(w) Brian Schirmer (a) Claudia Balboni (c) Marissa Louise
Image’s new ongoing Fairlady premise is a simple one; a Fantasy post war world mixed with some Noir detective work. The synopsis hints at themes of “sexism” that main lead Jenner has to deal in her line of work, and boasts a 30 page count complete “Fairlady Mystery”. The only problem being, this first issue falls flat on both those aspects.
As with any comic let’s start with the first page. Fairlady #1 has a strong cold open showcasing the disrespect towards the titular Fairlady and her “feline” partner, Oanu. In five panels, Brian Schirmer sets the tone of how our two main characters are disrespected in this world due to one’s gender or species (an allegory for race), by having what seems to be an employee of an establishment denying them access. Even though this page, is before the titles we also get it again later in the story putting more context in said meeting. It’s a great way to start a story showing the characters at odds with others and how they react. Sadly these themes of prejudice barely show up in the book, save few other scenes.
Fairylady begins in the aftermath of The War of The Harshland, what this war was about, or any info is barely given, leaving it all a mystery. During said war only men were allowed in the army, that didn’t stop Jenner Fauld from posing as a man to enlist. After the war was over, many ex-army men -and Jenner- had to re-enter society. Many had problems meaning barely a few had luck with normal employment while others went to crime, and some becoming the first licensed Investigators dubbed: Fairymen. Having herself returned from the war Jenner becomes the first and only Fairlady and proceeds to be hired by a wizards as their tower security.
Before you think to yourself, “He spoiled the whole story”, no I didn’t, that was part of the released synopsis and the comics intro page. Now we will be getting in spoiler territory….
Brian Schirmer starts this issue’s case smack-dab in the middle with Jenner and Oanu investigating suspect Samanda’s home, only to be interrupted by fish-like men ransacking the home. Following this altercation we are introduced to Mr. Aken, Jenner’s employer for said job. While talking to Aken, Jenner says she is not an assassin and mentions The Constables, it may not sound important but this is the second time Constables are referenced with the first being on the first page. Dialogue between the two are exchanged and we learn exactly why she was hired. This whole scene plays without her partner, further showing how non-excepting some are of other species.
With the meetings of other minds the duo finally make their way to Unclaimed Territory, Outside of Nerraw, that brings us back to that first page. In this shady place Jenner finds Samanda who has seemingly lost a few of her marbles. After all is said and done Jenner takes her to a safe place instead of back to her client.
The story’s pace is a whirlwind, going from one multi page conversation to two pages of traveling straight to the conclusion of the case. By the end of the story we have a basic understanding of the main character with hints to a more fleshed out backstory we may get in the future, but none of it gives that nagging urge to read more. For a Noir story there seemed to be barely any detective work, instead it played out like a video game character talking to the correct NPC’s to advance a plot. This could be due to the page count and trying to be an all in one issue story, and if that’s so up the page count or do it in two issues?
Then there is the themes that were hinted at in the synopsis and cold open, sexism, and speciesism. We have a few instances of these “isms” but they felt like an afterthought instead of part of the story. It’s something seen in many Fantasy stories where humans deem themselves superior and other anthropomorphic creatures less, but it never really clicked in this Fantasy. I’m hoping in future issues we delve into this deeper. On the subject of fantasy this first issue doesn’t introduce many fantasy concepts, other than a few anthropomorphic animals, and a wizard. For a series that promised Fantasy and Noir it had very little of either.
The art provided by Claudia Balboni never seems to hit its stride throughout this issue, with many scenes of wide landscapes that end up never hitting that cinematic look it seemed to be aiming for. On some panels the faces look good, not great, but good, and on others they seem distorted in a weird fashion. Now that may be what the artist was in fact going for, and yes I know, art is subjective, but it doesn’t benefit the story or setting much. The one thing I did love in the art is The Feld, the main city our story takes place in/around. The design of the city is that of a giant destroyed robot which looks unique and weirdly cool.
Final Thoughts: Going into Fairlady, I had a sense of owe and wonder, with it being a case per issue bringing up “isms” we face in real life. Everything about it seemed cool, a mix of Fantasy and Noir genre, a bad ass female lead, a feline anthropomorphic partner, and a complete story in each issue. I can say yes it had all of these but they all seem to fall flat and not grip one into this new Fantasy world. I’m hoping the the next issue improves on these negatives in this issue and shows us a great new Fantasy.
Memorable Quote: “Swallow your pride. You know I’m right.” – Oanu. It’s not the greatest line, but for someone that’s not featured much I kind of like him.