Peter & Max: A Fables Novel

peter and max a fables novel hardcover bill willingham steve leialoha
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10

Fun art and story structure, more Fables is a good thing

Found Max's story more interesting than Peter and the modern day stuff a bit underdeveloped

Book Info

Book Title:  Peter & Max:  A Fables Novel

Publisher:  DC Comics/Vertigo

Writer:  Bill Willingham

Artist:  Steve Leialoha

Release Date:  2009


Softcover artwork

Peter Piper and his brother Max Piper live the ideal life of minstrels with their father.  Peter dreams of a future with Bo Peep while Max hopes to inherit the family’s magical heirloom pipe called Frost when he is old enough.  When Peter and Max’s father decides that Peter should get Frost and the forces of the Emperor attack the land, Peter and Max find their family shattered and Max vows to get Frost back.  Peter makes his way to the town of Hamelin where he becomes a thief while Max masters a pipe called Fire with the help of a witch.  Max is out for revenge as a reunited Peter and Bo Peep hope to escape the Homelands for a city of refuges called Fabletown in the world of the Mundies.

Written by Bill Willingham and illustrated by Steve Leialoha, Peter & Max:  A Fables Novel is a spin-off of Willingham’s award winning comic series Fables which began in 2002.  The book was released to mostly positive reviews and also contained a short Fables comic as a back-up story.

I am a big fan of Fables and decided to read Peter & Max when I saw it was released just to see if Willingham could bring his very story based creations to an actual novel.  As a reader of classic fairytales, I had some expectations going into this book…some of which that were meant and some that slightly missed the mark.


Illustration by Steve Leialoha of Peter and Bigby

The story of Peter & Max for the most part is decent.  The book jumps around a lot…sometimes following Peter, sometimes following Max, and an underdeveloped “present day” storyline with Peter seeking out Max again in Hamelin.  The thrust of the story is a retelling of the Pied Piper story of which Max becomes the titled character, but the novel is also filled with tons of “Fables” references by having Peter being multiple Peters of stories and tales (like making him Peter Piper and Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater).  Those little nuggets provide the fun to Peter & Max, but I found myself more interested in Max’s corruption storyline and the Pied Piper than Peter’s adventures as a thief or his modern day adventures.

What I will say I enjoyed is Willingham’s structure for the novel.  The book feels like one of those old books in form and style.  It is written very lightly with no complex words or writing style (but complex ideas) and each chapter features the very old style of summing up what is about to occur before you read it.  It is little touches like that which makes Peter & Max feel a bit like a throwback to older books as Willingham intended.

In addition to the writing structure, Leialoha’s art also feels “old”.   It feels like the illustrations of old fairytale books and helps enhance and develop this idea that Peter & Max is a tale of old days.  I wish there were even more pictures and a few colored ones like the old plate pictures you often got in older books.

Peter & Max:  A Fables Novel is definitely worth reading for fans of the Fables series but also has a bit of a wider appeal for fans of old fairytales in general.  The story could be better, but it is still a fun quick read that is worth seeking out.  I would be interested to see Willingham attempt another Fables novel at some point or see this story adapted into comic book form someday as a mini-series.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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