I bet you figured I would read this book. If you knew about it anyway. I love, love, love the Fables comics and graphic novels, so I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it. And, big surprise, I loved this too!
Peter & Max is the first novel Bill Willingham has written set in the Fables universe. (I think it may be his first novel novel too, but I’m not 100% sure about that).
The novel starts out with Peter and Max and their family of traveling musicians. If you didn’t guess from the cover, with that creepy looking piper, one of these guys is the Pied Piper of Hamelin. That isn’t the only Fable touched on here. Peter is married to Bo Peep! And like the Fables Graphic Novels, this novel is rich in folklore, fantasy, and art; it’s a wonderful amalgamation of them all. It’s a tale of jealousy. Betrayal. And revenge. The narrative travels back and forth between present day America and medieval times. Max believes that their father committed a terrible wrong to him and he plans to make Peter pay for it. Peter Piper is hunting his older brother Max to put an end to their bitter rivalry, once and for all.
You do not need to have read the GNs to enjoy this book; it can definitely stand alone. If you have, it’s a rich, textured tale that brings in several beloved characters from the comics and makes for an enthralling read. If you haven’t read them, it’s a good introduction or, if you haven’t read them because you don’t like to read comics, well, there are only illustrations here. It’s a straight up novel, an enjoyable novel, one that I highly recommend.
Kailana of The Written World and I both read this at the same time, so we decided to review it together. What follows is the second half of our conversation about it. See her blog for the first half and here for the second, as we discuss the book, Fables, and our opinions about both. She is the black text, I am the red text.
K: Yeah, the flutes are a good touch. Two piper brothers, but one was good and one wasn’t. Max was written very well. He was the ‘bad’ brother and you could really believe it. He wasn’t so crazy that it didn’t make any sense. Then, Peter was a sweet kid, but he wasn’t an angel. Having him and Bo be big readers was a really fun idea, too. It didn’t necessarily play a big role, but just having it mentioned was a nice touch! The inclusion of familiar characters worked well, too. By having the two main characters be ones that have never been mentioned before, this book wasn’t really a spoiler for those that haven’t read all the graphic novels. I hope, though. that if he writes more books in this format they will build on some of the characters we have seen all ready.
H: I really liked Bo and Peter. I liked that she was the one who became an assassin! And that Peter became the master thief. And Max was an excellent bad guy. His *costume* choices cracked me up. I agree though, I would love to have a back-story type of book about one of the more familiar characters to those of us who have read the GNs. I know Bigby has his own GN mini-series coming up and so does Cinderella, but, I don’t know, someone like Rose Red, or Boy Blue, or even Flycatcher would be so great I think, to have their own spin-off novel.
I didn’t know about the Bigby and Cinderella stories. That’s very cool! I love anything to do with Willingham and his books, so I don’t really think I would be unhappy about anything that he does. What was your favourite scene from the book?
Oh wow, that’s a hard one. There are so many that were interesting. I really liked when Bigby was after Peter and Max in the Black Forest. I liked the first time Max and Peter played their flutes against each other. I liked the scene where Bo hides in the pumpkin. But my favorite, or, at least the very first scene that came to my mind, so apparently has stuck with me, is when the witch is walking through the woods with that goat and those knights come up and kill it. Whatever that thing was that escaped the goat’s body has irked me, because we are not told what, or who, it is. My husband and I have discussed it and my theory is that it’s Mr. Dark from the new arc in the comics. He doesn’t think so, but he doesn’t know what it was either. I hope it comes up again, either in the GNs or a book, because it really bugs me!!
What do you think it was?
I have no idea! It is just one of those things, I guess. It is obviously something evil that the witch has tried to capture, so I would say Mr. Dark. Otherwise, it must be something that hasn’t been shown yet, but I think he would have explained it more if it was new. That being said, the books are written so that if you haven’t read the graphic novels you can still read this book. I guess when it comes down to it I really have no idea what it is! Any of the scenes with my witch are my favourite, though. She’s a great character and I always think she is written so well. One minute she is all hunched up in her rocking chair knitting, but then next thing you know she is fighting evil. She is rather complex, so I enjoy her. The scene in the pumpkin was one of my favorites, too!
I really like the witch too. She’s so ambiguous; I know she’s supposed to be “good” now, helping Fabletown and all after the amnesty, but somehow, deep down, I think she’s not entirely as good as she lets on. Like she’s only their for her own interests, whatever they may be. Maybe Willingham should write a book or GN about her next!
I really did enjoy this book. I think most anyone would enjoy it and could even be a good introduction to the Fables world. Here’s hoping there will be more!
Oh, yes, a book on the witch would be really great! I really enjoyed this, too, and recommend it! I can’t wait until more!
Peter & Max
Written by: Bill Willingham
With illustrations by Steve Leialoha
Publisher and Date: Vertigo Comics, 2009
Hardcover: 368 pages
Bill Willingham on Twitter
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