Monday, April 13, 2015

The Definitive FABLES Reading Guide

Kelly from The Written World is here today with an update to her famous Fables reading guide. For those of you who aren't familiar, Fables is an epic, complex comic series about fairy tale and folklore creatures who've been forced out of their world and into the world of humans. The series concludes this year, so now's the perfect time to read it if you haven't already! Kelly's here to help you get started.

fables comic

In 2009 I took a chance and finally read Fables by Bill Willingham. I had heard lots of good things about it, but I was still trying to figure out if I even like comics. But, I had gift cards from Christmas and I was determined to see what all the hype was about. It was honestly one of the best decisions ever! When 2009 ended I was all caught up in the series and eagerly awaiting the new releases. I still get excited every time and will be very sad when the original series ends this year. I did some googling once to find a reading guide, and at the time I couldn't find anything complete. So, I made my own. I try to update it every few months. Here is the recent update:

F= Fables and J = Jack of Fables.

It starts off easily enough:

F - Volume 1: Fables: Legends in Exile (Issues 1-5)

F - Volume 2: Animal Farm (Issues 6-10)

F - Volume 3: Storybook Love (Issues 11-18)

F - Volume 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Issues 19-21; 23-27)

F - Volume 5: The Mean Seasons (Issues 22; 28-33)

F - Volume 6: Homelands (Issues 34-41)

NOTE: Congrats, you are now safe to start Jack of Fables. The events in this book pick-up after issues 34 and 35 of Fables contained in Homelands. You do not have to start now, but if you want to it is now safe. It didn't actually release until after Volume 8 of Fables.

F - Volume 7: Arabian Nights (and Days) (Issues 42-27)

F - Volume 8: Wolves (Issues 48-51)

STOP!! If you haven't all ready, you should read 1001 Nights of Snowfall. I did not, but it ties into Volume 9 of Fables. (I don't think you lack if you just read it whenever. It is technically a prequel.)

F - Volume 9: Sons of Empire (Issues 52-59)

F - Volume 10: The Good Prince (Issues 60-69)

F - Volume 11: War and Pieces (Issues 70-75)

F - Volume 12: The Dark Ages (Issues 76-82)

STOP!! You are now on a Fables vacation. In order to read Volume 13 you have to read Jack of Fables because this is a Crossover edition.

J - Volume 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape (Issues 1-5)

J - Volume 2: Jack of Hearts (Issues 6-11)

J - Volume 3: The Bad Prince (Issues 12-16)

J - Volume 4: Americana (Issues 17-21)

J - Volume 5: Turning Pages (Issues 22-27)

J - Volume 6: The Big Book of War (Issues 28-32)

STOP!! It is now time for a Jack of Fables vacation. Sort of. When released as individual issues Volume 13 actually contains Fables, Jack of Fables, and The Literals. When they released it as a trade paperback they put everything together and called it Fables.

F - Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover (Fables: Issues 83-85; Jack of Fables: Issues 33-35; The Literals: Issues 1-3)

Note: If you are worried about any possible spoilers it is now save to read Cinderella: Fables are Forever. (More about this spin-off below). You can do what you want for the rest of the Fables and Jack of Fables. A suggested order is such (this is how they were released and I read them):

J - Volume 7: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack (Issues 36-40)

F - Volume 14: Witches (Issues 86-93)

J - Volume 8: The Fulminate Blade (Issues 41-45)

F - Volume 15: Rose Red (Issues 94-100)

J - Volume 9: The End (Issues 46-50) - This concludes Jack of Fables.

F - Volume 16: Super Team (Issues 101-107)

Note: If you are worried about possible spoilers after this comic it is safe to read Werewolves of the Heartland and the first Fairest. (More on these comics below.)

F - Volume 17: Inherit the Wind (Issues 108-113)

F - Volume 18: Cubs in Toyland  (Issues 114-123)

F - Volume 19: Snow White (Issues 114-123 (back-up stories only) and issues 124-129 (December 24, 2013)

F - Volume 20: Camelot (Issues 131-136)

F - Volume 21: Happily Ever After (Issues 141-149) (May 5, 2015)

F-  Volume 22                                                             (July 28, 2015)

The Spin-offs and Standalones:

There is also the standalone comic Werewolves of the Heartland. The comic is a chance to see Bigby all by himself. It is technically a good introduction to the series; but if you are worried about any possible spoilers it was originally set to be released around the same time as Super Team and follows events from that comic.

