And Then I Read: PETER & MAX by Bill Willingham


© Bill Willingham & DC Comics, Inc.

An unusual review from me for two reasons. First, this won’t be out for some time, but editor Shelly Bond at DC was kind enough to send me this advance copy, prepared for bookstore buyers, I think. Second, I don’t usually review things I work on, and I’ve worked on every FABLES project thus far, until this one…yet.  (I’ll explain that in a minute.) So, by my rules, I can review it.

Before I say any more, I should quote the back cover of this copy: “This is an uncorrected and abbreviated galley for sales and publicity purposes only…(it) should not be quoted or reviewed without comparison to the final book.” Okay, well, I’m not quoting and I’ll keep that in mind, but having finished it, it seems pretty well polished to me, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Some who have written novels based on comics have made the mistake of trying to write prose that reads like a comic. Bill Willingham is much too smart for that. He’s written an excellent novel that just happens to contain some characters that also appear in the FABLES comic, though the featured ones have only appeared there very tangentially thus far. When writing a comic like FABLES, where there are lots of characters with something to say, the need for an authorial narrative voice is minimal. In a novel written in the third person, the author’s narrative voice is much more important. A writer can choose any number of such voices, depending on the tone and style of the piece. Bill’s voice in PETER & MAX is engaging, friendly, smart, funny and well-spoken, just like Bill himself. Before you’ve gotten to the second chapter, you’ll be drawn right into the world this novel depicts.


The artwork is perhaps not quite as equally important in an illustrated novel as it is in comics, but Steve Leialoha’s art for this book is also excellent. Readers of FABLES know him mainly as an inker, though he has also illustrated a few stories, but Steve’s art credits are lengthy and celebrated, and he’s in top form here, from full page pictures like the one above, to spot illustrations, to tiny decorative bits, all beautifully done.

The story? Well, I won’t say too much, but any fan of FABLES won’t want to miss this adventure, which will tell them much more about life in the Homelands (at least in one of them) in much more detail than we’ve yet seen in any of the comics. As always, Bill starts with characters we all think we know from legends, stories and nursery rhymes, and takes them places one would never expect, with fascinating results.

Oh yes, I mentioned that I didn’t work on this yet. There will be an eight-page comics story at the end of the final printed version of this book, and I have just recently lettered that. It makes a nice coda to the novel, and I’m happy I got to be a part of it.

Highly recommended!

Peter and Max by Bill Willingham

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