by Bill Willingham & Phil Jimenez
Set in the Fables (Vertigo graphic novel series) universe
The prince of thieves, Ali Baba, is poking through the wreckage of a war-torn city when he finds a beautiful glass bottle. Thinking he’s found a genie, he happily uncorks it – but instead he’s only found a lowly bottle imp, a magical being named Jonah that will serve him but doesn’t have the power to grant wishes. However, the imp promises to lead Ali Baba to a great treasure. Jonah leads Ali Baba to a goblin camp, where he finds two beautiful women sleeping peacefully: one is the legendary Sleeping Beauty, and the other the powerful Snow Queen. Ali Baba awakens the two women with true love’s kiss, but neither woman returns the gesture – the Snow Queen is far too intent on vengeance and Briar Rose does nothing but yell at her rescuer. But Jonah has a plan to bring everyone to their happily ever after through the power of storytelling...
Fairest is a spin-off from the main Fables comic book series. You could read this book without reading the others, and I think you’d be OK. Some things might not make sense – readers might wonder why the Snow Queen is sleeping in a bed with Sleeping Beauty (it’s a major plot point in Fables) or why a bottle imp in a fantasy world is intimately acquainted with American pop culture – but as a fairy tale with romance and adventure, Fairest entertains very well.
I enjoyed learning more about Briar Rose and her origins – while we’ve all heard the story of Sleeping Beauty and the curse cast on her by a snubbed fairy, it’s rarely fleshed out as it is here. For the first time, her fairy godmothers have names and personalities. The practical applications of their gifts are explored, showing that precise wording is a must when casting magic spells:
Fairy Godmother: “I am Alyas the Noble. On my honor I promise that she’ll sing like a nightingale.”
Sleeping Beauty: “That was one blessing I wish she’d worded differently. As a metaphor it’s great, but the more powerful magic gets interpreted literally. So now, when I try to sing, I actually sound like a bird chirping.”
The story also takes one of the major villains from earlier Fables storylines – the Snow Queen Lumi – and slowly thaws her frozen heart, allowing her to love and hope after years of anger and isolation. She spends most of the graphic novel cosplaying as Lady Gaga, which is unfortunate because she’s so darn pretty in the traditional Victorian-era princess gowns we usually see her wearing, but it’s a new look for a character turning in a new direction. I get that, really.
Briar Rose also suffers from poor sartorial choices. The bright green eye shadow caked on her face ages the princess and clashes with her red hair. By the by, wasn’t she a brunette in earlier stories? Really, the only person who comes off looking good is Ali Baba, who looks just the way Hollywood would cast a hero from the Arabian Nights stories. Well, that’s not quite true. Jonah the Bottle Imp is both cute and otherworldly, and the fairies look great. It’s just too bad that our two leading ladies are not quite at their fairest.
Side note: Of all the women featured on the cover, only one of them actually appears in the story. Talk about false advertisement! I mean, I know that the series is written for fans of Fables, but shouldn’t the cover feature the characters that are actually in the book? Later stories will cover some of these famous princesses, but still…
3.5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Fairest Vol. 1, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: The Women of the Cousins’ War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin & Michael Jones
2011: Ramesses by Joyce Tyldesley
2010: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
2009: The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel