Review: Fairest #1

Fairest #1

Though I always enjoyed Bill Willingham’s surprise smash-hit Fables (by far Vertigo’s most financially successful property in many, many years), I never really looked forward to it.  For me, the series peaked with its fourth trade, “March of the Wooden Soldiers“, which was the perfect combination of soapy plotting and military fantasy for which the series had always (in my opinion) been aiming.  It remained solid for years after that, but with so many excellent books coming out, and such an enormous back-catalog to catch up on, I fell behind.  But I always noticed its spin-offs, from the winning Cinderella books to the occasionally enjoyable Jack of Fables, and I was interested when I saw the new spin-0ff, Fairest, on the shelves.  With a gorgeous Adam Hughes cover, pencils by the immensely respected Phil Jimenez, not to mention Willingham writing in his element, it seemed like a must-read.

And it is a fairly promising start – though it’s also a deeply flawed one.  Fairest #1 follows young Ali Baba, the Prince of Thieves, who discovers a manipulative little imp in a jar and proceeds to get himself in all sorts of trouble heeding its advice. Jimenez’s design work is solid and his scenery is gorgeous. Jonah Panghammer and Ali Baba make a striking pair, well-drawn and with easy (though overused) banter.  I think this was an okay first chapter.

Buuuut… that’s all it is.  At the end of the book, I was left with no idea what the book was about.  Are Ali Baba and Jonah the main characters, or is Jonah a villain?  Who are the two unconscious women that look very strikingly like Jean Grey and Emma Frost?  Judging from the media surrounding the series, the red-head is the main character, but here, a wooden soldier who gets decapitated is given significantly more page time than her. Aside from Ali and Jonah’s brief banter, we have nothing to grasp on to, and Ali and Jonah are still very broadly drawn caricatures thus far.

I will almost certainly check out the first trade, because the talent is top notch, the design is solid and the characters we’ve met so far have some mild potential.  But I have little desire to check out issue two.  I have no idea what this series is about, who these people are or why I should care, and that’s so vital to a successful first issue.  The opening issue of Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love told us exactly what we could expect from the series.  It gave us solid character beats, a little action, and the hints of a plot.  Fairest has none of that, instead seemingly coasting on the success of the Fables brand.  It’s not a bad book, but I doubt it will win many fans.

– Cal C.


5 thoughts on “Review: Fairest #1

  1. Mmm. I think the problem is thar Fairest started after the events of a Fables Issue, i think it was 112 (a “filler one”). The story there explains who the players are, but if you have been keeping with the main book you pretty much figure who is who, except for the wood soldier, though I seem to recall him from somewhere…

    Anyways, I found it a good read, not perfect, but a funny start to another (I HOPE) great series. And to stay on the point, I think that the main problem with Fables (and Fables Spin-offs sans Cinderella) is that they are way imbricated on the huge backstory. Until March of the Wooden Soldier and a bit after, we were dealing with a world under construction. Now it’s a mess (a good mess in my opinion) of here and there and then.

    And I’m not spoiling anything about who is who, because is not really a spoiler, but it could ruin some new/casual readers experience

    • I didn’t actually know it had a ‘prequel’ that I should read. That may explain the awkward pacing and lack of focus, but (for me) it doesn’t forgive it. I hope it grows much stronger, both because Vertigo deserves more hits and because I’ll always appreciate more titles with female leads.

      I can definitely see what you mean about the backstory though. I can’t imagine what a new reader would make of all the references – and there were a TON of references – to the War with the Adversary. This almost felt like an epilogue to that story, rather than a story of its own.

  2. It’s the epilogue to the epilogue of the War against the Adversary epilogue (issue 75), which pretty much explain the awkward pacing. And then you have the Arabian Nights and Days references, and other unexplained/new ones.

    I guess this will pick up the pace in the next arc, Rapunzel in Japan, or something like that.

  3. I just finished reading “Fairest” just a couple of minutes ago and I definitely like it; however, (I’m ashamed to say this) I haven’t read a lick of “Fables” or its offshoots, so this is my foray into the realm.

  4. I enjoyed it, but confess that my first thought was “that was a sausage fest”. I think a reader would reasonably expect that this issue, based on title and cover art, would be about the fairest of fair female Fables … instead it was about Ali Baba and a fast-talking imp. That’s my only real gripe, though. As a long-time Fables reader, I knew everything being referenced, so I wasn’t confused in any way.

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