Fables: The Deluxe Edition 

is an excellent starting point, collecting the initial 10 issues in hardback for the first time.

The gist of the series is that characters from storybooks, nursery rhymes, legends and myths are real, and they live unbeknownst to us in a section of New York City called Fabletown, where they live under their own government.

That doesn't mean there aren't problems. In the first of the collection's two story arcs, Snow White's sister, Rose Red, is murdered. As mayor of Fabletown, she asks its sheriff, Bigby Wolf (he previously of "Big, Bad" fame), to investigate. The two are like oil and water, so naturally, a romantic attraction builds amid this tragedy in the second arc, in which Snow herself is targeted for death.

This is the stuff of dark fantasy, with elements of noir crime mixed in, iced with biting humor, sudden violence and spicy sex (non-explicit, however). Despite having characters straight from Mother Goose "? Prince Charming and Little Boy Blue among them "? this is definitely not kids' stuff. It's strictly for adults, who will be richly rewarded with a story line of acute intelligence and avid imagination.

For this "Deluxe Edition," Vertigo has included a new introduction by Willingham, as well as a section of conceptual and character sketches in the back. There's not enough new stuff to merit an upgrade for anyone who already owns these stories in paperback, unless they just want a sturdier cover for shelving."?Rod Lott

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