by Edie Nugent
Artists: Steve Sadowski, Shawn McManus, Travis Moore
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Sal Sipriano
Cover Artist: Chrissie Zullo
Editor: Rowena Yow
It seems fitting that Fables: The Wolf Among Us is Vertigo’s “first ever digital-first series” according to the publisher’s website. If you can parse that distinction, meaning Vertigo has never before released a comic series in digital format prior to it’s print debut, it makes a strange sort of sense that they chose this particular series to hold the title of first-ever first digital. Fables: The Wolf Among Us is a comic series based on the popular Telltale video game series of the same name, which was itself based on the 14-time Eisner award winning series from creator Bill Willingham. While the digital version of Fables: The Wolf Among Us launched in early December 2014 and is set to release “chapter 6” of the ongoing story today, print-format fans get a good opportunity to catch up to digital readers with Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1 as it collects the first three chapters of the digital story in this first print issue.
The comic runs very close to the story, dialogue and plot of the Telltale game while also providing additional back story and details for a more in-depth story than the game provides. I played the first installment of the game before reading the comic adaption, and found the first three chapters to be an enjoyable read. It was a solid decision to enlist Matthew Sturges in translating the video game story to comic form, his previous work on the Fables comic series that birthed the game that served as template for the comic (is your head spinning yet?) comes through in the additional material added to issue #1. Sturges is aided by newcomer Dave Justus in the writing department and their collaboration is seamless: all the writing seems of a piece.
The decision to set the series as a prequel to the events in the original run of Fables was a good one: it is an easily understood entry point for new readers while also rewarding faithful fans of the aforementioned comic series, which began in 2002. The concept is simple: the fairy tale characters we all know have been chased out of their Homeland by a malevolent force. They’ve escaped to our world, setting up a new home in colonial America which later becomes New York City. Some characters are of means and can purchase glamours to hide their non-human appearance when applicable, others cannot.
We meet Bigby Wolf (the second “b” stands for bad),the newly minted Sheriff of Fabletown, as he responds to a domestic violence call from Mr. Toad (Wind in the Willows fans might be a bit shocked by his language) who reports a disruption in his upstairs neighbor’s apartment. Bigby is understandably not eager to take the call, as the upstairs neighbor is The Woodsman and their last confrontation of fairy tale legend didn’t end well for Bigby . The Woodsman proves he is still the brute with an ax he was back in the Homeland, beating up a mysterious woman named Faith who has resorted to prostitution to make ends meet in our mundane world. Bigby’s efforts to subdue him, however, only serve to escalate the violence.
Faith proves to be pretty lethal herself, dispatching the Woodsman handily just as he gains the advantage in his fight with Bigby. Faith is unruffled by the proceedings, taking her injuries and unpaid work for the Woodsman in stride. Bigby takes pity on her situation, and gives her what little money he has on him to help cover the debt. He also arranges to meet up with her later to get a statement detailing her abuse after she has returned to her boss with Bigby’s cash. Of course, any character that essentially says “I’ll be right back” is in narrative danger. Charmingly, when Bigby returns to his apartment to decompress, we run into another of the Sheriff’s former enemies: one of the three little pigs is crashed out on Bigby’s couch. This pig, known as Colin, demands whiskey and chain smokes while chastising the Sheriff for his lone-wolf habits. Also featured are some of Bigby’s earliest interactions with Snow White and Beauty (who is hiding from her Beast for unknown reasons).
The art across all the issues is different enough to showcase the style of the three artists: Steve Sadowski (chapter. 1), Shawn McManus (Chapter. 2), and Travis Moore (Chapter. 3), but also cohesive enough to provide a nice continuity of design. The series will hopefully go on to introduce more of the iconic Fables characters, while also making good on the answer to the compelling mystery set out in these first three chapters of the series.