Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fairest #1

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Phil Jiminez
Company: Vertigo

There's no doubt in my mind that the main Fables series will forever remain one of my more favorite titles from the last ten years or so. It regularly found a way to breathe new life and an expansion on characters that only lived in literal fairy tales. Not only that, but it simply told great stories that had a way of captivating a reader and transport them. It has a great concept. This new spin-off, the third one that has appeared (Jack of Fables & Cinderella being the other two), focuses on the female cast members. It is supposed to explore their hidden histories in the same way that the stand alone tale Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall did. But the biggest question that needs asking is this: Does it do that?

The simple answer is that yes, it does reveal "secret" history. Unfortunately, for a book that is supposed to star the fabled female stars, their presence is weirdly absent from the majority, if not all, of this first issue. It seems like a strange way for Willingham to start things off, as the cover really sets the reader up for one thing and then the interiors deliver something else all-together.

The story that is supplied is one that involves Ali Baba and a severely underpowered relative of a Djinn. The back and forth conversation as they meet each other in the Homelands after what seems to be a substantial battle makes for some entertaining reading. The dialogue moves at a good clip and there is humor, much of it in tune with present day colloquialisms, splashed in it here and there that makes it more approachable and less stuffy. All of this is decent enough, but where things start to go a little off the rails is when other elements of the main Fables books are added in. Jack of Fables was definitely a spin-off, but there was enough there that if you hadn't read Fables, you could sort of roll with the punches during the issue and find your footing. You weren't just tossed into a world and told, "Hope You Survive the Experience." With Fairest, there seems to be a little of that going on, and I miss the sort of user friendly approach that could ultimately get more people reading the main series.

The real surprise of the issues comes in the form of Phil Jiminez's stunning artwork. Usually, there's an oddness to his work that doesn't quite work for me, especially when he was working on Amazing Spider-Man a few years back. There was talent there, but there was also an oddness to his lines, almost like they were too jumbled and messy. In regards to Fairest, he's really stepped up his game. It's lush and detailed to a degree that is amazing. I also think the painted style that is employed and Andrew Dalhouse's colors make everything stand out to the degree that it does. A simple tongue lashing is just as exciting and as detailed as escaping the clutches of a reptillian/hawk like creature who's just looking for its next meal.

There's a decent tale to grab hold of with Fairest, but it's mired down by the many odd missteps that really make it difficult to feel completely invested by everything that's going on. I'll be curious to see where this meandering path leads our characters.

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