Fables found itself in grand company when it joined the ranks of Vertigo titles deemed powerful enough to get its own spinoff series with Jack of Fables. The premise behind the newest spinoff, this week's Fairest, is that after each storyline the creative team will rotate and different writers and artists will come over, with a different female character the centre of every arc. This makes the series seem far more suited to a series of original graphic novels than an ongoing in its own right — which is how Bill Willingham typically handles spinoff stories to his series — but hey, here we are, so let's make the most of it. The first creative team are Willingham himself and the magnificent Phil Jimenez, whose initial storyline gives us an in-depth look at the famous female character… Ali Baba. But don't worry, there are fair maidens in the issue, who turn up eventually! It just takes them a long time to appear, and a longer time before they say anything.
What we really have here is essentially a team-up story between Ali Baba — the Prince of Thieves, don't you know — and a little bottle genie he finds on the first page. They form an odd couple and go on the hunt for treasure, because everybody likes treasure, bickering all the way. Well… the genie bickers. Ali Baba spends most of his time looking confused and handsome. The issue throws them together fairly quickly, relying quite a lot on our previous knowledge of Ali Baba — who's a Prince of Thieves — to steer his character into view. The story itself is incredibly slight at the moment, with the bulk of the issue concerned with building up the genie character. With only Baba and the genie having much to say, that makes the issue very dependent indeed on their banter being fun to read.
Which it is, actually. The genie sounds like a New York cab driver, while Ali Baba speaks in a stilted, grandiose fairy-tale manner. The mishmash of characters manages to work in Willingham's favour, and whenever the dialogue starts to spark out — in comes Jimenez to class things up. Jimenez is an incredible talent, especially for his ability to develop his art and give it rich texture and depth. He's one of the few artists today whose work continues to improve year after year, and his famed tendency to fill a page with more detail than necessary (see the opening splash page of a deserted city for evidence) adds a sense of realism to the ridiculous setting of the story. He's aided in no small part by inker Andy Lanning and Andrew Dalhouse's careful, subtle work on colors.
The issue never truly revs up, but it certainly works as an interesting opening to a story which has yet to be properly revealed to us. It would far better suit if it were the start of a graphic novel, which tells the complete story in one go, but it does a nice job developing the two primary characters, and the ending could lead us somewhere unexpected and fun. As a whole, however, Fairest #1 doesn't feel like much of a story quite yet.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favourite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. Never forget! He writes The Book of Monsters, a webcomic which updates every Sunday with a new story, monster, and artist. Join in!