Former Texan Bill Willingham has taken his long-running Fables comic book series to a new medium and new heights with Peter & Max, his first novel. As in his Fables works, he cleverly reimagines fairy tale and nursery rhyme figures (think Snow White and Little Boy Blue) living in the contemporary world. The title characters are estranged brothers: Peter Piper, of pickled-pepper-picking fame, and Max Piper, better known as the Pied Piper. As a youth, Max becomes bitterly jealous when Peter is entrusted by their father with his irreplaceable magical flute, and he resorts to evildoing—kidnapping all the children of Hamelin, Germany; crippling Peter’s wife, Esmerault “Bo” Peep, by hurling her off a cliff; and dreaming of revenge against his brother. The final confrontation, in Hamelin (Peter flies Lufthansa to Frankfurt, then drives up the autobahn), churns up more drama and hubris than you’d expect from these bedtime story creations. Willingham is not ashamed of his book’s kiddie roots; he revels in the possibilities of a fictional universe where a nursery rhyme character (we won’t say which one) can grow up to be a trained assassin. Peter & Max is for anyone willing to suspend his disbelief in evil witches and big bad wolves—no matter his age. Vertigo, $22.99