New from Vertigo Comics this week came a prequel to the epic series Fables called The Wolf Among Us #1. The book is written by Matthew Sturges and Dave Justus, and drawn by Travis Moore, Steve Sadowski, and Shawn McManus. Based on the video game of the same name by Telltale Games, the company responsible for episodic interactive games based on such hit television series as The Walking Dead and its new Game of Thrones series, The Wolf Among Us takes a look at our favorite Fables characters in the 1980’s, several decades before the setting of the original comic series.
For those new to the legacy of Fables or The Wolf Among Us, these series are set in modern New York, following the lives of many famous nursery rhyme, fairy tale, and mythological characters that we hold dear in our literary mythos.
Well, Fables asserts that they are indeed real, and have been thrust into the gritty world we call home. They carve out a slice of life in a district they call Fabletown. Forced to make due with human, or mundie (short for ‘mundane’), laws and regulations, the characters, called fables, try to integrate themselves into normal society as best as they can. This, of course, cannot be easy. The fables still retain memories of their home world and with that, the rivalries and romances of their classic stories.
The Wolf Among Us observes Sheriff Bigby Wolf (the Big Bad Wolf, if you couldn’t tell by that name), who works to keep the uneasy peace among the fables in Fabletown. Bigby is a sort of anti-hero in this world, being a sheriff working to protect the mundies from the fables, and the fables from each other, but despite this, his peers cannot seem to shake the frightening actions he has perpetrated in the past, having been the big bad wolf of the Fables world.
As far as the first issue of the series goes, the comic almost strictly follows the action of the video game. The game, available for the PC and for several consoles, takes the format of a point-and-click adventure which occurs in 2-hour episodes in which the player assumes the role of Bigby Wolf, making dialogue and quick-time action choices that ultimately alter the story in many ways.
The comic, though it takes readers through all familiar situations such as the scuffle at Toad’s building and the odd encounter with Beauty on the lawns of The Woodlands apartments, obviously has determined the set of choices already, and will provide a linear story following such. While players of the video game had the option to give money to the mysterious girl they met, and to lie to Beast about seeing Beauty that first night, the writers have predetermined these familiar scenarios to create their comic.
The art style is very reminiscent of the cel-shaded models of Telltale Games’ design, though in an engaging comic book format. You see many familiar characters, with no doubt more to come. Among the cast of fables is Snow White, the deputy sheriff of Fabletown, as well as Toad and Toad Jr. (called TJ) of Toad Hall, surly Colin of the Three Little Pigs, and the infamous Woodsman who has a bit of an axe to grind with Bigby (hah, get it?).
There is also a mysterious, ill-fated fable whose identity is known to those who have played the game, but I won’t reveal who she is just in case readers want to be surprised. (I will say, though, there is a hint of her identity during the apartment fight between the Woodsman and Bigby. She is from a very uncommon French fairy tale.)
I fell in love with these characters through the video game this summer, and greatly enjoyed seeing them in comic form, entering the canon of the extensive Fables universe. However, though the writers assure us in the back letters this will not always be the case, I found this first issue too similar to the video game source material. I sincerely hope they will expound on the story from the game instead of following its formula. As engaging as the game is, if the comic persists in being too similar and not taking any daring risks, it might be more worth my time to replay the game instead.
Perhaps I’m biased due to my love for the game. This is still a great comic and a good first issue. It doesn’t overwhelm you with its mythos, and presumably readers have at least some small sense of the world of Fables either from the game or the original comic. It’s a familiar premise, reliable and sometimes predictable, but still extremely satisfying. I’ll give this book 3.5 glamours out of 5. It’s effective, attractive, but I can’t help but see its original form through the cracks. Best to consult a witch about getting something a bit stronger.
(For those who don’t know, glamours are what the more animal-like fables use to take human form and disguise themselves. Being seen as an animal in New York City gets them sent to ‘The Farm’. Dun dun dun.)
For those interested, Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1 is available online at Vertigo’s website as well as at your local comic store. The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games is available on Steam and through several other video game platforms.