Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fairest #1

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning

Okay, I understand the math behind this new series, but I have a couple of problems with its execution.  Fables, this spin-off's parent title, is Vertigo's best selling series, and has been for some years now.  It makes financial sense to branch out into a new aspect of Bill Willingham's fictional multiverse, based on the notion that everyone who ever starred in a fairy tale is a living creature in some realm.  Spin-offs of this series that came previously, such as Jack of Fables and the Cinderella minis, did quite well for themselves. 

Also desirable is the notion of constructing a new series specifically around the women of Fables.  Comics are always criticized for not giving enough of a voice to strong female characters, and Willingham's world has those in abundance (Snow White, Cinderella, Rose Red, Frau Totenkinder, etc.). 

The problems with this book though are clear.  To begin with, I've felt that Willingham's approach to Fables has been floundering for some time now.  Since the defeat of the Empire (issue 75?), the parent book has wandered and meandered all over the place.  It regained some steam for the Mister Dark saga, but with that having ended recently, it has felt like there is no real plan for the book.  Story elements are introduced and then abandoned for a while, and everyone (except regular artist Mark Buckingham, who is not given enough credit for his brilliance) appear to be going through the motions.  It doesn't seem like the right time to bring a new series about...

My second problem is that, in this story, only one of two female characters speak at all, and that's not until the very last page.  I get it that the entire plot of the book revolves around waking up Sleeping Beauty, but still, featuring the main female character as nothing more than a plot device does not make this a book about strong females.

Instead, the stars of the book are Ali Baba and a small bottle imp that he frees in the very beginning of the comic.  Together, they track down the goblin army that had spirited Sleeping Beauty (and one other sleeping beauty) away from the Imperial City before burning it down.  Ali Baba is in turn being tracked by a revenge-minded soldier from the Emperor's wooden army.

In other words, this reads no differently from the issue of Fables that began the story in the first place.  There's nothing about this book aside from Phil Jimenez's lovely art to set it apart from the regular Fables title, a mistake that was not made with either Jack of Fables or Cinderella.  Now, this series is going to be made of arcs featuring different creative teams, so there is still a lot of potential for these problems to be fixed.  My point is that I feel this was a title born out of financial need more than creative vision.

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