16. Fables: Legends in Exile
by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina
Published by Vertigo Comics
Yes, this is technically the opening arc of Bill Willingham's amazing Fables series and not a true graphic novel. However, published as a stand-alone volume, I believe it fits all the criteria needed (as much as any episodic novel written by Dickens qualifies as a novel) to function as a true graphic novel independent of any other issues or trades in the series.
So, with that established, what we have here is perhaps the best re-imagining of fairy tales (and yes, that includes the more titillating Grimm's Fairy Tales) ever to grace the pages of comics. This opening volley from Willingham and Medina hits fast and hard with a noir-ish feel that makes a reader realize it's as much about the Fables as it isn't about the definition you've come to accept as a fairy tale.
Bigby (Big B) Wolf investigates the murder of Rose Red while subtly trying to woo Snow White. Yes, it sounds like the fodder of bad fan fiction, but filtered through Willingham's pen, it not only works -- it dazzles. This is one trade collection I can't recommend highly enough.