Or something.  I don’t know what the dogs were doing that caused them to howl and bark really loudly and run around and thump into things.  So now I’m tired.  Maybe that’s why I’m making evil laughs at inappropriate places.

But back to Fables.  In this one, a contingent of Arabian fables comes to visit Fabletown from occupied Baghdad, to which they have escaped as the Adversary has begun taking over their homelands as well.  What with Prince Charming’s not fantastically well-organized regime, and language barriers, and Sinbad’s vizier being evil (I’m not spoiling anything – it’s like Saruman in the first Lord of the Rings movie – he is obviously evil), hijinks ensue.  Also, there’s the back story for June and Rodney, which was a good story but the cursive script was about to drive me wild.  Plus I couldn’t really remember what happened to June and Rodney, ultimately.  I know they featured in later Fables books, but I didn’t know who they were then, so I don’t remember them very well.  Never mind.

Aw, Fables.  I want to know when they’re going to do a TV series.  I have selected my dream cast already.  Hear that, TV executives?  Call me up and I will share my wisdom.

P.S. I read 1001 Nights of Snowfall a week or two ago, which is a prequel to the Fables series (sort of) in which Snow White goes to visit the Sultan of the Arabian Fables, and he keeps her imprisoned while she tells him stories about the Fables’ history, and I was not awfully impressed.  I’m pleased I didn’t buy it, because I don’t think I need to own it forever (unlike the rest of the series).  The end is good though.

Other thoughts:

things mean a lot
Tripping Toward Lucidity
Sophisticated Dorkiness
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
The Written World
everyday reads
Bold Blue Adventures
One Swede Read

Tell me if I missed yours!

Taller Tales, Bill Willingham

A graphic novel experiment here.  I have an incredibly hard time reading graphic novel series that are not all of a piece; i.e., that are not written by one writer all the way through.  They feel fragmented.  I don’t read superhero comics for this reason.  I loved Sandman and Fables, and there are many good graphic novels in this world, but I generally find that the people who created the characters tend to be the ones who are able to capture their voices.  So I thought, hey, you know, this doesn’t have to be the case.  I thought, I will read Taller Tales, which is by an author I like, and the characters of which were created by an author I like; and then I will see how that goes.

I have seen how it goes.  I stand by my previously-held opinion about authors and the characters they create.  I vote against it.  Sorry, Bill Willingham.  You have many lovely qualities, and were it not for the fact that I am both very busy with work and rendered guilty by the piles of unread books in my house, I would go back through and reread the entire Fables series although I only finished reading it for the first time a month ago.

The first story is the exact kind of story I don’t like, with the John-Smith-like hero narrating all about how clever he is and how much girls love him.  I don’t like it when it’s serious and I don’t like it when it’s tongue-in-cheek.  It’s called Merv: Agent of D.R.E.A.M., and Merv tells a story about his heroic adventures on behalf of the Dreaming.  The second story was rather sweet – a little apprentice to Lucian (the librarian) goes around collecting books – but nothing much happened in it.  Then the third story was a good bit longer, all about Thessaly tracking down some people who tried to kill her.  And the last story was just a collection of short shorts answering silly questions about dreams.  (Mostly harmless.)

None of these wowed me.  They didn’t tell any exciting stories, so much as take characters and settings from the Dreaming and play around with them a little bit without doing anything new.  I think it would have been more interesting to see another side of the characters – though I’m sure if he had done that, I’d have bitched about him not staying true to the originals.  Although I enjoyed the story about Thessaly, none of these were really quite the characters I remember and love from the Sandman.  I think the reason I enjoyed the Thessaly story more is that I never liked Thessaly to start with, and I liked her less when she made it all rainy by breaking Dream’s heart.  Even with the Thessaly story, I didn’t think he got her quite right.  I believe this is a function of the way that a reader (me) interacts with the characters she reads about, rather than being a problem with Bill Willingham’s reading of the Sandman characters.

