Peter and Max is the brand new novel written by Bill Willingham, the writer and creator of the entire Fables series, that takes place in that very same universe and continuity. Put out by Vertigo comics, a division of DC, whom I think put out some of the best titles in comics.
Anyway, now for the review, in which Doctor Cyborg tells you what he thinks about the book.
I have to say my initial thoughts about a Fables novel, written by Bill Willingham himself, was excitement. In fact, I began reading it the first hour it was handed to me as I am a huge fan of the series. Which brings me to the first question I think should be on most peoples minds: Could I read this book not knowing anything about the series?
Although I feel that I would prefer having read the series first, you could enjoy this without having done so. The first chapter consisted mostly of set-up for the world that it takes place, which was a little tedious if you already know everything, but other than the first chapter it stops rubbing your face in it and tells you what you need to know with a bit more subtlety.
It also tells a story that is very fitting to the series. It's basically just another story set in the Homelands, telling the tale of how a fable (Peter Piper) escaped from his old home when the Adversary came, and came to live in Fabletown. Although this one goes way beyond the escape from the homelands, and residing in Fabletown. Telling a story about sibling rivalry that spans many centuries, told brilliantly from various points of interaction throughout the time line, all simultaneously.
Personally I think that Bill Willingham is a better comic book writer than a novelist. I don't know if this is because he's better at visual comedy and storytelling, or if it's that he's just too descriptive in literary detail and it comes through a lot simpler in the form of a picture. In either case he's good, but I think he shows more talent with the comics he's done. (Although I have to admit I wasn't a fan of the Great Fables Crossover.)
I felt that maybe this story wasn't as gritty as some of the Fables comic books, not that it wasn't for mature readers, but I remember while reading some of the series I was shocked now and again about how far it went. I will stress the fact that this book is in no way made for kids and is in fact really brutal at times. What it lacks in shock, it makes up for in well built story that is wrapped up quite nicely while defying expectation. At the same time as working in actual fable mythology, which is the the main charm of the Fables series to begin with. It's a nice easy read, and is just the right length for a book to be.
Despite the fact that it's a novel, it contains illustrations by Steve Leialoha, who normally does Mark Buckingham's inks. I enjoyed the drawings that were thrown in, but I think he is a better inker than penciler. It also contains a mini-comic that blends the characters from the book a little bit more deeply into the comic book story.
So in retrospect, this is a great story, and very entertaining. I'm not one to read a book for the sake of entertainment often, but this one was quite enjoyable, and I could see myself reading it again while re-reading the graphic novels. If you are reading Fables I would certainly pick this up, or even if you are just a fan of adult fantasy novels. You can buy this on amazon here!