FABLES ENCYCLOPEDIA HC
Written by Jess Nevins, Bill Willingham, and Mark Buckingham
Art by Various
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
Release Date: October 23, 2013
Fables is today DC Comics’ longest running ongoing series within its Vertigo imprint, and few creator-owned series have had the kind of success Fables has enjoyed over such a long period of time. Part of this success is clearly owed to the perfect balance writer Bill Willingham and artist Mark Buckingham have struck between resurrecting and refreshing so many traditional fairy tale characters, and creating new classics from whole cloth. It’s a huge world these creators have developed — so much so that it cries out for a roadmap or guide for the uninitiated and devoted alike. And with a wave of a magic wand, we have it.
The Fables Encyclopedia, like the series itself, is an amalgamation of lots of parts, curated carefully so as to present the very best story for the reader. At first glance a very straightforward reference, its magical quality — so to speak — begins to reveal itself in the fine details. Every entry is split between sharing the origins of each character in world literature (original context, era, and creator, if known) and detailing their particular involvement in the Fables series itself, even going so far as to indicate the very first page and panel appearance. Alongside many entries are annotations from the two creators themselves, making special note of any curious or imaginative anecdote about their creative choices from beginning to now. Type-fanatics (you know who you are) will love the choices made for headings and alphabetical dividers, keeping the book feeling crisp and modern without losing that sense of history and elegant playfulness. The production designer made very strong choices in order to keep this book from feeling like a resource guide rather than a beautiful addition to your coffee table.
There are a few regrets I have about the format, namely that every entry doesn’t necessarily have a consistent (or any) artistic reference. Many of the more prominent characters receive full-page reproductions of interior art that is meaningful to their identity or origin, but it tends to break the flow of the read for me a bit. As a long time Fables reader, they seem over the top, but I do openly admit a novice to the world Wilingham and Buckingham have created might feel very enticed by it. Nevertheless, we are graced by gorgeous James Jean or Joao Ruas cover reproductions at the start of each letter, and no one could conceivably utter a word of complaint about that.
A wonderful book for fans of Fables — whether longtime or soon-to-be — the Encyclopedia is a welcome resource for getting just enough knowledge about each character to be able to move forward in the narrative. And if you’ve already read through the last 130 plus issues of the series and its spin-offs, you might just want to regale in rediscovering all the characters and things you may have missed or since forgotten. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
The Verdict: 8.5/10