Comics round: Fables, vol. 1 by Bill Willingham & Pelinavaus (Villimpi Pohjola, #1-2) by JP Ahonen

Because I read two comics/graphic novels in December, I decided to feature them in the same review post. I generally don’t read a lot of comics, but this year I’ve been exposed to so many that it has naturally been reflected in my own reading. I hope you enjoy these quick reviews, and if you have any suggestions for other graphic novels/comics to read, I’d love to hear them!

DC COMICS, 2002/2001

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White’s party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown’s sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf (Bigby Wolf), to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose’s ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

In the past year or so fairy tale re-tellings have truly surfaced in popularity as can be seen with many popular book series (cf. Lunar Chronicles, Cruel Beauty Universe, The Snow White Trilogy) as well as many film adaptations. So it is no surprise that a comic series begun in the early 2000s has also received a small upsurge among book bloggers. As it happens, on the first day of December I was returning some of my library loans and I saw this sitting in the “recently returned” shelf. Now, I had vowed in my December Plans post NOT to check out any books from the library in December, but since there was no clause about reading books in the library, I decided to stretch my library visit with another hour and sat down to read Fables, vol 1: Legends in Exile. Cheeky, I know.

The synopsis pretty much explains the setting for this comic series: The universe has another world, the land of the fairy tales, but for some mysterious reason, the characters of the legends and fairy tales have been forced to leave their world and live in ours. They have settled into New York, and have their own secret community, Fabletown, that protects them and keeps them in order. Snow White is the vice mayor who runs everything, The Big Bad Wolf is (ironically) the sheriff of the community, and together they are trying to find out what happened to Rose Red, who has tragically disappeared. Naturally there are also a plethora of other characters, such as Prince Charming – Snow White’s ex-husband and a shameless lothario – , that are involved in solving the case.

Most of the Fables, vol 1: Legends in Exile is centered around the mystery of Rose Red’s disappearance, but the story does also feature some flashbacks to explain why and how the fable characters left their world. The art style is reminiscent of some superhero and detective comics, with sharp, dark lines and contrasting colors. Because it is the first volume, it has to do a lot of introduction to the characters as well as some explanation of their situation, but at the end of the volume there were still so many questions left unanswered that I feel I have to read the next one as soon as possible. The fact that the second volume is titled Animal Farm has me even more excited for it. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading a bit grittier and more adultish fairy tale re-telling.



Disclaimer: This book has, unfortunately, not been translated into English. Thus all the excerpts here have been translated by yours truly.

Published since 2003, the Villimpi Pohjola series is a comic series about a group of friends who grow physically and on the side attempt to grow mentally as well. The core of this group of students consists of both men and women; however, their characters are very opposite which only seems to strengthen their friendship. For example, Rontti believes himself to be a gift to the womankind, and is so convincing in his preaching that many women take him for his word. Muusa tries to hold tight to her youthful dream and believe in future without expectations, duties and responsibilities. The Villimpi Pohjola series is a combination of relationship comic, parody and pop culture references. Pelinavaus (eng. The Opening) combines the first two self-published works, from 2007 and 2009, as the best of the early series. This collection also contains some new, previously unpublished material.

This comic book was a Christmas gift from my brother and I’m so glad that I finally have it. As some of you might remember, I did go a bit backwards with this comic series by purchasing the fourth volume in October and reading it immediately after that. I’d previously read the Villimpi Pohjola series in the local newspaper and loved how witty and sometimes very on point it is about some pop culture phenomena.

This collection features comics all the way from 2003 to 2009, with some additions drawn in 2013, and they are not organised chronologically. In the beginning I was actually very surprised to see how much Ahonen’s drawing style had changed during the ten year period and it took me a while to get used to the stylistic changes. However, later on I truly appreciated the variety as it showed not only how the characters had progressed in the series, but also how his style has progressed throughout the years. Although I must admit that I do like the current style a lot more than the earlier ones.

As I mentioned, I read The Opening after I had read the fourth book, Lapsus, so the characters were already familiar to me. This meant that I had a certain idea of most of them, and that the collection only gave me more background on how the series had started. This book also had a lot more university related jokes and phenomena that naturally appealed to me very much. All in all, I really enjoyed The Opening, but not quite as much as I’d enjoyed Lapsus. It might be the case where what I read first will always be the best because it is associated with the joy of discovering something brilliant (I tend to have the same problem with music as well).

I was under the impression that this comic series hadn’t been translated, but it turns out that the first two volumes were actually translated into English by the artist himself – under the title Northern Overexposure! However, those two volumes (and translations) are now out of print, and the later works (including this collection) have not been translated – which is a pity! However, should these ever get translated into English (or other languages), I’d highly suggest that you read them!


My review of Kypsyyskoe (#3) AND Lapsus (#4).


2 thoughts on “Comics round: Fables, vol. 1 by Bill Willingham & Pelinavaus (Villimpi Pohjola, #1-2) by JP Ahonen

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