Overview

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

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Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

Credits

  • Words: Bill Willingham
  • Art: Craig Hamilton and Jim Fern
  • Inks: Craig Hamilton, Ray Snyder, Mark Farmer, and Jim Fern
  • Colors: Lee Loughridge
  • Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
  • Price: $22.99
  • Release Date: Nov 14, 2012

In this original Fables graphic novel, Bigby Wolf encounters a Midwest town populated by werewolves—a town with secret ties to his past.

Following the destruction of Fabletown by the entity Mr. Dark, Bigby Wolf sets out on a cross-country trek to find a new home for his fellow fairy tale exiles. His journey brings him to Story City, Iowa, where unfamiliar scents begin to vex our wolfen hero. It seems that Story City is populated by a race of werewolves and governed by Arthur Harp, an old army buddy of Bigby’s from World War II. But Harp hasn’t aged a day since the 1940s, nor has his lovely German wife. As Bigby investigates, he finds more surprising connections to his past and evidence of a Nazi experiment he thought long abandoned.

From its inception, Fables has consistently been one of the best series in Vertigo’s stable. Bill Willingham’s exploration of fairy tale characters in a modern setting has recast these familiar figures in an epic fantasy light and added newfound maturity and depth to their stories. In Werewolves of the Heartland, he sets his sights on a different sort of legend, that of the werewolf (with a bit of Nazi occultism and Frankenstein’s monster thrown in for good measure). The town of Story City is full of intrigue, dark secrets, and the kind of power plays and coups one expects of a society of wolves. Many of the inhabitants desire to be alpha dog and are not afraid to slay their own kind to maintain order. Willingham has fun showing us the effect Bigby’s presence has on this community. When the so-called Father of Wolves arrives, Story City reacts as if God himself walks among them. All of these elements create a fascinating and compelling tale.

Werewolves of the Heartland also serves as a good showcase for Bigby himself. Throughout the story, we see the constant struggle that the former Big Bad Wolf endures in the mundane world. There is inner conflict between Bigby’s animal nature and his more civilized tendencies. In Story City, he’s faced with violence, carnal temptation, betrayal, and an unexpected sense of responsibility for the town. His pragmatic response of these events gives excellent insight into who Bigby is and how much he’s grown over the centuries.

If the book falters at all, it’s on the artistic side of things. Werewolves is illustrated by both Craig Hamilton and Jim Fern and has no less than four different inkers (Ray Snyder, Mark Farmer, and Hamilton and Fern themselves). This many hands create an inconsistent look to the graphic novel. At times the transition between styles is subtle while at others it is jarring and distracting. One particular fight sequence seems blurry and sketchy at first, while on the following page the same scene becomes extremely detailed and markedly different in style. The art stumbles somewhat in character design as well. With the town being populated by blond-haired Aryan supermen, it becomes a challenge to tell certain characters apart. Individually, Fern and Hamilton do not turn in poor work per se but a more unified art style would have served this story better.

Other than these artistic missteps, Werewolves of the Heartland is a solid addition to the Fables saga. It provides a character study for one of the series’ most popular players, a story of intrigue and action, and a glimpse of the supernatural elsewhere in Willingham’s universe.

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