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: Bill Willingham
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) " I'm glad to have purchased it."Review: Fairest #1
I've been a Fables fan for years and when I heard about Fairest, a book solely devoted to the female fables getting to be better explored, I could not wait to get my hands on it! As excited as I was about this book, when I read the trade I felt more than a bit underwhelmed by it and I'll explain why, but first I would like to first explain why I'm glad to have purchased it.More info
**This review contains Spoilers!**
The very first story arc of Fairest issues 1-6 Briar Rose is woken up by Ali Baba's kiss, breaking the enchantment on the Snow Queen Lumi. They're accompanied by a bottle imp Jonah Panghammer who knows most everything there is to know. After initially showing Briar and Ali hostility Lumi plays the defrosting ice queen and eventually warms to the trio mainly because she is addicted to being told stories and Jonah is more than happy to take the role of storyteller to her, particularly regarding the story of Sleeping Beauty (which, as pretty much anyone should know is the tale of Briar Rose). Jonah, while telling the story, accidentally gets the group into trouble because he numerously references the true name of the wicked fairy who is always itching to start trouble. The fairy starts a fight and Lumi, who has begun to fall for Ali Baba, takes it upon herself to finish it. BUT in a twist that I really loved, it turns out that Briar is the only one who can rightfully vanquish the evil fairy through a loophole in her curse. In the end Briar Rose learns a very important lesson from Jonah about "true love" and a way of looking at her curse (only being able to wake from her curse-caused sleep by the kiss of a prince who's love for her is true) and Lumi is allowed the chance to start over and be happy with her new boyfriend Ali Baba.
-So for the good, I found the parts with Jonah to be very entertaining. He was witty and his smart-ass comments made me laugh throughout the story. He was probably one of the story's highlights for me. But I also loved that we got to finally revisit Briar Rose and Lumi after they had been under the spell for a long time storywise (not to mention it had been a few years real world wise) so seeing them back was a treat.
I really have to give the writers props here for taking Briar Rose and giving her more depth than previously seen. Previously she was only really shown to be kind but gullible (for falling for Prince Charming's mooching off her wealth in order to become Mayor), NOW we are given an explanation for her trusting nature being that one of her fairies gifted her with "the wit of an angel" which as it turns out isn't so good for her. That aside I was very impressed by how Briar's confrontation with the evil fairy Hadeon was presented, she really put that villain in her place and I couldn't help but think, "Go Briar!" the whole time. And aside from that I really liked that she got to confront the frustrations of her always being let down by every one of her "True Loves" and was introduced to a new way of accepting that true love is only a start and real lasting love is the hard part but also takes more time.
Besides enjoying Jonah and Briar, I liked the artwork by Phil Jimenez. It was different from what I'm used to with Fables. Not in a bad way, it just has a different, more realistic quality than the usual style I'm used to from Mark Buckingham. To be honest, I do prefer Mark Buckingham's style but for Fairest Jimenez's style fit very well since the atmosphere was so well-represented such as scenes with freezing cold or the banquet from the Sleeping Beauty flashback. My only nitpick would be that sometimes Lumi looked off and though we were supposed to see her gradually become less harsh she mainly stayed harsh, well up until the end where she had a horrible 80s outfit and poofy hair (I'm just not a fan of that look in general but she used to be so pretty, yikes!). It was all well done and I also loved the covers all of the covers by Adam Hughes were just stunning, he's got a beautiful style.
