Once Upon a Time, the center of a Mighty Empire was bought to knees and burned to the ground, due to the curse of the Sleeping Beauty. Will her awakening prove to be another story worthy of the "Fables" name? The Answer is just a click away.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Writer: Bill Willingham
Pencils: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Todd Klein
Assistant Editor: Gregory Lockard
Editor: Shelly Bond
(Standard Cover by Adam Hughes, Variant Cover By Phil Jimenez and Variant Cover Colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.)
As Fables nears its' 10th Anniversary, the franchise's latest spinoff hits the stands? Will "Fairest" live up to its' franchise's reputation, or will Briar Rose's return fall short of the pedigree it carries?
When one takes a look at the positives of the Fables as a whole, one of aspects that will be cited is how well the World around the story has been built. Ever since the first solo Jack Horner story all the way back in Issue #11, Fables has been able to successfully expand its' Mythos a great number of times. From chronicling the creation of Small Town, to the addition of the Arabian Fables, Buffkin's fledging Revolution, Cinderella's Super Spy Adventures and a host of other instances; it should be no surprise that a both a fertile creative base and market for ancillary stories has blossomed over the 10 years the series has been published. In its 6th effort to take advantage of this irregular occurrence, "Fairest" has been conceived as the 2nd ongoing expansion to the beloved "Fables" Franchise and with Issue #1 finally on the stands, one of the burning questions that needs to answered is whether this new title will live up to the established pedigree of its parent? The answer to that question is just below.
Despite promising to be mainly feature the stories of the women of Fables (and I don't say solely, because Charming is featured on the double ended cover), Fairest #1 provides us with a bit of subversion as the first Issue begins with the meeting of Ali Baba and his newly acquired Imp Servant, Jonah Panghammer. Of course, said subversion never devolves into a bait and switch, as the story has the two fast friends going after the greatest treasure remaining in the Imperial World, which happens to be the promised featured character. Fortunately, the unexpected move ends up working in many ways, as Fairest #1 gives its readers' a lot of positives for their well-earned dollars.
From a writing standpoint, the aspect that makes Fairest #1 work as well as it does are the character dynamics that play across the story. The first example of this is the game of Cat and Mouse that is played amongst Ali Baba and Captain Oakheart, as the former doesn't realize till much later that his raid of the Imperial City has made him the latter's target. The main reason why this works so well has to do with the exposition presented before their fated battle to the death. From the second we lay eyes on him, we learn that Oakheart's ties to the Fallen Empire's greatest treasure (the Sacred Grove) serve as his motivation to see justice done to any who defile its charred remains. With such a weighty mission on his shoulders, every single move that gets him closer to this goal ramps up the tension as Ali Baba gets closer to his goal, giving the climax of the story even more sizzle, proving once again that Willingham is a master characterizer, especially when he's inspired.
Speaking of excellent character work, credit also needs to be given to the writer for what he does with Ali Baba and Jonah Panghammer. With the relatively brief 20 pages given to this story, Willingham Is able to make both characters come to life through their words. For Ali Baba, the deft dialogue helps to give the character dimension beyond a thief with a winning smile, as we get an indication that the character could develop into something more and that could help to get readers behind this character in a way that many couldn't get behind Jack Horner, which is something that would help the characters' longevity in the story as a whole. However, the even greater accomplishment is what is done with Ali's new "partner" in Jonah. To start off, Panghammer's purpose of absorbing information allows him to say things that can be both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Also, it's very apparent that he will also be the driving force behind saving Ali Baba from letting his hype overshadow his amazing potential, as he serves to make his master focus on the prize. Finally, the aspect that impressed me the most is the part, where we find out that Panghammer has his own agenda, despite serving Sinbad, something that I hope is expanded upon in this 4 Part Arc.
Without a doubt, the first thing that got most people to pay attention to "Fairest" (beyond the franchise it was attached to) had to be amazing art that was featured with the unveiling and after taking in this debut issue, I can safely see why. From the very minute you see this comic on the shelves, Adam Hughes cover stands out amidst the other books that will be lined up with it, as his very alluring depictions of women in this wrap around cover will make it very hard for many to look away. Of course, some may take issue with the body shapes being presented, but the fact that this cover gets you to talk about this book is a definite indicator of its' effectiveness and it only gets better once you dive into the contents in-between the wrap around cover.
To start off our analysis of the internals, let's turn our attention to Phil Jimenez, whose pencils take the lead and do so in grandiose fashion. From the first splash page, Jimenez's pencils captivate in such a way that you can't help but be drawn to the stories they tell from the unwritten language that storytelling art can carry. Along with the resplendent backgrounds, the character drawings also shine, as the expressional and emotional detail that's carried with each character helps to bring out each of their personalities in a way that the script cannot. Not to be left alone in praise, Andy Lanning's inks help to give yet another layer to everything they touch, as they add a dramatic flair to every detail they touch. Speaking of dramatics, the colors of Andrew Dalhouse must also be commended, as his work carries a hefty amount of the reason why the art leaps off its' two dimensional pages to become an artistic tour de force. Taking all of this into account, it's very easy to see why the art could become the main attraction of title.
Other Musings and the Final 22 Cents:
Despite being a very good comic, I can't sit here and say that Fairest #1 is a great one. What holds it back, exactly? Well, the biggest issue has to be the perception of how accessible the comic will end up being towards someone who hasn't been following the story. Now, this isn't to say that the comic is totally impenetrable to new readers, because that's not the case. The thing that will give new readers the most trouble is how expansive the franchise has become. Case in point, to truly understand the impact of Briar Rose's awakening, someone could make a case that you had to read the whole entire saga from the beginning, something that could easily scare readers away.
Another aspect that could become especially problematic is the lack of female presence. As a whole "Fairest" was mainly pitched to the public as a series featuring the women of "Fables" in stories that focused on them. For the issue in question, we were given a story that focused mostly on males, with the females serving as the prizes to be won. Now, such an issue could easily be dealt with in the upcoming issues, unfortunately I can easily see where people could be turned off how this issue turned out.
Despite those occurrences, Fairest #1mostly does what it's supposed to do, and that's to get people talking about what's to come. I just hope that the conversation will mostly be a positive one.
Final Judgment: ***3/4 out of 5 Stars
Review by: Linwood Earl Knight
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