In many cases, novelists have difficulty making the jump to comic book writing just as comic book writers and screenwriters may have a rough time adapting to pure prose writing. I’m happy to report that Bill Willingham not only made the jump to prose writing well, but he exceeded my already lofty expectations.
Okay, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer full disclosure and admit that I am a huge Fables fan. That doesn’t mean I automatically give Willingham a free pass, though. I’ve written some glowing Fables reviews, but I’ve also come down pretty hard on the title every now and again. I’m simply trying to clarify that while I may not be totally objective with Willingham, I can remain critical.
For those unfamiliar with Fables, the premise is that all of our storybook legends, nursery rhyme characters, and mythological figures are very real and lived in their own worlds. When their homelands were overrun by an evil overlord, they fled to our dimension just as New York was being founded. There they have lived among us ever since, always searching for a way to win back their own lands.
Peter & Max is a very well-written, tightly-plotted, astutely-orchestrated novel. As you know, it focuses upon Peter Piper and his brother, Max, as well as Little Bo Peep. And in true Fables fashion, Willingham is sure to deliver the scenes we’d expect from such characters, but he also makes them his own and offers some unexpected twists and turns. I also enjoyed that the chapters alternate – a chapter will focus upon Peter and Max’s past, and then the next will zero in on the present. This was a great way to build suspense while slowly revealing pertinent plot points.
What I appreciate the most about Peter & Max, though, is the fact that it makes sense. Willingham lays the groundwork early on and doesn’t throw any last minute plot-changers into the mix. While he still managed to catch me off guard, none of the resolutions struck me as, “No fair! That came out of nowhere!” Too many times an author plays willy-nilly with their climax and resolution, but not Willingham. He remained consistent throughout, even if we couldn’t guess why he included certain bits of information early on.
Furthermore, while I believe a Fables fan will especially love this novel, by no means is Fables a necessary read in order to enjoy Peter & Max. If anything, I see the novel as a gateway to the comic book, though I’m certain the comic book fans will be frothing at the mouth to pick up this book, and rightly so.
Willingham has a captivating writing style, and I like the fact that while he gives us nuanced details, he doesn’t go overboard with it. I really can’t emphasize enough Willingham’s skill as a prose writer.
Well-written, surprising, exciting, and carefully plotted, Peter & Max will impress and delight both Fables fans and those entering the Fables world for the first time.