Does anyone else see an injustice in women’s roles in fairytales? Men get to have horses, cool swords, and fight dragons, while women are reduced to falling into comas, eating rotten apples, and there’s always an evil step-mother within hexing distance. In Bill Willingham’s series Fables, much of these roles are reversed. Some of the strongest and most likeable characters in the series are women. Snow White goes from being a typical damsel in distress to a fearless leader of the community. Sleeping Beauty plays a large part in ending the war with the arch-nemesis the Adversary. The coolest reimagining by far is Cinderella. Far from being a lovestruck milkmaid, she is transformed in these pages into a full-fledged super-spy.
At the beginning of Cinderella From Fabletown with Love, Cinderella is depicted like a careless fashionista. She runs an upscale shoe shop, but as it’s quickly revealed, behind this shallow facade, she’s an agile secret agent. Her true nature is so discrete that many of her fellow Fables, including her assistant in the store, don’t know she’s what’s protecting them from a multitude of threats. One of the few people who do know her duel nature is Beast, from the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. In the first issue, he sends her on a mission to discover how and why magical objects from the Fables community are being exported to the Mundy world (lingo for “Mundane,” kind of like “muggles”).
From there, Cinderella is sent on a jet-setting mission to the Middle East. In the end, when the villain’s true face is revealed, it won’t be someone you’ll expect (I laughed heartily at the cleverness of the twist, and I won’t ruin it here).
Bill Willingham’s Fables series has never shied away from creating allegories for real world problems and politics, and there’s some of that here, but writer Chris Roberson definitely applies a lighter touch. Cinderella From Fabletown with Love is first and foremost a fun book. While some knowledge of the Fables comic will heighten your appreciation of this, it can be read alone. I greatly enjoyed Shawn McManus’ interior art. He’s exactly the kind of artist that makes Vertigo great. He does more with less. If you want something that doesn’t appear to be drawn by hand, read one of Marvel’s flashier books. If you want something that shows old-fashioned craftsmanship, read Cinderella From Fabletown with Love. Also, while I liked Shawn McManus’ pencils, I loved Chrissie Zullo’s covers.
One more perk of this graphic novel: it’s not too expensive. Vertigo, by avoiding glossy paper for interior art, manages to keep the price down. Most of Vertigo’s monthly issues sell for $2.99. A majority of the company’s graphic novels can be purchased for less than $20. Cinderella From Fabletown with Love is available at the list price of $14.99, but is currently $10.19 on Amazon. Speaking of Amazon, if you view the book’s product page you can see a nice 7 page free preview. Since I’m a skinflint, despite the cheap price, I read this from my local library (hence the sticker on the cover).
——If you’re looking for a book to read, check out my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories.
If you liked Cinderella from Fabletown With Love, look into the follow-up Cinderella Fables are Forever, which is also available as a graphic novel. I haven’t read that, but I want to.