Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
Call it self-fulfilling prophecy, but I’ve read the first issues of two of DC’s four new Vertigo books, and I feel about them exactly as I expected to.
Fairest #1 ($2.99), which arrived March 7, was just as much fun as I’d hoped. For those who missed my previous column on this topic (and for shame!), Fairest is a spinoff from Vertigo’s popular and award-winning Fables series, which posits that all fairy tale characters exist, with each as proportionally powerful as the number of mortals who remember and/or believe in them. This new title focuses on the histories and solo adventures of the ladies in our fairy tales, from Cinderella (who has already had two solo miniseries) to Snow White.
It starts with a wraparound cover featuring 12 gals and one guy by the fantastic Adam Hughes; it’s not only gorgeous but a fun challenge to identify all the characters. I was only able to ID them all because I’ve read more than 100 issues of Fables, and it wasn’t easy – there sure are a lot of blondes! I’ll provide a hint in that those depicted are Ali Baba, Beauty (of “and the Beast”), Bo Peep, Briar Rose (“Sleeping Beauty), Cinderella, Ozma, Princess Alder, Rapunzel, Rose Red, Snow Queen, Snow White, Mrs. Jack Spratt and Thumbelina. Good luck!
The insides are by writer Bill Willingham, the creator and writer of “Fables,” and fan favorite artist Phil Jimenez (“Wonder Woman”), and are a delight. Jimenez pours a ton of detail on the page, mirroring the monthly effort of Mark Buckingham over in “Fables.” And Willingham’s efforts here are as entertaining as they are in “Fables;” with witty dialogue, specific characterization, pell-mell adventure and little details that tickle your childhood fairy-tale memories.
One oddity must be mentioned: In a book devoted to women, none show up until page 13 (actually two, Snow Queen and Briar Rose), and no Fairest has any dialogue until the last page. The focus of this first issue is on Ali “Prince of Thieves” Baba, a sarcastic effrit and an angry wooden soldier carved by Gepetto. They are all males, which indicates that the book won’t be entirely free of Y chromosomes – it’s just that men won’t be the focus. I’m sure Briar Rose (and possibly the Snow Queen) will have their fair share of adventure soon enough.
And I’ll be there to read it, because Fairest #1 was enormous fun. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and caution that remote viewing of the series through a magic mirror or crystal ball is considered piracy.
A little lower on my enthusiasm scale is Saucer Country #1 ($2.99), which arrived March 14. The series, unlike most comics, won’t shy away from actual politics. It stars a divorced, female, Hispanic governor of a southwestern state who is considering a run for the presidency on what is the (unnamed) Democratic ticket. Her opponents, whose affiliation is equally unnamed, are clearly Republicans.
This is the part that interests me, primarily for the novelty. I don’t want many or even most of my funnybooks to provide political commentary, as I prefer my fantasy to be an escape from all that. But once in a blue moon some real-world issues and controversies can add a little reaffirming verisimilitude – as long it doesn’t devolve into the writer standing on a soapbox. Screeds aren’t fun to read even when you agree with the politics, and are flat-out intolerable when you don’t.
The name of the book refers to what will surely become the main plot before long, in that our heroine comes to the realization on the last page that she had been abducted by aliens. This will certainly complicate her campaign, as if an alcoholic ex-husband and brutal politics aren’t problem enough. But the press material indicates she now believes we’re being invaded – and she needs to be president to stop it. It’s not clear in the first issue if it’s true or if there’s some other reason for the governor’s recovered memories, but it does add a whole new meaning to the term “illegal aliens.”
Saucer Country is by British writer Paul Cornell, known primarily for television drama like Doctor Who, and his current runs on DC’s Demon Knights and Stormwatch. The art is by Ryan Kelly, who put in years of solid work on Vertigo’s “Lucifer.” That’s a pretty good line-up, so I’m looking forward to a political potboiler with a side order of aliens – or maybe it’ll be the other way around.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The first issue of Fairest sports a wraparound cover depicting 13 characters expected to appear in the series. Courtesy DC Entertainment.
2. The second issue of Fairest, due in April, show Ali Baba and Briar Rose with an interfering effrit. Courtesy DC Entertainment.
3. The third issue of Fairest features Snow Queen on the cover. Courtesy DC Entertainment.
4. The cover of the first issue of Saucer Country shows the lead character haunted by gray aliens. Courtesy DC Entertainment.
5. The second issue of Saucer Country is due in April. Courtesy DC Entertainment.
6. The third issue of Saucer Country is due in May. Courtesy DC Entertainment.