What Taller Tales has caused me to think about: The idea of “engaging” with a set of characters suggests an interaction between the characters as written and your own imagination.  Do you have to identify with some aspect of the characters in order to be able to give that piece of yourself to them that’s necessary for this “engagement” thing to happen?  Are there fast and dirty ways to get a reader to engage with a character or set of characters?  Maybe by doing the rags-to-riches thing?  By making them sympathetic in unpleasant circumstances?  By making them Susan Boyle?  (Love her so much.)

All the rest of the volumes of Fables, except the seventh which wasn’t anywhere, Bill Willingham et. al.

So, okay, admittedly I am having trouble facing the idea of human interaction these days on account of being totally down in the dumps, but still it seems excessive for me to have read all the rest of the Fables volumes since Tuesday night.  It went like this: I got the fourth volume from the library near work on Wednesday, read that; went to two different libraries on Thursday to get one and three and read those; then on Saturday I went to Bongs & Noodles and read two, and that evening I went to the main branch of the library to get six, because Bongs & Noodles didn’t have it, and I got eight and nine while I was there too, because, you know, why not?  And then today I read ten and eleven at Bongs & Noodles.

(In my defense I did buy a book for myself and a birthday card and a birthday gift for someone else while I was at Bongs & Noodles on Saturday.  So I am not completely using them.)

Seven wasn’t anywhere.  Bongs & Noodles didn’t have it, not even the one out by the mall, and it was checked out of all the reasonably close branches of the library too.  So I’ve read all of them except for the seventh.  It was fun!  A teeny weeny bit out of order, but not to an unacceptable extent, since I am immune to plot spoilers.  (It’s the emotional moments I don’t want spoiled, and those don’t get spoiled by finding out what plot points occurred (usually).)  I am pleased that the comic is not being discontinued despite having reached a point that could be considered by some to be a natural stopping point.  I am just now in the process of deciding whether I’m going to subscribe to get the next bunch, or just wait until the next volume comes out.  Decisions, decisions.

Fables: The Mean Season, Bill Willingham

My sister has talked so much about Fables for months (I mean, not ceaselessly, just when it came up), and yes, I mostly ignored her; and I also mostly ignored Nymeth, who has been saying how good Fables is (are?) for a while too.  So now I am sorry that I ignored y’all, because I grabbed a volume the last time I was at the library – I really wanted Goodbye, Chunky Rice but they didn’t have it – and I read it last night.

It was the fifth volume, which isn’t a genius way to start out a series.  I think it’s funny that I have this mindset where I think it’s totally fine to start in the middle of a series of graphic novels, when I would never ever ever do it with regular books, or even with a TV series.  I read the second volume of Sandman first, and if the bookshop guy hadn’t stopped me, I would have read the fifth straight away after that, because it was the only other one the bookshop had in.  This cavalier attitude towards correct order really needs to go.

According to Nymeth, any remarks on current Fables issues will be spoilers for previous ones, so I won’t say anything about the plot.  If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the premise (and I may be making serious mistakes here because I have only read the one volume) is that all these fairy tale people were chucked out of their homeland(s?) by a mysterious person called the Adversary, and they have started their own community in New York, called Fabletown.  They have their own mayor and everything.

It was charming.  I must read the others.  Also, it made me want to hunt up every one of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books and read those stories over again.  I love, love, love fairy tales.  I like “Rapunzel” because I have very long hair, and I liked “The White Cat” and “Trusty John” a lot; I loved Ali Baba and the story about the fisherman and his wife; and particularly I really like “The Six [or Wild] Swans”.  And “The Frog Prince” also.

Speaking of fairy tales, did anyone besides me read Mary de Morgan’s fairy tales?  She had some wonderful ones.  My two favorites (though she wrote a bunch of them) were “The Heart of Princess Joan” and particularly particularly, “The Necklace of Princess Fioromonde.”  They should make a film of “The Necklace of Princess Fioromonde.”  I think it could make a lovely film.  Or, oh, even better, someone should write a book of it – it could be totally brilliant and subversive, because yeah, she’s evil, but she doesn’t want to get married and why the hell should she?  Mm.  This could be great.  If you have not read this story,  you totally should.  I have a necklace that I wear every day – it’s just a Julian of Norwich medal because she’s my patron saint – and whenever I’m putting it on or taking it off, I think of this rather creepy story.  I do not want to become a bead.