Then, there is Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love (Issues 1-6) and Cinderella: Fables are Forever (Issues 1-6). From Fabletown with Love doesn't have many spoilers, but you are best to wait and read it until at least after Volume 11. Fables are Forever, though, does talk about events from later in the series. If you want to avoid possible spoilers do not read it until after Fables: Volume 13. Also, the two collections are entirely unrelated. There is no need to read one right after the other.

The newer spin-off to the Fables series is Fairest. On the one hand it is an excellent introduction to the series and is a possible starting point if you are new to the series. On the other hand, if you are interested in keeping things in order and not having any spoilers at all (even minor ones), I recommend starting this series after you read Volume 16 of Fables.

Fairest - Volume 1: Wide Awake (Issues 1-7)

Fairest - Volume 2: Hidden Kingdom (Issues 8-14)

Fairest - Volume 3: The Return of the Maharaja (Issues 15-20)

Fairest in all the Land

Fairest - Volume 4: Of Mice and Men (Issues 21-27)

Fairest - Volume 5:                               (Issues 27-32) (February 25, 2015)

Then, Jess Nevins released Fables Encyclopaedia. It is essentially the annotated version of Fables. It is something worth having wherever you are in the series. I have been warned that it does contain spoilers up until Volume 18 of the main series, though.

Lastly, there is the novel Peter & Max. This is an original novel that also can be read as an introduction to the series. I don't remember any spoilers for the series, so I wouldn't worry about a reading order. If you are in the mood for a Fables novel instead of graphic novel, pick this one up!

One thing I was remiss in mentioning before is the video game The Wolf Among Us. I am not a big gamer, but I am tempted! Anyway, from what I have researched the game is a prequel to the series and will not spoil anything if you play it first and then decide to read them later. It has sparked a new comic book spin-off, though. The Wolf Among Us is an official prequel to the Fables series and expands on the game. As of yet it is just in individual issues and I couldn't find a release date for the trade.

Now this is where things get interesting... Fables is doing a crossover with another Vertigo comic, The Unwritten. If you have never read The Unwritten before, it is another literary graphic novel where the main character travels through various fictional worlds. It works really well for a crossover. The crossover is going to occur in a collected The Unwritten graphic novel and take place in Fables. It is set to be released next year. So, for the sake of having all the information available here is the reading order if you are interested in the crossover.

The Unwritten:

Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity (Issues 1-5)

Volume 2: Inside Man (Issues 6-12)

Volume 3: Dead Man's Knock (Issues 13-18)

Volume 4: Leviathan (Issues 19-24)

Volume 5: On to Genesis (Issues 25-30)

Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words (Issues 31-35)

Volume 7: The Wound (Issues 36-41)

Volume 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds (Issues 42-49) (February 4, 2014)

This all leads up to the crossover...

Volume 9: The Unwritten Fables (Issues 50-54)

And, because I am a bit of a completest, I would also mention that there is a standalone volume in The Unwritten series called Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice.

And, if you enjoyed The Unwritten, the rest of the series is as follows:

Volume 10: War Stories (Issues The Unwritten Apocalypse 1-6)

Volume 11: Apocalypse  (Issues The Unwritten Apocalypse 7-12) (May 26, 2015)

Lastly, just because for some this might be the easiest way to get the Fables series, here is a list of what the Deluxe editions contain:

Volume 1: Fables 1-10

Volume 2: Fables 11-18

Volume 3: Fables 19-27

Volume 4: Fables 28-33 (1001 Nights of Snowfall)

Volume 5: Fables 34-45

Volume 6: Fables 46-51 

Volume 7: Fables 52-59 and 64

Volume 8: Fables 60-63, 65-69 

Volume 9: Fables 70-82 

Volume 10: Fables 83-85, Jack of Fables 33-35, The Literals 1-3, & Werewolves of the Heartland


  1. You know how much I count on this guide. Thanks for this.

  2. I'm still in the beginning stages but this is going to be SO handy when I get further along.

  3. Wow! Okay this clears up a lot of things for me. I read the Cinderella way too early, I wasn't really planning on reading Jack but now I know I need to and those Fairest volumes I purchased, yup those are going to be sitting on the shelves for quite a while! Man I wish my library had these because it is going to take forever to purchase them all.

  4. I adore your reading guide for Fables! It was so helpful when I started reading them, and now I need to get caught up on both Fables and The Unwritten!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.