-Now for the bad, the story as a whole had problems with pacing. The beginning dragged a bit and I don't know why the bit with the puppet soldier was needed other than for padding (pages which could have been used to fix the issues with Lumi and Ali Baba's story arc) when it got to the part where Jonah tells the story the book read very well, but afterward almost else seemed too go by too quickly. Also I really didn't sense much continuity when it came to Lumi. I can accept that Jonah showed her that the Adversary drugged her into loyalty, but earlier that choice seemed to be associated with her coldness and hostility after Jack Horner broke her heart by ditching her when she was pregnant. Speaking of the 2 Jacks you might think that after what happened to her son in the Jack of Fables finale he'd have gotten a reference. Having Jonah explain that she was always good all along was a let down and just felt like a way out of having her deal with her actions, and I found that to be a big let down since her motivation in this story felt half-baked. Her "romance" with Ali Baba was odd since they didn't interact much, yet she acted smitten and head-over-heals for him in the end. And his only interaction with her was him mistakenly kissing her rather than Briar Rose at the story's start. I didn't feel like there was enough going on between them to warrant the subplot. I could almost see if it were simply used as a parallel for the fake true love that Briar Rose complained about but it certainly didn't seem that way since it was presented as Lumi finally getting happiness. It was just disappointing and would have loved to have read a more engaging love story for the two.
One thing that I hadn't mentioned till this point is the one-shot story included in this trade, issue #7 Lamia, written by Matt Sturges with art by Shawn McManus. This story is unconnected to the previous story but takes place in 1946. The basics of this story are that Beast takes it upon himself to investigate a string of killings connected to a Lamia who he happens to be connected to because...
The Lamia happens to in actuality be his wife, Beauty, who -long before meeting him- killed and took the form (and eventually spirit and gentle demeanor) of a real young woman of the same name. And occasionally her evil side will surface, in which case it's up to Beast to handle her and make sure she suppresses the Lamia.
Now, I had to re-read this story a few times to figure out where I stand on it. On one hand, I really like Noir and I've always liked Beauty and Beast in Fables since issue 1 so having heard about the issue's premise it sounded really interesting and I still do find it an intriguing idea and maybe if this Lamia idea had been implied or hinted at earlier I could have felt better about it. However, as it is this story felt incredibly bizarre to me and I don't think like it. Having Beauty who was generally presented as a loving wife and well-intentioned deputy mayor suddenly --and with no previous indication-- be shown to have a serial-killing beast side seems like it was a needless addition to Beauty and Beast's storyline. And having the Lamia say to Beast, "The only one who could love a monster like me is another monster" that really makes me question their entire relationship. We've always believed that Beauty loved Beast because of the man behind the monster so the possibility of having it be reversed seems like it could have been a twisted turn of events, only here with these versions of characters being who they are it just doesn't fit at all. Maybe the story was meant to shake us up and leave us thinking "What the f---?!" and if that was the intended effect, they did a hell of a job there. I can't tell how much of that was Matt Sturges's idea or Bill's but it definitely felt like it didn't fit Bill Willingham's style or tone when writing a complex twist for such important characters. Making the only Fables who had an actual Happily Ever After, turn out to have their love be built on lies is a story you would think that the main writer would handle himself to insure it fits right and helps fans to accept it better. As it is I'm left very confused and weirded out by that story.
In conclusion, I rarely rate Fables books below 4 because typically they are all either good or very good but I honestly can't say this was up to par. I'd recommend it to fans of Fables, but only the fans who stick with the series enough to read everything since this relies on knowing previous stories and if you're just getting into Fables or plan to start reading Fables after getting introduced through Fairest, you really should read the regular series first. That aside Fairest TPB 1 was only just an OK book. Aside from the writing being off in the main story at times the one-shot at the end really didn't gel very well with the previous material. And aside from that for a book which claims to be focused on the Femme-Fables, it really didn't deliver in this volume. The first story arc was centered around Briar Rose but it really just as easily could have been looked at as focusing on Ali Baba or even Jonah Panghammer the bottle imp (he certainly did the most of the cast of that story) since neither she nor Lumi got a great deal of actual focus for the first half of the arc. Besides that the one-shot was a story that followed Beast, and even though it was sort of about Beauty it was mainly about Beast and his feelings about what was affecting her. To be positive though, I've heard great things about the next arc centering on Rapunzel, so I do really look forward to the storyline.
Bill Willingham (Author)Publisher
Phil Jimenez (Illustrator)