The most shocking thing about Fairest #1, the new spin-off title from Vertigo’s hit Fables, is that no women at all appear in the book until Page 13. And at that, there’s only one line the entire issue from a member of the fairer sex. Given that this is supposed to be a spotlight book, showcasing the ladies of the Fables Universe? That’s downright weird.
That’s not to say that it isn’t also a rollicking good adventure tale, filled with all the humor, creativity, and stellar art Fables fans have come to expect from Bill Willingham’s mini-empire of fair tale based comics. The book looks superb, with some of the best art from the already not-too-shabby Phil Jiminez we’ve seen in years. Credit to the whole team, including Andy Lanning on inks, and Andrew Dalhouse on colors… From the ruins of a major Homeland city on Page 2, to the reveal on Page 13, Fairest is gobsmackingly beautiful.
By gobsmacking, of course, I’m referring to the plot of the issue: a thief we haven’t seen in a good long while picks up a jar we may have forgotten about, and sets in search of a lady or two who have been trapped by goblins. Much smacking of said gobs ensues… Though mostly by one of the most bad-ass wooden puppets you might ever hope to meet. And all of this involves characters or ideas that have been seeded throughout Fables the past few years, but one of the beauties of the book (beyond, you know, Sleeping Beauty) is that Willingham provides easy entry for even the newest reader.
Certainly, it’s helpful to have a working knowledge of the series… You’re going to appreciate a few more of the threads the team picks up if you have read Fables. But there’s subtle exposition a-plenty, and the story is really about a reluctant hero going after a princess under a curse; and how things don’t quite turn out how anyone expected. If you’ve ever watched a Disney movie, or even heard of fairy tales, you’re going to understand what’s going on in this book.
The bigger question, of course, is how necessary the spin-off is. Jack of Fables very quickly established its own identity as one of the darkest, dirtiest, weirdest books on comic stands, filtered through the wants and needs of its title character. It had a clear tonal difference from the main title, and introduced a whole new wrinkle to the mythos involving the people who control stories; as opposed to the characters who are in them. Cinderella, similarly, benefited from writer Chris Roberson’s voice, and definitively existing in the James Bond spy genre. Fables had toyed with ideas like that before, but Cindy embraced ‘em whole hog, and was better for it.
Fairest, on the other hand, feels like it could have slotted easily into the main series, both in terms of plot, and of course, voice – since it’s the same singular writer. So it reads a little more like an extension of Fables - Fables 2: The Fablening, maybe – than its own separate series. That said? We like Fables. A lot. And so do a lot of people. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with getting two issues of Fables a month, is there? Particular when Jimenez and team make everything look so darn good.
Plus, which I didn’t mention before: this first issue has two Firefly jokes. That gets my hard earned bucks right there.
In the long run, I expect Fairest will, by necessity, prove itself to be a different duck than Fables; let’s just hope it turns out to secretly be a swan.
Fairest #1 is currently on comic book stands from Vertigo!