For the very first time ever, Vertigo has stepped out of comics publishing to release a straight-prose novel. They made an excellent choice for this new venture. The Fables series—Bill Willingham’s bestselling riff on fairytale characters updated and turned upside down all at once—already relies on text-heavy descriptions and dialogue, both of which propel it effortlessly through multiple genres. The series has always been built on healthy doses of both humor and action/suspense, which makes it well suited to tackle both here, in the story of Peter Piper and his older brother, Max.
The story operates well on its own as magical fantasy, so it should appeal both to fans of Fables and to those who have never read the series (for that matter, those who aren’t regular readers of comics will find themselves right at home here; there’s no need to be fluent in the Fables world to jump right in to Peter & Max). That said, longtime fans will find many treats here, and for continuity-loving comics fans, he explains exactly where this tale fits in with the rest of the epic story he has been telling in comics form for nearly a decade.
Peter and Max, though brothers, are quite different. Good-hearted Peter, hopelessly in love with Little Bo Peep, has been gifted the magical flute Frost. Max, jealous, evil, and twisted, is the villain of the tale. Eventually, both brothers wind up in Fabletown, where Peter must make the potentially fatal decision of whether to confront Max once and for all.
Peter & Max is delightfully solid. It’s a treat to have such a long, tightly plotted story in which to see Willingham branch out. At the same time, he populates the novel with nice guest appearances by familiar Fables faces. There’s quite a deal of wit to be found throughout too.
For new or old fans, there’s much to enjoy in Peter & Max. It will be fun to see if Vertigo continues down the prose rode with more of its worthy series.
Reviewed by John Hogan on July 12, 2012
Peter & Max