Bill Willingham | Peter and Max: A Fables Novel (DC/Vertigo)

peterandmax-header.jpgWhen Willingham is at his best, he is the true pied piper.




400 pages, $22.99 (hardcover); w/ illustrations by Steve Leialoha


Had the author of Peter and Max focused more on the tale at hand and less on generating interest in the Fables graphic novel series I would have scored this book very highly. The story of Peter Piper (the Piper of pickled pepper fame) and Max Piper (the famous pied piper) was rather interesting. The tale boils down to the classic Cain and Abel feud between brothers. What separates Peter and Max from, say, East of Eden is that the Trask brothers could be seen as victims of circumstance (that and the all wise Lee was not there to guide Peter and Max in their life of disarray). Max Piper, the antagonist of the story, is only a victim of himself, but what undermines this premise is how much power Max obtains and how he uses it. During certain parts in the story, the reader is lead to believe that Max is not only incredibly savvy and corrupt but also the most powerful person in the world of Fable. So when the end comes, although clever, it feels like a copout.

The story takes place in the universe of the pre-existing Fables graphic novels, and author Bill Willingham (who also writes Fables) felt it was important for the reader to have back knowledge on that universe. This was my biggest complaint: it felt like a good third of the book was set aside as filler to catch you up on things that really didn’t have any impact on the story of Peter and Max but had an impact on the Fables series as a whole. It felt like I was being sold on something not relative to the novel at hand. What makes this worse is that, in the spots where this happens, the book’s language loses its elegance and reads like poor ad copy. Thankfully once one passes the blatant advertising, the main story really is enchanting.

When Willingham is at his best, he is the true pied piper. He craftily leads the reader wherever the story goes, whether it is through cities or farms, enchanted woods or a final showdown in Germany. As for whether I suggest the book or not I’ll say this: If you are interested in expanding your interest into graphic novels, this book will give you a good idea whether or not you will find the Fables interesting. As a novel itself, the book has a far way to go, and although it offers the reader great language, it ultimately surrenders itself to the ad copy. | Jesse Gernigin

Click here to read previews of the first two chapters of Peter and Max, courtesy of DC/Vertigo.

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