I had initially intended to review each of these volumes individually, but it has been a few months since I first started this review, so my impressions are a bit fuzzy now. I read the first trade paperback a few years ago, and then the series fell of my radar. My trusty local library has since purchased the deluxe editions, which encompass a few trade paperbacks in each book, which is much more satisfying anyways.
For those who are not familiar with the series, the concept is that an evil creature known only as the Adversary has killed, enslaved or driven famous fairytale characters from their homeland over a period of years, and those individuals have taken refuge in our world. Some of them are hiding in plain sight in the “mundie” (mundane people = us) world in a New York neighborhood, while those who cannot pass as human live on The Farm, an enchanted tract of land in a rural area, isolated and protected from normal people. The characters have been living here for centuries.
Willingham does a nice job of carrying the main story arc throughout all of the collected stories, carrying the momentum while still creating individual and discrete tales for the characters. I understand that the fairy tale characters used in the book were chosen on the basis of their being in the free domain, but that includes the major characters like the Big Bad Wolf and Jack (from a number of stories), Snow White, Cinderella, etc. I was unfamiliar with a few of the characters, such as Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged house, and several of the participants featured in the last stand taken in the Homelands. All the characters were interesting, though it was most fun to read about those that have been Disneyfied in popular culture but have a quite different portrayal in the graphic novels, particularly those princesses in the current Disney Princesses marketing campaign. I have kept most of that from my daughter, but reading about Snow White, Cinderella and Briar Rose all complain about their philandering con man ex-husband Prince Charming is very satisfying. Many of the stories are quite dark, and the majority of the characters are not very storybookish at all. Even Little Boy Blue, who has a very simple nursery rhyme and is a good character, has a tragic back story in the graphic novels.
The artists throughout the varies, although as the series progresses the art seems to have been handled largely by Mark Buckingham. It is likely less obvious when reading the stories as originally issued, but when they are bundled into the deluxe volumes, the change in style is kind of jarring. I noticed this particularly in the change in which Snow White is drawn throughout the series – I preferred the earlier, more adult looking Snow to the later Snow, who is much more delicate looking and always has hair in her face. A few of the stories are drawn completely differently, with the Barleycorn Brides and the Last Castle issues springing immediately to mind. I am not sure which style I prefer on the whole, but I think I prefer it when the art is more consistently drawn (a notable exception being The Sandman series, but Gaiman is an entirely different kettle of fish).
I have enjoyed reading the series, and am looking forward to reading the remainder of the books once they are added to the library’s collection, but I do not feel compelled to buy them as I did The Sandman, Y: Last Man Standing or The Unwritten.