Who is truly the fairest of them all, when referring to eternal beauties of Vertigo Comics’ ‘Fables’ series, which features the classic characters from the fairy tales of the world living in the real world?  The concept has proven quite popular on television recently, but ‘Fables’ came first!

This miniseries features a rotating cast including Sleeping Beauty (real name, Briar Rose), The Snow Queen (both introduced this issue), Rapunzel, Thumbelina as well as ‘Fables’ headliners Snow White, Rose Red and Cinderella.  However the real stars this issue are male!  First we meet the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Theives’ Ali Baba, stranded back in the Homelands, scavenging for whatever leftover riches he can find after the fall of the Adversary.  He finds a fancy bottle and out pops what he thinks is a genie, but it turns out to simply be lowly “bottle imp” named Jonah Panghammer.  Jonah is an interesting character in that he is fully familiar with the real world, having studied it in preparation for a planned invasion that never came to fruition.  He babbles nonstop in current slang and references Bill Gates among others.  While he can’t grant Ali Baba three wishes, he can use his mystical senses to lead him to riches.  A third character is introduced, Captain Oakheart, a surviving wooden soldier who vows revenge on those that defeated the Adversary.

Fairest Interior Artwork by Phil Jiminez

Jonah leads Ali Baba to a vast, heavily armed Goblin soldier camp.  Jonah reveals that their quarry is actually a woman, blessed with eternal wealth.  During the night, Ali Baba stealthily navigates his way to the spot Jonah has indicated, but once inside, finds two women and is unsure which to kiss to awaken.  So of course, he kisses both and this doesn’t seem to work.  He yells at Jonah, but Jonah isn’t sure what went wrong either.

Then they are confronted by Oakheart and he and Ali Baba battle.  The noise awakens the sleeping Goblins!

For a book that’s supposed to focus on the women, this book was startlingly light on any female’s presence, focusing instead on the “buddy cop” pairing of Jonah and Ali Baba.  Ali isn’t fleshed out too thoroughly yet, but he seems singularly concerned with attaining wealth.  His skills as a thief and swordsman are effortlessly displayed.  Like most of the Fables, he’s had centuries to perfect his craft!  Jonah is chatty and sarcastic and injects humor and a real-world connection to the story.  Oakheart is still firmly devoted to the memory of his master and his mission.

Chosing Phil Jiminez for the art is an interesting call.  Phil is AMAZING, don’t get me wrong!  But his incredibly realistic style and intense detail work are a huge contrast to that of Mark Buckingham’s style on ‘Fables.’  It’s just slightly jarring to see Fables rendered with so much detail and in so realistic a manner!  The only time that kind of doesn’t work is with Captain Oakheart, just because Buckingham drew the Wooden Soldiers more abstractly and less-human looking.  Oh listen to me!  Critiquing Phil Jiminez’s stellar art?  Pssh!  I do wish this had been printed on glossier paper, though.  The newsprint makes the colors more drab.

Fairy Tales are the new vampires, I guess, considering last year’s live action ‘Red Riding Hood,’ two Snow White movies, ‘Once Upon a Time‘ and ‘Grimm‘ on TV, not to mention SNL’s utterly hilarious ‘Real Housewives of Disney’ sketch!  But before we get too fatigued with the genre, I’m glad to see DC/Vertigo taking advantage of the wave and going back to a series that preceded the craze (and is arguably better than anything that’s come since).  I’m on board and can’t wait to see where this series heads and how the Fables in the real world reconnect with those in the Homeland!

Verdict: Buy

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Phil Jiminez
Cover by Adam Hughes