"Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vertigo Comics
Written by Bill Willingham
Illustrated by Jim Fern and Craig Hamilton
2012, 148 Pages
Graphic Novel Released on November 14th, 2012
There are a few titles that all new adult comic fans should check out. Most of them come from Vertigo. These are books like Preacher and Y The Last Man, but Fables is something that usually ranks pretty highly. It rarely pops up here at HorrorTalk because although it can be violent at times, it doesn't usually fall under the horror umbrella. This changes when author Bill Willingham releases an original graphic novel entitled Werewolves of the Heartland. Set in the Fables universe, the comic follows Bigby Wolf as he searches for a new place for the other fairy tale creatures to live as their previous home is no more. He comes across Story City, Iowa. This is a real place, but it's not actually filled with werewolves like it is in the story. Being the Big Bad Wolf, Bigby is looked at as a god to these creatures. In reality, he is their creator as his blood formed the first amongst them.
As Bigby learns more about Story City, he becomes suspicious. Things don't add up. Here you have a large area for the werewolves to grow and thrive and yet there aren't that many of them around. Why aren't they reproducing? And more disturbingly, why are they hunting humans for sport?
Werewolves of the Heartland gives a peek into Bigby's service during World War II. He didn't officially enlist, but he did hunt down and brutally murder a number of German soldiers. He was a loaded gun but lacked any sort of aim. Fortunately, Bigby was able to partner with an American soldier named Arthur Harp. The pair made a good team until Harp seemingly died during a battle at Frankenstein Castle (yes, THE Frankenstein Castle). Instead, Harp became a werewolf and now he sort of runs Story City.
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Anyway, I explained a lot of this story, but does it make sense? Sort of. I'm not up to speed on Fables. I've read the first few trade paperbacks, but I have a lot to catch up on. I have the gist of it and I know that Bigby Wolf is a pretty cool character. Fables fans might be a little disappointed with Werewolves of the Heartland as it doesn't have much of a tie-in to the main book outside of Bigby. He comes in and ends up kicking all sorts of ass as he shows these werewolves how things are supposed to go down. The other fairy tale creatures or "Fables" stay off the human's radar because if they were found out, they'd be hunted to extinction. The same goes for werewolves.
The artwork is handled by Jim Fern and Craig Hamilton. I can't tell you who did what because it's not clearly indicated on the book. They style in Werwolves of the Heartland has a classic look to it. There's a lot of detail in each page but the characters often seem rather wooden. Where the artwork shines is when the battles take place. Whether it's Bigby tearing through German soldiers or werewolves duking it out, the blood flies in this comic. It does so to an almost ridiculous level. This is all presented in great detail as well. If this was a movie, the fight scenes would have been shown in slow motion, allowing you to see each drop of blood as it splatters across the screen.
Werewolves of the Heartland is a nice story about lycanthropes, but it doesn't fit as a Fables comic. It just doesn't have that same bit of magic that the main title has. If it was judged on its own, you'd have a cool comic about the god of wolves bringing order to a town of werewolves. As it has the moniker of Fables in front, it's going to be compared to the title series and as a result, it falls flat.